Today's Free Picks for
UFC 254 - Yas Island - Abu Dhabi, UAE
Robert Whittaker -107 over Jared Cannonier
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Posted at 7:45 AM EST.
4:15 PM EST. We last saw Jared Cannonier just over a year ago at UFC Fight Night Denmark, where he finished Jack Hermansson in the main event. In the first round of that fight, Cannonier defended Hermansson's multiple takedown attempts and forced the Scandinavian to stand and box with him. It was here where Cannonier found his rhythm with a barrage of leg kicks and solid punching combinations. It was an action-packed first round that saw both fighters getting in some good shots. Round two was as far as this fight would go, as "The Joker" came out strong but got caught with his head down and ate an uppercut that put him on the mat, which allowed Cannonier to jump on him and get the finish with some ground and pound. It was a nice win in the main event slot, but it must be stated, "The Killa Gorilla" was a +160 pooch to Hermansson. In his fight prior, Cannonier feasted on the remains of Anderson Silva, finishing the GOAT in the first round. Cannonier has now won three fights in a row, all by TKO, with two of those victories earning him Performance of the Night bonuses. The reason for his 13-month layoff is because of a torn pectoral muscle. This fight has been billed a title eliminator, with the winner getting the next shot at champion Israel Adesanya.
The shuffling of Robert Whittaker to the role of middleweight gatekeeper is one that we have to question. Does one knockout loss to the reigning champ warrant a trip out to pasture? We think not and see great value in a resume that includes a recent win over Darren Till and a six-year winning streak that sandwich the defeat to Adesanya. Wins over that run include a pair of wars with Yoel Romero, TKOs of Jacare Souza and Derek Brunson, and knockout wins over Brad Tavares and Clint Hester that earned post-fight bonuses. Most of those bouts took place years ago and so we'll focus on "Boddy Knuckles" last trip to the Octagon against Till. That fight took place here on Fight Island back in July. Coming into that fight, Whittaker focused on his patients as well as his wrestling with the belief that those in both were the root of his struggles with Adesanya. That patience was on display from the get-go against Till, as "Knuckles" approached the beginning of that fight as a counter fighter and let Till come to him. That strategy didn't really change the entire fight. He was not his usual aggressive self and while there were moments of the old "Reaper," that performance was not up to Whittaker's bonus cashing norm. However, we love it when a fighter is forced into this role because they often come out defiant of the promotion's plans. Don't you think that "Boddy Knuckles" hears the whispers about his fading prime? Or how Cannonier is all set to take the next step in his career? It's much easier to sell a fight with a fighter on the uptick like Cannonier than it is with one that has already got beat by the champ.
From a pure market value perspective, Whittaker is a steal here when you consider he opened as the favored (-160) against Adesanya in their championship fight, as was against Till (-135). Now he is a coin flip against the flavor of the month in Cannonier. Could Bobby get rocked by Cannonier's early barrage? Absolutely, but if we're expecting "The Thrilla Gorilla" to come out swinging after three straight TKO victories, so is Whittaker. He's the more experienced fighter and we expect him to be able to dictate the pace of this fight after Cannonier gasses himself out. Dude hasn't seen the third round in nearly three years. A smart and disciplined game plan should be enough for the "Reaper" to get his had raised whether this one goes to the judges or not.
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Robert Whittaker -107 (Risking 2.14 units - To Win: 2.00)