Analysis

Jared Cannonier Keys to Victory at UFC 276 – Video Analysis

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Headlining UFC 276 will be a middleweight clash between dominant champion, Israel Adesanya and gritty challenger, Jared Cannonier. At the T-Mobile arena in Las Vegas, Cannonier will look to upset the odds and hand the New Zealand native his first loss at middleweight.  The co-main event will see a trilogy between two featherweight kings when Alexander Volkanovski takes on Max Holloway. Elsewhere, a potential #1 contender fight between Sean Strickland and Alex Pereira takes place, and Sean O’Malley returns for the first time this year.

We look at how Jared Cannonier can work out the puzzle that is Adesanya and overcome one of the most dominant champions the UFC has seen in a number of years.

Jared Cannonier’s Keys to Victory

Slam the Leg Kick

This is a key to victory that we often suggest for fighters, however, in this case, it’s vital for Jared Cannonier. Not only is the leg kick one of his favoured techniques, but Adesanya’s style makes him susceptible to the leg kick. On top of that, it would also be beneficial for Cannonier to use the leg kick to limit the movement of the champion. Cannonier’s ability to switch stances will benefit him and allow him to constantly chew up the lead leg of Adesanya regardless of what stance the champion uses.

One thing that makes ‘The Last Stylebender’ so effective is his slick movement, how he manages to move out of range by just enough to keep him in range to land his own shots. If his leg is compromised, he won’t be able to move with such ease and therefore will be far more flat-footed and ‘there to be hit’ for the challenger.

The outside leg kick is something that Cannonier has regularly landed throughout his career, especially when fighting at 185lbs. As we saw against Robert Whittaker, although he lost the fight, Cannonier was able to hamper the movement of Whittaker as a result of landing a number of leg kicks. He landed 22 of 25 leg kicks over 15 minutes and each were landed on the outside of Whittaker’s leg. We can see in the example below that not only is it an attack for Cannonier but it is also used as a counter to the kick of Whittaker. The first was a counter but he then followed this up with two further leg kicks to the outside of Whittaker’s lead leg.

Similarly, against David Branch in Cannonier’s middleweight debut, he was able to land the outside leg kick at the beginning of round two. He forced the legs of Branch together, leading him to squaring up and putting him off balance. If he is able to utilise this against Adesanya, it’ll allow him to rush Adesanya once he squares up and will be able to pin him down, limit his defensive movement and consequently land on the champion.

We regularly see Adesanya stand flat-footed if he chooses not to commit to a head kick due to the defensive movements of his opponents. If Cannonier can read this, he can slam the leg kick into Adesanya with no fear of a check. We can see below how Adesanya often lands flat-footed. We saw this technique used by Paolo Costa, who recognised that Adesanya was standing irregularly and looked to capitalise on that. We also saw this against Jan Blachowicz and Anderson Silva.

Don’t Bite on the Feints

We know just how good Adesnaya’s stand-up game is, especially his feints. The UFC 276 card is going to be all about feints. Expect plenty of feints from Pereira and Volkanovski in the fights leading up to the main event. For Cannonier, he cannot bite on the feints of the champion. Unfortunately for the challenger, he often bites on feints and bites big. He backs out of range at a huge distance, rather than slightly out of range in order to counter. Against Adesanya, no one can get into a point fight because simply put, the champion is far too skilful so the challenger will have to make it ugly if he is to gain success.

A leg kick from Whittaker had Cannonier shell up and use head movement. This was followed by a lazy jab from ‘The Reaper’ which had Cannonier again shelling up, moving drastically out of range, circling out and resetting. Against Adesanya, Cannonier cannot do this because Adesanya will make those reads and make him pay.

Against Marvin Vettori at UFC 263, the champion constantly got the challenger to react to his feints, often in a huge manner. Similarly, against Costa, Adesanya utilised his feints to great affect. He constantly got Costa to react, he made the reads and ultimately knocked him out in the second round. Adesanya got Costa to bite on his feints, mostly to the leg kick potential. Having landed a number of kicks, Adesanya began faking the leg kick to make Costa react, making reads throughout. He would then slam the leg kick after Costa had reset into his preferred stance when he was flat-footed. We can see a classic example of this below.

Don’t Hook With the Champion

Israel Adesanya, despite what many may think has one-punch knockout power, especially when timing his hooks. His last two knockouts have come via almost the exact same method, hooking at the same time as his opponent and being the quicker man to the mark. Against Whittaker in their first fight, Adesanya knocked out the Australian in the second round when both men tried to land the hook at the same time.  The New Zealander hooked with the then champion, knocking him down and ultimately getting the win. Adesanya’s body shape when throwing this strike seemingly saw him off balance as all his weight was over his heels, however, he was able to land flush on Whittaker and hand him his first middleweight loss. If he can do this against Cannonier, using his superior reach and height to stay out of danger, it could be a rough ending for the American.

Similarly, against Costa, despite seemingly not being the heavier puncher, Adesanya was willing to trust in his own speed and precision and hooked with Costa, again to great affect. He knocked Costa out as he did against Whittaker. We can see below that Adesanya comes over the top of Costa’s hook (Adesanya is in the red corner with the red tape on his gloves), landing with the right, which was then followed with a left, knocking the Brazilian down. He then finished him with ground and pound.

The first time Cannonier had been finished during his UFC tenure was against Shawn Jordan in his debut. Granted, this was up at heavyweight, however, Cannonier attempted to hook with Jordan, leading to him being knocked out. Jordan was able to throw a shorter hook, knocked Cannonier down and finished him with ground and pound. This shows a potential weakness to Cannonier’s game, hooking at the same time as his opponent, something that unfortunately for him, his opponent is brilliant at.

Other Keys to Victory

  • Wrestle? Despite only averaging 0.23 takedowns per 15 minutes, Cannonier could potentially wrestle against Adesanya. We’ve only seen Last Stylebender lose once and this was up at 205lbs. The reason he lost was largely due to his lack of wrestling ability against the bigger man. We know that Cannonier has fought up at heavyweight in the UFC so could use his size against Adesanya, however, we don’t expect this to happen.
  • Manage the hand-fighting. The middleweight champion is one of the best hand-fighters in the game today. With his reach and height advantage over Cannonier, we can expect Adesanya to constantly hand-fight in order to manage his range. Cannonier has to hand-fight well with the champion in order to not allow him to get his range down too early and off-set his attacks
  • We can expect Cannonier’s gameplan to be a hybrid of Vettori’s and Costa’s against Adesanya. The two previous challengers looked to pressure Adesanya and push him up against the fence to unload, or in Vettori’s case, shoot for a takedown. Cannonier is also a front foot-fighter so expect the fight to look similar. He can’t rely on the gameplans of Costa or Vettori too much, however, as both came up short

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Frazer is a 24 year old MMA and boxing enthusiast from Coventry, England. You can follow Frazer on twitter @Frazer_Krohn

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