UFC Fight Night Report: Jared Cannonier dominates Marvin Vettori
On Saturday evening, the UFC held a Fight Night event from the Apex Facility in Las Vegas, Nevada. The card was headlined by a middleweight bout, as former title challengers Marvin Vettori and Jared Cannonier fought to determine which of the two fighters would remain in middleweight title contention. While both Cannonier and Vettori have recent losses to Israel Adesanya and Robert Whittaker on their respective records, both fighters have consistently been able to defend their spots in the middleweight rankings over the years against aspiring contenders, and the outcome of this fight would potentially knock one of these fighters out of the title picture for the time being. In the co-main event, the eighth-ranked UFC Lightweight contender, Arman Tsarukyan, attempted to defend his spot in the rankings against Joaquim Silva.
Brendan Fitzgerald provided commentary for this card alongside Dominick Cruz and Paul Felder. Performance of the Night bonuses were awarded to Manuel Torres and Alessandro Costa. Fight of the Night bonuses went out to Jared Cannonier and Marvin Vettori.
- Modestas Bukauskas def. Zac Pauga by unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28)
- Dan Argueta vs. Ronnie Lawrence resulted in a No Contest at 2:20 of Round 1
- Tereza Bleda def. Gabriella Fernandes by unanimous decision (30-27 all)
- Carlos Hernandez def. Denys Bondar by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
- Kyung Ho Kang def. Christian Quinonez by rear naked choke at 2:25 of Round 1
- Alessandro Costa def. Jimmy Flick by TKO at 1:03 of Round 2
- Nicolas Dalby def. Muslim Salikhov by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
- Manuel Torres def. Nikolas Motta by KO at 1:50 of Round 1
- Pat Sabatini def. Lucas Almeida by arm triangle at 1:48 of Round 2
- Armen Petrosyan def. Christian Leroy Duncan by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
- Arman Tsarukyan def. Joaquim Silva by TKO at 3:25 of Round 3
- Jared Cannonier def. Marvin Vettori by unanimous decision (49-45, 49-45, 48-46)
ZAC PAUGA (6-1, 205) VS MODESTAS BUKAUSKAS (14-5, 205) – LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT
The fighters traded right hands to begin the fight, and Pauga’s early pressure resulted in a stumble from Bukauskas, who was taken down just moments later as a result. It did not take long for Bukauskas to escape to his feet, where he worked his jab while attacking the lead leg of Pauga. Bukauskas connected with a solid counter hook as Pauga rushed in, and the punch seemed to wobble Pauga, but Pauga was able to remain on his feet until the end of the round, despite Bukauskas landing two more effective counter hooks before time expired. 10-9 Bukauskas.
Pauga connected with two heavy left hands at the start of the second round, before Bukauskas defended a takedown attempt. There were some dangerous exchanges between the fighters, where Pauga appeared to be landing the heavier strikes, but Bukauskas was doing the better work from distance, especially with his leg kicks which were beginning to have a clear effect on Pauga. Pauga began to attack the body later in the round, before catching Bukauskas with a right hand that dropped him momentarily. The pressure from Pauga late in the round gave Bukauskas a lot of problems, and I thought Pauga secured this second round in its final minute. 19-19.
Bukauskas pressed Pauga up against the cage in the third round, looking to change the pace of the bout. Pauga was able to break away before Bukauskas did significant damage, and this felt like any ones round with just over two minutes left on the clock. Pauga was finding more success on the feet, cracking Bukauskas with numerous right hands, and Bukauskas appeared to be too fatigued to respond. In the fight’s final minute, Bukauskas picked up the activity, but I thought it was too little, too late, and I scored the third round for Pauga. 29-28 Pauga.
WINNER: Modestas Bukauskas by unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28)
The 30-27 scorecard raised some eyebrows from viewers, as the second round was fairly clear for Pauga, but the final result was very much up in the air, with the first and final rounds being as competitive as they were. I gave the edge to Pauga, but this was a very close fight, especially the final round, which saw Bukauskas end the round strongly just as Pauga appeared to be pulling away with it. Pauga was certainly fighting somewhat recklessly throughout the bout, often just charging in with right hands, but I thought it was largely a successful strategy for Pauga, who was catching Bukauskas with some bombs whenever he charged in, especially as the fight progressed and Bukauskas fatigued. Bukauskas has now won four consecutive fights, and Bukauskas’s current two-fight stretch of wins in the UFC marks his first winning streak in the promotion.
