UFC Louisville: Bad Stoppage Kills Cannonier’s Title Bid

At 40 years of age, Jared Cannonier is one of the best Middleweights alive.

Heading into his fourth consecutive main event slot, “The Killa Gorilla” didn’t quite have the momentum he deserved. The former title challenger has made his desire for a second shot plenty clear, and wins over Sean Strickland and Marvin Vettori — the latter being a record-setting beat down — should have placed him in the immediate mix for a chance at gold.

Fight politics being what they are, however, Cannonier needed more. UFC doesn’t like giving 40 year olds title shots, even if they’re knockout artists … and especially if their first title shot was a bit of a stinker and there’s other popular names in the mix. Consequently, Cannonier was forced to look down the ladder and find Nassourdine Imavov, a very talented up-and-comer 12 years his junior.

The fight was highly competitive. Cannonier was strangely determined to wrestle, and his efforts fatigued him. Even so, Cannonier was up on two of the three judges’ scorecards heading into the fourth, and the fight was very much up for grabs. Imavov did his part of reaching for the victory, cracking Cannonier with a nice right hand over the top.

Cannonier was hurt. His legs wobbled, but he regained his footing. He took a few steps away from Imavov, but he kept his eyes on the advancing “Sniper.” Cannonier threw a counter hook and blocked a couple punches. His guard was high and his legs beneath him when referee Jason Herzog stepped in and called the fight.

Now, I love to bash judge and referee incompetence whenever possible, but Herzog is one of the best in the game. This is a case of a largely great referee doing a difficult job for a long time — mistakes are bound to happen. The real unfortunate aspect of this specific mistake is the circumstance, namely that Jared Cannonier is now royally screwed, and there’s no forcing the cat back into the bag.

A week ago, Cannonier vs. Du Plessis was a feasible match up, a fight that could happen with just a smidge of luck. Better yet, the match up was a very reasonable one for Cannonier. Du Plessis has blocked plenty of punches with his face, and Cannonier hits like a mack truck. I would favor the South African champion overall, but “Killa Gorilla” would definitely stand a reasonable at shutting off his lights if the two were to fight in the next three months.

Now? Cannonier is AT LEAST two fights away from a title shot. More likely, he’s three or four wins away. Even if UFC opts to book an immediate rematch (probably not) and pretend this didn’t happen at all, Cannonier is delayed months before having any possibility of a title shot. That’s all too long for a 40 year old contender. Instead of having a reasonable — if still long — shot at gold, Cannonier now requires an absolute miracle. That’s the outcome of a mistake from the referee, an element outside of Cannonier’s control.

Put bluntly: it sucks!

In a more abstract sense, it’s a great example of how luck and popularity can play such pivotal roles in creating a champion.

For complete UFC Lousisville: “Cannonier vs. Imavov” results and play-by-play, click HERE!

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