UFC 276: Israel Adesanya outclasses Jared Cannonier to record fifth world title defence

Israel Adesanya spoke all week about how easy he'd make it look against Jared Cannonier and he - for the most part - delivered on those promises on fight night, earning a comprehensive decision win over the American in the main event of UFC 276 at Las Vegas on Sunday (NZ time).

Entering the bout as the firm favourite, 'The Last Stylebender' was in complete control against the burly Cannonier, dictating terms from range with a calculated display of striking to record his fifth successful middleweight title defence in a relatively lacklustre spectacle.

The judges scored the fight 49-46, 49-46 and 50-45 for the City Kickboxing kingpin, who extended his undefeated streak in the division to 12 fights.

And no sooner than his hand was raised in victory, Adesanya's next title challenger was already essentially set in stone, and it promises to be his most fascinating yet.

Alex Pereira's searing first-round knockout of Sean Strickland earlier on the card will likely be more than enough to secure his shot against Adesanya, who he beat twice - once via brutal knockout - during their days under the Glory Kickboxing banner.

The 32-year-old wasted no time laying the gauntlet down to the Brazilian, who watched the fight cageside, a bout that would come with an intriguing readymade narrative.

"Look we know who’s next," Adesanya said, calling out Pereira. "Trust me, the first time I told you, it was an error on my part spamming the right hand and that was in kickboxing.

"It's easy to knockout, what's the hillbilly's name [Sean Strickland] because he was parrying the jabs but like I said at the press conference, the next time I put you on skates, you're going to get frozen like Elsa."

Adesanya makes his entrance.
Adesanya makes his entrance. Photo credit: Getty Images

Cannonier did enough to ensure it wasn't a complete shutout in Adesanya's favour, having some success in the grappling exchanges, but ultimately never genuinely threatened to take the upperhand.

The bout won't be the first in Adesanya's show reel but it was nevertheless more proof of the gap between the champion and No. 1 contender in the weight class, which is fast running out of bonafide challengers, making Pereira's emergence - after just three UFC bouts - all the more timely.

The Kiwi-Nigerian set the scene with a trademark theatrical entrance, making his walk to The Octagon carrying an urn with Cannonier's name on it, shrouded by smoke while the theme music of WWE great 'The Undertaker' rang through T-Mobile Arena.

Five rounds later, Adesanya credited Cannonier for a blueprint which he said stifled his ability to inflict the punishment he sought.

"I'll tell you one thing, they had an excellent game plan," he said afterwards. "It was really hard to get my follow ups going, my second phases going because they had a good game plan."

Adesanya's teammate Alexander Volkanovski raised the curtain with a dominant five-round shutout of Max Holloway in the co-main event to retain his featherweight title.

'The Great' looked unstoppable against Holloway, his speed and power no match for the Hawaiian, putting an emphatic fullstop on their trilogy of fights.

Now undefeated through 12 bouts in the UFC, the Australian said in his post-fight interview he intended to make the move to lightweight to chase prestigious dual-division champion status, calling out current champ Charles Oliveira.

The event wasn't as memorable for Kiwi lightweight Brad Riddell, who fell to a submission defeat in the opening round of his preliminary card clash with rising American prospect Jalin Turner.