DAN ARGUETA (9-1, 136) VS RONNIE LAWRENCE (8-2, 136) – BANTAMWEIGHT
Argueta quickly secured a takedown and took the back of Ronnie Lawrence on the ground. While Lawrence did a good job of defending himself from various submission attempts from Argueta, Argueta was relentless with his activity from top position, constantly chasing a finish, and eventually, he locked in a guillotine choke. Lawrence seemed to be on the verge of tapping, but referee Keith Peterson grabbed the hand of Lawrence, and as Lawrence pulled his hand away from Peterson, he touched the back of Argueta. Referee Keith Peterson registered this as a submission, and the fight was stopped.
Result: No Contest at 2:21 of Round 1
Obviously, this was a very unfortunate ending to this fight. Argueta looked phenomenal and was likely seconds away from a finish against Lawrence here, but Peterson’s rare error cost him the win, as well as Lawrence the chance to escape the submission and mount a comeback. To Peterson’s credit, he quickly registered his error, and upon reviewing the finish, came to the correct conclusion that this fight would have to be registered as a no-contest due to the error. I would not be surprised if the UFC decides to run this fight back quickly, as neither fighter sustained significant damage, but in all fairness, Argueta dominated this fight for the short time in which it lasted, and he appeared to be seconds away from a finish, so it would not be unreasonable to match him up against a higher ranked opponent in his next fight as well. On a final note in regards to the controversial finish of this fight, Dominick Cruz was quite hard on Keith Peterson from the commentary booth, which I always find incredibly amusing, given Cruz’s lengthy one-sided feud against the referee.
TEREZA BLEDA (6-1, 125) VS GABRIELLA FERNANDES (8-2, 126) – FLYWEIGHT
Bleda secured a takedown roughly two minutes into the bout, after a fairly uneventful start to the fight on the feet. Bleda worked from half-guard, peppering Fernandes with short strikes. Fernandes was able to keep Bleda from doing significant damage or advancing her position but was unable to escape from under Bleda. Due to the lack of early damage on the feet, and the prolonged period of dominance from Bleda on the ground, where she stayed active offensively with her short ground and pound strikes, I thought this was a fairly clear round for Bleda. 10-9 Bleda.
Bleda was able to secure another takedown in the second round, taking top position yet again with roughly three minutes to work. Fernandes threw up a triangle off of her back, and while the positioning for the submission was not quite there, the attempt did keep Bleda inactive for roughly a minute. Eventually, Bleda was able to advance into full mount, where she threw down effective ground and pound offense until the horn sounded, securing the round. 20-18 Bleda.
Fernandes desperately needed to keep this fight on the feet, and did her best to maintain the distance, cracking Bleda with looping punches whenever Bleda stepped in. Bleda was clearly several steps behind Fernandes on the feet, and she was taking significant damage here. With that being said, the gap between the fighters on the ground was just as wide as the gap between the fighters on the feet, and eventually, Bleda found the takedown that she was looking for. Much like the previous round, Bleda worked her way into full mount, where she threw down ground and pound strikes until Fernandes gave up her back. Bleda started looking for a rear naked choke, but could not find the finish before time expired in the fight. 30-27 Bleda.
WINNER: Tereza Bleda by unanimous decision (30-27 all)
Bleda was clearly the superior grappler, and her advantage on the ground earned her each round on the judge’s scorecards. As Bleda admitted after the fight, she certainly has a lot of work to do to improve her stand-up game, as Fernandes was lighting her up with looping hooks on the feet, but in the end, her wrestling ability was the difference maker in this fight, and this was an overall solid performance from Bleda. This marked Bleda’s first win in the UFC, and she now holds a record of 1-1 in the promotion.
