Jared Cannonier’s chance to become champion of the “circus” middleweight division might be over

40-year-old Jared Cannonier was on a two fight winning streak before his fight against Nassouridine Imavov.

Jared Cannonier’s chance to become champion of the “circus” middleweight division might be over

Jared Cannonier (Image via Imago)

Before his fight against Nassouridine Imavov, Jared Cannonier had labeled the UFC middleweight division as a “Circus.” Now, after his disappointing loss against the Frenchman, Cannonier has more of a reason to stick to his convictions. The 40-year-old Cannonier took on Imavov in the main event of UFC Louisville with the ambition to fight his way to the title. However, the referee’s decision-making may have put a dagger in those dreams once and for all.

The fight began with Cannonier coming in strong and potentially winning the 1st round. Unfortunately for ‘Killa Gorilla,’ the momentum seemed to have shifted in favor of Imavov at the end of the second. This seemed part of Cannonier’s strategy to wrestle and tire Imavov, but it backfired. Cannonier himself looked gassed, which allowed Imavov to consolidate his position in the second and third rounds. Eventually, all this pressure allowed him to land a hard counter right that wobbled Cannonier. This resulted in an early stoppage from Jason Herzog.

Controversial stoppage by Jason Herzog

Referee, Jason Herzog is known for his exceptional officiating throughout the years. Unfortunately, this was not his finest moment, as he appeared to prematurely stop the fight. Even though Imavov had Cannonier in trouble, the latter still seemed to be in the fight. This was evident from his ability to land a counterpunch of his own after getting wobbled.

Jason Herzog controversial decision
Jason Herzog’s controversial decision (via Sports Illustrated/ X)

Cannonier is a veteran of the sport and has been in such positions previously. Therefore, he looked like he could fight his way back through the onslaught. Even after being shaken, he had his witts about him and protected himself with a high guard. However, the referee had seen enough and stepped in to stop the fight. Although Cannonier looked baffled at the stoppage, physically, he was completely fine. Unfortunately, this might be the final nail in 40-year-old Cannonier’s dream of fighting for the title ever again.

Jared Cannonier and his long career

Cannonier has been fighting in the UFC since 2015. During this time, he proved himself to be a worthy contender, and he even defeated former middleweight champion, Sean Strickland when he wasn’t a champion. Moreover, Cannonier has also fought for the title against Israel Adesanya at UFC 276. Unfortunately, he lost the fight by unanimous decision. After his last victory against Martin Vettori in 2023, he was out of action due to an injury.

Jared Cannonier Career
Jared Cannonier Career (Via BJ Penn.com)

He hoped to build on his two-fight winning streak against Imavov and challenge for the title soon. A win was paramount in his return, with time running out for the 40-year-old. Moreover, the fighter was dismayed by looking at the state of the middleweight division. ‘Killa Gorilla’ even declared the division as a circus in a recent interview.

Why did Jared Cannonier label the middleweight division as a “Circus”?

In a recent interview with MMA Junkie, Cannonier spoke candidly about the middleweight division. He was convinced that Sean Strickland deserved a rematch against Dricus Du Plessis after their close fight at UFC 297. Instead, Strickland had to fight the lower-ranked Paulo Costa despite being the number one contender. As such, ‘Killa Gorilla’ believes the division is no longer meritocratic.

It’s a circus out there... I think Sean deserves that rematch more than Whittaker deserves the matchup. But we all know why they’re doing it. Like I said, it’s a circus out there. Queue the clown music. Bring in the crowds with their peanuts and their popcorn, so they can have a good time.
Jarrod Cannonier via MMA Junkie
Jared Cannonier at presser
Jared Cannonier at presser (Via IMAGO)

He might be right, as the UFC is rumored to be preparing for the return of former champion, Israel Adesanya. Subsequently, the organization is trying to set up a title fight between Du Plessis and Adesanya. This will certainly be a big-money fight looking to capitalize on their rivalry. Unfortunately, this means Strickland was out of title contention despite his standing in the division. However, even ‘Tarzan’ has picked up on this and has demanded a title fight. The former champion has doubled down and declared that he will only fight for a title next. As such, he is willing to wait as long as it takes for this to become a reality.

All this tomfoolery already made it difficult for Cannonier to make his own way to a title fight again. Now, with a loss on his return, that dream has been put to rest. The middleweight division is rightly a mess, with Khamzat Chimaev vs. Robert Whittaker also potentially seeking a title shot after their fight. The UFC certainly has a lot on its hands, but many would consider it a good problem to have so many exceptional fighters in the division. The fans will have to wait and watch as the story unfolds, but mostly without Cannonier in the mix.

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