MiddleweightsJared Cannonier (11-4) vs. Anderson Silva (34-9)
ODDS: Cannonier (-155), Silva (+135)
It seems strange to say this about someone who has only won one of his last seven fights, but it does feel like Silva is holding up better than expected. He built one of the greatest title reigns in UFC history off of his reflexes and quick-twitch athleticism, so he figured to fall off a cliff whenever those skills started to betray him. His 2016 loss to Michael Bisping figured to be the beginning of that process; coming off of a drug suspension, Silva showed moments of his old self but was only able to attack in bursts and could no longer sustain his offense over five rounds. That figured to portend some brutal knockout losses against younger and stronger opposition in the future, but that has not really happened. A lot of that seems to be due to Silva’s remaining aura, as opponents still appear to be put on edge by his legendary embarrassments of high-level opponents at his peak. Even if he is not able to throw much in terms of offense, Silva throws enough defensive activity and weirdness at his opponents to survive or, as was the case in his fight against Derek Brunson, steal an undeserved decision. Even against Israel Adesanya, who seemingly had both the skills and the mentality to knock out Silva, the situation devolved into a strange back-and-forth in which Adesanya consistently got the better of things but was never quite able to pull the trigger and put away Silva. Amazingly, Silva is still somewhat fun to watch, even if there is always the looming possibility that he could suddenly start getting knocked out, which is particularly depressing given that he is facing an increasingly lower level of competition.
When Cannonier made his UFC debut in 2015, it is hard to imagine anyone thought he would ever be in this position. Not only was he coming off of a suspect Alaska circuit, but “The Killa Gorilla” was fighting at heavyweight. Over the last four years, Cannonier has slowly worked his way into better and better shape, and while he has also consistently improved, he remains a brawler at heart. His run at light heavyweight showed that Cannonier does not have much depth of skill: Glover Teixeira exposed his lack of grappling defense, while Jan Blachowicz managed to baffle him with little more than a jab. However, in his middleweight debut against David Branch in November, there was enough to show that might not matter. Cannonier had enough physical strength to mostly shut down Branch’s wrestling game, then blitzed and laid down the power on the New Yorker for a second-round knockout. That was enough to net him this huge opportunity. Perhaps he can make the most of it.
Cannonier’s solution is to punch through everything, and that might be enough to work against Silva. If Cannonier decides not to get awed by facing one of the greatest fighters of all-time, he can probably throw enough shots with enough power that one will put out Silva’s lights. At the same time, Silva has enough craft left in the tank that it is hard to reconcile someone who was flummoxed by Blachowicz’s basic boxing game going out there and scoring the finish that someone like Adesanya could not. Add in that Cannonier looked absolutely exhausted by the time he finished Branch, and the Alaskan may need that quick finish, or else things could devolve into Silva dictating the fight with his machismo and Cannonier being too tired to properly react. It is hard to have any faith in Cannonier, and if this goes to the scorecards, Silva has shown enough ability to fool people into winning rounds, even without the help of Brazilian judging. The pick is Silva via decision.
Next Fight » Aldo vs. Volkanovski