CARLOS HERNANDEZ (8-2, 125) VS DENYS BONDAR (14-3, 126) – FLYWEIGHT
Bondar was swinging hard early in the fight, but Hernandez was countering well whenever Bondar really committed to his big overhand swings. Bondar caught Hernandez with a heavy kick to the body, before partially landing a spinning elbow as Hernandez looked to crack him with a short hook. At one point, Bondar threw a powerful spinning back kick that appeared to catch Hernandez in the knee, and he started taunting Hernandez after Hernandez responded with a short combination. The opening round was very competitive, and while I thought Bondar landed with more power, Hernandez was just a bit busier, and I thought that was enough to give him the edge in what was a very close round.
An early shot from Hernandez opened up a cut on the left side of Bondar’s head in the second round. Much like the previous round, this was a very evenly contested five minutes, with both fighters finding a fairly equal amount of success on the feet. While Hernandez was the busier fighter in round one, which may have given him the slight edge, the strike count was very even in this second round, and this felt like any ones round as time started to run out. Bondar secured a takedown late in the round, but Hernandez was able to escape to his feet quickly and landed a solid knee to the head of Hernandez. In the final seconds of the round, Bondar caught Hernandez with an illegal knee to the head, and while the foul was spotted by the referee, no point was deducted.
Bondar attacked the body of Hernandez early in the final round. Hernandez was landing sharp combinations on the feet, catching Bondar repeatedly on his way in. Bondar changed levels in search of a takedown at one point, but he was unable to ground Hernandez, and the fight continued to play out on the feet. The fighters traded heavy hooks towards the end of the round before Hernandez changed levels and took Bondar to the ground. As the fighters touched the ground, their heads clashed violently, and Hernandez postured up, where he started throwing down brutal elbows, knocking Hernandez unconscious.
WINNER: Carlos Hernandez by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
As Bondar was knocked out from the unintentional clash of heads at the end of the fight, it was decided that the fight would go to the scorecards as opposed to being ruled a knockout. It was not the most popular decision, as many deemed the knockout clean, but I was less troubled by the call. The clash of heads certainly took place, and I am unsure if there is any line in the rules that states that a clash of heads does not register as a foul if it occurs due to a throw. Regardless, Carlos Hernandez was the better fighter throughout this bout, and in the end, his arm was raised in victory. While this was certainly a competitive fight, I thought Hernandez was just a bit sharper, and I scored every round of this fight in his favor. Hernandez’s UFC record improved to 2-1 following this win.
KYUNG HO KANG (18-9, 135.5) VS CRISTIAN QUINONEZ (18-3, 135) – BANTAMWEIGHT
Kang worked his jab early, throwing it to the body often, while constantly attacking the lead leg of Quinonez with kicks. Quinonez cracked Kang with a heavy overhand right, and he recklessly went on the attack as he attempted to force the finish. As Quinonez pressed forward, Kang caught him with a pair of heavy counter hooks, dropping Quinonez hard, and Kang immediately followed him to the crowd as he attempted to finish the fight. Kang quickly took the back of Quinonez on the ground, and he locked in the rear naked choke, forcing Quinonez to submit.
WINNER: Kyung Ho Kang by rear naked choke at 2:25 of Round 1
I can never fault a fighter for rushing in when he has his opponent hurt, but it is a dangerous game, and the gamble did not pay off for Quinonez here. Kang countered strongly with a combination of heavy hooks as Quinonez looked to move in for the kill, and Kang immediately capitalized after dropping Quinonez, finishing the fight with a rear naked choke. Kang is a skilled grappler and is no stranger to showcasing the wide variety of submissions in his arsenal, but he also showcased some genuine power in his hands here, and this was one of his more memorable wins since debuting in the UFC a decade ago. Kang’s UFC record now stands at 8-3 (1 NC) following this win.
