With just a little bit of real estate in the Octagon, Israel Adesanya is able to tap into his many tools to strike with precision and illustrate his canvas with pure artistry. It’s as if this space offered “The Last Stylebender” the luxury of brushing the art in mixed martial arts.
Jared Cannonier knows that well and wants to splash all thoughts of Adesanya sitting down and creatively painting him red on Saturday night. That’s when Cannonier will challenge Adesanya’s world middleweight championship in the headliner of UFC 276 from T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas and live on pay-per-view.
Cannonier believes the first few minutes will be crucial for him to upload enough key information about Adesanya in real time.
“If there is going to be that (feeling period), it will probably be the first hour and a half, maybe two minutes of digesting some things,” Cannonier told DAZN by phone. “And then there will be action and I will have to keep digesting after that.”
If Cannonier calculates this information well, he thinks he can stifle Adesanya enough to finish him off sooner. At least it aims to do so.
“To be honest, I don’t want to have that feeling moment,” Cannonier says after thinking about it a bit more. “I want to get in there and go to work, put it away quickly, quickly and easily.
“I’m trying to end this thing in the first. As soon as the referee says go, the goal is to put him away, finish and neutralize my opponent and go home.
That’s a lofty ambition considering how Adesanya has dumped quality names in the division.
Everyone from Derek Brunson to Anderson Silva, Kelvin Gastelum, Yoel Romero and Paulo Costa felt Adesanya’s sniper strike. Adesanya was so dominant as a middleweight champion that he began to double down on his opponents, having beaten Robert Whittaker and Marvin Vettori twice each.
Cannonier respects the resume and knows it will take error-free effort to raise the hand.
“He crossed part of the division and deservedly gained a lot of notoriety,” said Cannonier. “He has the belt, a very good contract, all these good things that are so good for him.
“I have to be a 10,” he adds. “I just have to be the best version of myself. Everything must click. It’s not just one thing that will do it. It has to be precision, power, speed, position… all of that.
The veteran recognized Adesanya’s advanced skills and their potential for a clash almost four years ago.
It was Nov. 3, 2018 at UFC 230 in Madison Square Garden and Adesanya had just made his pay-per-view debut by dismantling Brunson in one round. Cannonier was making his middleweight debut on the same card, where he stopped David Branch in second. Cannonier took the liberty of showing up backstage at Adesanya.
“I was aware of the potential to fight this man who just fought in the same division I made my debut in,” Cannonier recalled. “I didn’t know it would be for the title. I just knew there was potential for me to fight him.
That potential turned into imminent existence, as Cannonier helped force the issue with a hard-fought unanimous decision over Gastelum last summer, followed by a second-round knockout (hellbows) of a surging Brunson in February.
Cannonier refrained from throwing verbal jabs at Adesanya because he respects “The Last Stylebender” as much today as when he approached him in November 2018.
“I do not need [hate] to fuel what I do,” says Cannonier. “I go there with love. It’s a much more powerful weapon. I love doing this sport. I like to learn from different angles. I love training and I love getting in there and competing.
The 38-year-old, who hasn’t been crowned world champion in seven years with the UFC, also did his best to separate the celebrations of becoming the titleholder from the big task at hand on Saturday night.
“I try to fight,” he says bluntly. “I’m not thinking about legacy, notoriety, being a champion or any of those bulls—t. It’s about the fight.
“I did everything I could to prepare myself so that I could give my best. I fight Saturday night.