In the UFC’s final bout of the year, one-time middleweight title challenger Jared Cannonier returned to the Octagon for a high-stakes matchup with the always outspoken and often controversial Sean Strickland. Both fighters entered the bout looking to get back into the win column after Cannonier came up short in his lone title bid against Israel Adesanya while Strickland suffered a first-round knockout against newly crowned middleweight king Alex Pereira.
In the opening round, both fighters paced themselves, preparing for a potential five-round war. As Strickland attempted to establish his jab, Cannonier targeted the lead leg, landing heavy leg kicks throughout the first five minutes. Strickland scored a brief takedown after catching a body kick, from Cannonier, but the one-time title challenger was able to get back to his feet quickly. In the second round, Strickland began to open up a bit, establishing his jab and keeping just out of range of Cannonier’s attacks, but ‘The Killa Gorilla’ continued to beat on the leg of Strickland.
Strickland began to open up, frustrating Cannonier with his footwork. That trend continued through the majority of the fourth round until Cannonier landed a big left hand that got a smile out of Strickland. Going into the fifth and final round, total strikes were incredibly close with Strickland peppering Cannonier with jabs and solid combinations as ‘The Killa Gorilla’ looked for the one-hit knockout. With 10 seconds to go, both fighters emptied their gas tanks in a closely contested middleweight main event.
Official Result: Jared Cannonier def. Sean Strickland via split decision (49-46, 46-49, 49-46)