Jared Cannonier takes 48-47 sweep over Kelvin Gastelum at UFC on ESPN 29

Jared Cannonier celebrates after beating Kelvin Gastelum at

Will Jared Cannonier be the same after his MCL injury?

A fair amount has changed in the UFC’s middleweight division since Jared Cannonier last fought. Israel Adesanya was still the champion and Cannonier rebounded off of his loss to “The Last Stylebender” with wins over Sean Strickland and Marvin Vettori.

Now the 40-year-old finds himself an old face amongst a new-refreshing division. Dricus Du Plessis is the champion. Fighters like Khamzat Chimaev, Anthony Hernandez and Brendan Allen are storming their way to the top of the division, threatening Cannonier and last generation’s peers of top five middleweights.

This weekend, Cannonier returns after an MCL injury sidelined him for a year. He takes on Nassourdine Imavov in the main event of UFC Louisville and everything is on the line for “The Killa Gorilla” as he makes what could be his last run at 185 gold and glory.

Jared Cannonier: Fending off the contenders

Middleweight is a curious division. Home of long-reigning champions Anderson Silva and Israel Adesanya, many find the division boring and uninspiring. Other names have risen to the top. Alex Pereira, Robert Whittaker, Sean Strickland and Dricus Du Plessis have all held the title. But middleweight calls for someone to rise above and dominate the division like Silva and Adesanya of old.

Because of this trend, both Silva and Adesanya holding on for so long, Cannonier’s resume has not been looked at as favorable. His injury has held him out of contention with the turbulent time when the title changed hands from Adesanya to Pereira to Adesanya again, over to Strickland and now to Du Plessis. Four straight fights the title has been captured.

Cannonier’s resume really resembles the old guard of 185, Adesanya’s era. His wins are as follows:

  • David Branch
  • Anderson Silva
  • Jack Hermansson
  • Kelvin Gastelum
  • Derek Brunson
  • Sean Strickland
  • Marvin Vettori

In his two losses at 185, Whittaker and Adesanya, Jared Cannonier was only dominated by Whittaker and that was because of a broken arm suffered in that fight.

Those names are still around. But now, many new names are emerging. Chimaev, Allen, and Hernandez are the brightest of these prospects. But there’s other, deeper names, that will make the rise soon. Caio Borralho is already ranked. But coming up the rear are names like Ikram Aliskerov, Joe Pyfer and Bo Nickal. These names are chomping at the bit to knock off a 40-year-old with a high ranking.

Nassourdine Imavov: On the precipice

Jared Cannonier takes on Nassourdine Imavov. Imavov is on the brink of breaking out as a top contender in the division. He looks to make Jared Cannonier that marquee name. Imavov had a shot at this spot before and lost a ho-hum decision to Sean Strickland.

With Cannonier coming off as low hanging fruit, he will be fighting with his back metaphorically against the wall. But crazier things have happened, like Glover Texiera wading the waters of Styx and capturing the title at 41. Fending off a up and coming fighter, even one with a bad style for Cannonier, isn’t impossible.

Jared Cannonier is a man of much experience. Having gone five rounds several times before, he’s no stranger to stretching out fights and winning in the later rounds. Imavov wants his way into the top of the division. But Cannonier has battled his demons, become a well oiled machine, and challenged for the middleweight title once.

At 40, Cannonier will have an even steeper up hill battle each and every fight. But with a man possessing the mental fortitude he’s got, the battle with Father Time can be more intelligently fought. Going from heavyweight to middleweight, a miraculous journey in its own right, has built Cannonier up as master of his mind and body. Returning from his MCL injury will be a similar battle and this Saturday is the culmination of that battle.

author avatar
Blaine Henry
Your friendly neighborhood fight fan. I watch way too many fights and my wife lets me know it.