Mixed martial arts fans will rejoice at the arrival of UFC 254 on Saturday when Jared Cannonier and Robert Whittaker go to war in a showdown for a shot at the UFC middleweight crown.
Former light heavyweight Cannonier, 36, has foraged his path to a potential title chance less than two years after making his debut in the division, stringing together three consecutive KO finishes to land in contention:
There isn’t a middleweight who’s been able to match his power as of yet, although former champion Whittaker (21-5) promises to pose his greatest threat at 185lbs thus far.
The bookmakers haven’t cast much distance between the pair, with Cannonier the slightest of favorites at -115 with William Hill New Jersey, just ahead of -105 underdog Whittaker.
UFC 254 Info & Card Schedule/Times
Date: Saturday, October 24
Venue: Flash Forum, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Free bets for NJ/CO/IL – William Hill Sportsbook
Early Prelims: 10:15 a.m. ET (3:15 p.m. BST)
Prelims: 12 p.m. ET (5 p.m. BST)
Main Card: 2 p.m. ET (7 p.m. BST)
Whittaker vs. Cannonier Preview & Prediction
It’s difficult to cast judgement over this fight given the irregular path Cannonier has taken to get to this point. The 36-year-old only turned professional at 27 and lost four of his first seven fights in the UFC, but the rebirth he’s enjoyed since slimming down to middleweight makes him almost a new fighter altogether.
Whittaker, 29, has taken the opposite path up the divisions and started his career as a welterweight, meaning there’s a foundational difference between the power behind their attacks.
Nevertheless, “The Reaper” told reporters this week he’s unfazed by the hysteria currently tracking his next opponent, voicing his intent to do maximum damage on Saturday night, via MMAFighting.com:
It’s not like Cannonier is unstoppable considering he’s already been knocked out twice in his career, but both of those stoppages came at 205lbs. He’s claimed as many knockout finishes in his career as Whittaker (nine) despite having nine fewer fights, and the Australian underdog hasn’t finished an opponent since he stopped Jacare Souza in April 2017.
William Hill have Whittaker priced at +225 to take a decision win—the method by which he’s sealed his last three wins—but “The Killa Gorilla” looks the smarter pick at +150 to win by KO/TKO.
Whittaker is one of the most likeable fighters in the UFC and has lost only once in his last 11 bouts, but the momentum—both literal and figurative—is riding with knockout artist Cannonier ahead of UFC 254.
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Whittaker vs. Cannonier Odds
Robert Whittaker: -105
Jared Cannonier: -115
Prediction: Cannonier via KO/TKO (+150)