JIMMY FLICK (16-6, 125.5) VS ALESSANDRO COSTA (12-3, 126) – FLYWEIGHT
The fighters exchanged jabs throughout the opening minutes of the fight. Costa landed a series of leg kicks, and each one seemed to be doing significant damage. Costa began attacking the body in combination as well, chaining his strikes together in violent fashion. The leg kicks from Costa eventually downed Flick, and while Flick was able to recover, he was certainly behind in this round from this point onward. Flick switched stances, but Costa just began to pick apart the other leg as a result, and another kick to the previously damaged leg of Flick resulted in Flick shooting for a desperation takedown, unsuccessfully. A backhand from Costa caught Flick flush, and Flick’s leg gave out on him yet again, illustrating the remarkable damage done to it throughout this round. This was a very one-sided round in favour of Costa.
The first leg kick of the second round from Costa just shut down Flick’s lead leg, downing him within thirty seconds. Costa followed Flick to the ground, and he began to throw down brutal elbows. Flick was unable to defend himself, and referee Keith Peterson was forced to step in and stop the fight.
WINNER: Alessandro Costa by TKO at 1:03 of Round 2
The lead leg of Flick was quickly compromised by the Costa leg kicks, and he was never able to really get back into this fight from that point onwards. This was a fantastic performance from Costa, who really put a beating on Flick throughout this fight, seemingly doing significant damage with every strike landed. Costa had an extremely unfortunate UFC debut, where he was matched up against Amir Albazi on very short notice in a fight that eventually resulted in Albazi knocking Costa out. Here, we got a fairer glimpse into what Costa has to offer as a fighter, and it was certainly a far more impressive performance, as he just dominated Flick throughout this fight before eventually securing the stoppage. It was an impressive win, and Costa looks to be another promising fighter in the exciting flyweight mix.
NICOLAS DALBY (21-4-1, 2 NC, 170.5) VS MUSLIM SALIKHOV (19-3, 170) – WELTERWEIGHT
Dalby actively attacked the legs and body of Salikhov with kicks throughout the early goings of the fight. Salikhov was content to pressure forward and go on the attack whenever the opportunities presented themselves, not forcing his offense due to the risk of being countered. As the round progressed, Salikhov began to throw out some wilder spinning attacks, consistently finding his target with spinning kicks to the body. Just as it seemed like Salikhov was pulling ahead in the round, a head kick from Dalby stunned Salikhov, and Salikhov was forced to wrap Dalby up against the cage for the remainder of the round as he recovered. 10-9 Dalby.
Dalby began the second round with a new strategy, as he attempted to take Salikhov to the ground. Salikhov was able to defend the attempt and threw a spinning head kick that Salikhov was able to partially block. Dalby chased after another takedown, but it was Salikhov who successfully brought the fight to the ground after grabbing a hold of Dalby’s knee. Despite being taken down, Dalby was quickly able to return to his feet, and successfully completed a takedown of his own, where he immediately mounted his opponent. Dalby began to look for a twister on the ground, but Salikhov was able to return to his feet before the round’s final minute. Still, Salikhov was unable to escape Dalby’s wrestling, and Dalby held him up against the cage until the round’s final seconds, where Dalby stepped back and let loose with a combination of strikes. 20-18 Dalby.
Dalby immediately chased after another takedown to start the fights final round. Salikhov defended the attempt, but he was looking rough on the feet as well by this point in the bout, seemingly due to the apparent cardio disadvantage. Salikhov was finding a home for the occasional strong counterstrike, but it was Dalby who was dictating the pace of the fight, pressuring forward with constant activity. While Salikhov seemed overwhelmed by Dalby’s activity, he never gave up on himself, swinging back whenever he could, but Dalby was just a step ahead of him, and I scored this round in his favor as well. 30-27 Dalby.
WINNER: Nicolas Dalby by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
Salikhov started off the fight well, getting the better of Dalby on the feet with his precise striking. Salikhov seemed to be running away with the round, but a head kick from Dalby shifted the momentum of the bout, and Salikhov remained a step behind Dalby for the remainder of the bout. I thought that this was an excellent performance from Dalby, who mixed up his offense well throughout the bout to keep Salikhov hesitant and exhausted him with constant pressure and offensive activity. After the fight, Dalby asked for a ranked opponent, and with four wins throughout his last five fights, I do not think that is an unreasonable request from the Danish fighter, who is fighting the clock at thirty-eight years of age.
