LAS VEGAS — Jared Cannonier thinks the judges got it right in his split decision win over Sean Strickland at UFC Fight Night 216 on Saturday, and now he’s ready to take the next step up the ladder in the middleweight division.
Cannonier (16-6 MMA, 9-6 UFC) edges Strickland (25-5 MMA, 12-5 UFC) on the scorecards in a close-action headlining bout at UFC Apex, helping him bounce back from title-fight defeat helped to do. Then-champion Israel Adesanya at UFC 276 in July. Although it was not the most exciting fight, Cannonier raised his hand and returned to the winner’s circle.
The victory came by the skin of his teeth, however, as the three judges unanimously failed to score a round for either fighter. It was a nail-biter as the judgment was being read, but Cannonier said he was convinced he had it all in him.
“I definitely thought I won at least three out of five rounds,” Cannonier told MMA Junkie and other reporters at the UFC Fight Night 216 post-fight news conference. “I believed I won three out of five rounds, and on top of that I believed I won the fight in general.”
Although decision-making has been a hot topic in sports in recent times, the competitive nature of the 25-minute affair makes it a legitimately uphill battle to assess. Cannonier admits it wasn’t easy there either, and he had to be very patient fighting Strickland’s style.
“He’s good at what he does,” Cannonier said. “He’s really good at going forward, getting that hit out there and then getting out of the way. If I give him the impression, ‘I’m here.’ He was already aware, ready and preparing his check hook or whatever combination he was going to throw, or just walked away completely.
Despite the high-profile Main Event victory, it’s unclear exactly where Cannonier goes next at 185 pounds. It is expected that Alex Pereira will face Adesanya again for the belt next, then notable matchups for the first quarter of 2023 are Robert Whittaker vs. Paulo Costa and Marvin Vettori vs. Roman Dolidze.
Cannonier said there is no specific opponent that makes sense to him right now, but he remains firm in his belief that he should be in the octagon fighting for a title more than two bouts from now.
“If not a title shot, then hopefully the contenders match up. That is what I would expect,” Cannonier said. “Either a title shot in early 2023, or the fight that gets me the title in mid or late 2023. gives a shot.”
For more information on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC Fight Night 216.