|Jason Silva USA TODAY Sports
Cannonier has displayed some cunning striking since his middleweight birth
The Octagon stint of UFC Fight Night Copenhagen headliner Jared ‘The Killa Gorilla’ Cannonier has been an incredibly interesting one. We’ve seen the Texan compete at heavyweight and light heavyweight with mediocre success, but now at a seemingly comfortable home of middleweight, Cannonier has become somewhat of a force to be reckoned with at 185-pounds. Since his divisional bow last November, the 35-year-old has picked up two stoppage wins, finishing former WSOF middleweight and light heavyweight best David Branch, and the iconic Anderson Silva.
Against middleweight great Silva, Cannonier utilized both inside and outside calf kicks early and often to limit the front leg pressure of the Brazilian, and cleverly covered distance with an overhand right to remain out of kicking range. An inside leg kick with less than twenty seconds remaining in the opening round forced Silva to the canvas with referee Herb Dean timly separating the pair.
Making his middleweight bow at UFC 230 against short notice replacement David Branch, Cannonier picked up the biggest victory of his Ultimate Fighting Championship stretch. Branch, a phenomenal grappler under Renzo Gracie, managed a couple of takedowns inside the two round affair, with Cannonier defending admirably. Exploding to his feet when the opportunity arose, Cannonier pressed the pace and within the second round, had the New York native on his backside. Springing with a straight right, Cannonier dropped Branch and then forced referee Keith Peterson to step in after some heavy ground and pound.
Against a similarly dangerous grappler as Branch in Jack Hermansson, the knowledge of survival against the Renzo Gracie BJJ staple will prove dividends. Branch has an excellent rear-naked choke, and even had Cannonier’s back at one stage in the opening round, as the Dallas native managed to shrug him off. Swedish all-rounder Hermansson has displayed in the past, a taut arm-in guillotine which has stopped the aforementioned Branch, and Gerald Meerschaert. In the past, Hermansson has come unstuck against heavy-hitter Thiago Santos, a striker who holds similar one-shot stopping power as Cannonier.
The incorporation of leg kicks by Cannonier in an almost Muay Thai fashion has been incredibly telling so far in his two fight run at 185-pounds. Hermansson likes to utilize his often superior grappling ability early in a contest, and the constant chopping of the lead-leg with both inside and outside variations from Cannonier will force a light-footed approach and mitigate the shot from ‘The Joker’.