MANUEL TORRES (13-2, 156) VS NIKOLAS MOTTA (13-4, 155.5) – LIGHTWEIGHT
The fighters traded heavy leg kicks to begin the fight. Motta cracked Torres with a left hand, but Torres appeared to eat the shot well. It was not long before Torres opted to step in with a brutal left elbow, and the shot dropped Motta hard, knocking him unconscious.
WINNER: Manuel Torres by KO at 1:50 of Round 1
This was an absolutely vicious knockout. It is not uncommon to see elbows finish fights, but this one was especially brutal, given that Torres stepped in with an elbow thrown at full force. The fight did not go quite long enough to give much analysis on either man’s performance, but in the end, the knockout will be what sticks with people, and Manuel Torres has quickly developed a reputation as a fighter who finishes fights quickly, with thirteen of his fourteen professional wins coming in the first round. Torres is now 2-0 in the UFC following this win, and I could see him becoming regularly positioned on the main card if he continues to chain his wins together in such an entertaining fashion.
PAT SABATINI (17-4, 145) VS LUCAS ALMEIDA (14-1 145.5) – FEATHERWEIGHT
Sabatini immediately started hunting for a takedown, and it did not take long for him to successfully trip Almeida to the ground. Sabatini was able to partially posture up, and while the positioning was a bit off, Sabatini was still able to pepper him with short ground and pound strikes while maintaining his position. Sabatini was eventually able to trap one of Almeida’s arms, which allowed him to really start dealing damage, and Sabatini eventually opted to start throwing elbows in an attempt to finish the fight. Almeida managed to hold on until the end of the round, but Sabatini was just moments away from a stoppage, and I thought that this was a 10-8 round in his favor.
Sabatini had no reason to adjust strategies and began the second round with another takedown attempt. Much like the first round, Sabatini was eventually able to get Almeida down, and this time, he quickly locked in an arm triangle, forcing Almeida to submit.
WINNER: Pat Sabatini by arm triangle at 1:48 of Round 2
Sabatini absolutely dominated Almeida with his wrestling throughout this fight. The first round was one of the more one-sided rounds that you will see, with Sabatini just demolishing Almeida with ground and pound strikes from top position for the near entirety of the round, and he was arguably even more impressive in round two, quickly securing the submission win after taking Almeida back down. It was a perfect performance from Sabatini, who was in need of a win like this after dropping his last fight to Damon Jackson. Sabatini’s UFC record is now 5-1 following this win, and this was the type of performance that will catapult him into a much bigger fight the next time he steps into the octagon.
ARMEN PETROSYAN (8-2, 186) VS CHRISTIAN LEROY DUNCAN (8-0, 186) – MIDDLEWEIGHT
Both fighters were active from the opening bell, exchanging heavy strikes. Petrosyan seemed to be landing the better combinations, but Duncan was throwing each of his creative strikes with fight-ending intent, and it felt as though a finish could come at any moment. Petrosyan’s counter hooks were doing damage whenever he fired them off, and I thought that those combinations off of the counter from Petrosyan were the best shots of the round, but Duncan was doing a good job defensively of avoiding Petrosyan’s bigger shots. 10-9 Petrosyan.
Petrosyan defended a takedown from Duncan at the start of the second round. Petrosyan’s leg kicks were starting to create big reactions from Duncan, who was attempting to check the kicks to deter Petrosyan from throwing them. Much like the previous round, I thought that Petrosyan was doing a better job of throwing his strikes in combination, and he was out-landing Duncan as a result. A one-two from Petrosyan seemed to rock Duncan, but Duncan was able to wrap Petrosyan up and successfully bought himself time to recover. 20-18 Petrosyan.
Duncan fought his way into the clinch in search of a takedown, but Petrosyan’s takedown defense continued to hold up. The pace of the fight had slowed by the third round, and they spent a lengthy portion of the round wrestling against the cage to a stalemate. Duncan connected with a big elbow after the fighters finally broke apart, but was immediately taken down by Petrosyan. Petrosyan was not terribly active from top position, but he was able to maintain dominant position until the final seconds of the fight, where the fight returned to the feet. Duncan opened up a cut on the left side of Petrosyan’s face but was unable to find a finish before time expired. 30-27 Petrosyan.
WINNER: Armen Petrosyan by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
Petrosyan and Duncan are both regarded as talented strikers and for the majority of the bout, we saw that stylistic matchup play out in entertaining fashion. The fighters initially seemed to be evenly matched on the feet, but as the bout progressed, Petrosyan’s ability to chain his combinations together proved to be the difference maker, and Duncan attempted to turn to grappling in order to even the odds. Petrosyan proved to be the stronger wrestler and was able to secure the fight’s final round from top position. It was a solid performance from Petrosyan, who is certainly one of the middleweight division’s more entertaining fighters, as long as he is matched up against the right opponent. After the fight, Petrosyan asked for a ranked opponent, claiming that he can beat anyone ranked in the division’s top fifteen.
ARMAN TSARUKYAN (19-3, 155.5) VS JOAQUIM SILVA (12-3, 155.5) – LIGHTWEIGHT
Tsarukyan took Silva down roughly thirty seconds into the fight. The positioning was not optimal, with Silva very close to the cage, but Tsarukyan was relentless and partially took Silva’s back as Silva attempted to use the cage to pick himself up. Silva did his best to fight Tsarukyan’s hands, keeping Tsarukyan from advancing, but he was unable to improve his position, and this was a fairly one-sided round for Tsarukyan, who ended the round with a knee to the body.
Tsarukyan began the second round with a number of hard kicks to the body. The body shots opened up the head of Silva, which allowed Tsarukyan to start landing these quick right hands that were doing clear damage. Silva landed the occasional counter shot, but he had fallen far behind Tsarukyan on the strike count. An axe kick from Tsarukyan backed Silva up, but Silva was able to keep Tsarukyan from wrapping him up against the clinch with a knee to the body. A heavy left hook from Silva hurt Tsarukyan badly, but Silva was not able to capitalize on the moment, as Tsarukyan immediately took Silva down after getting hurt. While Tsarukyan won the majority of this round, the biggest moment belonged to Silva, which made this a very tough round to score.
Tsarukyan fought his way into the clinch at the start of the final round, where he proceeded to take the fight back to the ground. Tsarukyan nearly took Silva’s back, but Silva took the opportunity to scramble back to his feet. Tsarukyan slammed Silva back to the ground in an aggressive fashion, and Silva seemed to be rocked by the impact. Tsarukyan recognized this, and he began to throw down brutal ground and pound until the fight was finally stopped.
WINNER: Arman Tsarukyan by TKO at 3:25 of Round 3
Tsarukyan closed as an astronomical betting favorite going into this fight, and while Silva had a brief moment of hope in the second round, Tsarukyan largely looked the part of the overwhelming favorite throughout this bout. His wrestling was far too much for Silva to deal with, taking Silva down multiple times, whereas Tsarukyan was never content to just hold his position. Silva certainly caught Tsarukyan with a heavy hook in the second round, genuinely rocking him, but even rocked, Tsarukyan was able to take Silva right down to buy himself time to recover, and Tsarukyan eventually finished the fight in devastating fashion in the third round, just throwing down brutal ground and pound strikes until the bout was finally stopped. After the fight, Tsarukyan made it clear that his goal is a rematch with Islam Makhachev, pointing out how competitive their fight was on just a few week’s notice. Paul Felder was interviewing Tsarukyan and pushed him to name a fighter aside from the champion, and Tsarukyan mentioned that Michael Chandler’s fight with Conor McGregor is unlikely to occur, and fully expects to dominate Chandler if Chandler is matched up with Tsarukyan instead of McGregor.
MARVIN VETTORI (19-6, 185.5) VS JARED CANNONIER (16-6, 185.5) – MIDDLEWEIGHT
The fighters touched gloves to begin the main event. Cannonier was fighting aggressively from the beginning of the fight, but a left hand from Vettori wobbled Cannonier, and Vettori went on the attack as he attempted to finish the fight quickly. Cannonier weathered the storm, and he seemed to have recovered, as the fighters traded hard straights. Both men started attacking the body as the round progressed, but the bulk of their respective strikes remained targeted towards the other’s head, as they looked to secure early finishes. Vettori stunned Cannonier with another left hand, but Cannonier recovered quickly this time attacking Vettori with a series of kicks. This was a very entertaining opening round, with both fighters landing some heavy shots throughout. 10-9 Vettori.
Vettori worked his jab to begin the second round, prompting Cannonier to flurry forward with a series of heavy hooks. A huge right hand from Cannonier just missed its target, drawing an audible gasp from the Apex crowd. Cannonier really started pouring it on as he attempted to finish the fight, but Vettori has an iron chin, and refused to go down. Eventually, a leg kick from Cannonier sent Vettori to the floor, and Cannonier followed him the ground as he attempted to finish the fight. Cannonier was destroying Vettori with some of the hardest ground-and-pound shots imaginable, and while Vettori made it back to his feet, Cannonier was relentless, attacking the head of Vettori with hooks thrown at full force. Vettori was as rocked as he has ever been, and yet somehow, Vettori remained on his feet. Vettori had eaten an insane number of strikes, but he fired back to end the round, showing that he was somehow still in this fight. 19-18 Cannonier.
The fighters traded heavy shots in the opening minute of the third round before Cannonier unsuccessfully shot for a takedown. Cannonier was still throwing some absolute bombs Vettori’s way, but Vettori was throwing heavy shots in return, ensuring that the third round would not be the wash that the previous round was. Cannonier caught Vettori with one of the hardest right hands that I have ever seen a fighter just eat, before Cannonier secured a takedown, catching Vettori with another bomb as he picked himself up. Vettori had no answers for Cannonier’s unrelenting pressure, but a misstep from Cannonier allowed Vettori to secure a takedown momentarily, buying himself some time before Cannonier’s onslaught of offense continued. 29-27 Cannonier.
A right hand from Cannonier found its target in the opening minute of round four. Cannonier changed levels and took Vettori down, but could not keep him there for any substantial amount of time. Cannonier worked his jab back on the feet, and Vettori was having trouble dealing with it for a time, before eventually countering with some low right hooks. While this was a much closer round than the previous two, I still thought this was a round for Cannonier, whose activity continued to be overwhelming for Vettori at times. 39-36 Cannonier.
Vettori went on the attack at the start of the final round, likely with the knowledge that he was in need of a finish. Cannonier remained the heavier hitter, however, and it did not take long for him to put Vettori on the retreat following numerous right hands. Despite his output, Cannonier had not slowed at all by this final round, and he was still throwing every shot with immense power, looking to end the fight. A right hook from Cannonier seemed to stun Vettori, and he proceeded to take Vettori down with just over a minute remaining in the bout. Cannonier started to throw down brutal ground and pound strikes, but once again, Vettori made it back to his feet, where he returned fire in an attempt to win this fight. Somehow, this fight went the distance, and I scored the fight 49-44 for Cannonier.
WINNER: Jared Cannonier by unanimous decision (49-45, 49-45, 48-46)
I have no earthly idea how Marvin Vettori was able to make it through this entire fight without being knocked down once. Cannonier, one of the absolute hardest hitters at middleweight, cracked him with nearly two hundred and fifty significant strikes, a divisional record, and the vast majority of them were heavy hooks that were targeted directly at Vettori’s head. The fact that Vettori made it to the final scorecards, let alone kept this fight somewhat competitive, was absolutely remarkable, and while praising a fighter’s durability is always somewhat of a backhanded compliment, this truly did feel like a near super-human feat that is deserving of praise. Jared Cannonier looked excellent throughout this fight, pressing forward with constant activity, and throwing fight-ending strikes for twenty-five minutes without ever slowing down. If not for his previous losses to Whittaker and Adesanya, this would be the type of performance that immediately puts a fighter in line for a title shot, but alas, Cannonier may still be a big win away from another shot at UFC gold. After the fight, Cannonier made it clear that he is still focused on winning the UFC Middleweight Championship, and if either Robert Whittaker or Dricus Du Plessis are unable to make it to their upcoming fight, Cannonier will stay ready in order to take their spot.