On the same night that Whittaker (23-5 MMA, 14-3 UFC) will attempt to reclaim his middleweight title from Israel Adesanya in the UFC 271 main event Feb. 12, Cannonier and Brunson will be vying for the No. 1 contender spot.
” I think Cannonier wins that one,” Whittaker said to MMA Junkie. He’s tough and has a well-rounded skill set. He’s also very difficult to take down. If Derek Brunson wins the fight, I believe he will take him down, hold him down, pressurize him out, and win that way. Cannonier is very difficult to keep down.
” I don’t think he can hold him down. Especially not for three rounds. That makes a big difference. Cannonier is tough, he hits hard and has good eyes. He also has excellent wrestling takedown defense.
Brunson has won five consecutive fights since he lost four of six, including knockout losses against Whittaker, Adesanya and Adesanya. This is a chance to redeem himself against either man.
It’s been a remarkable turnaround for the 38-year-old Brunson, but Whittaker isn’t surprised to see his career resurgence.
” I think he is a very high-tiered, high-caliber opponent,” Whittaker stated. Whittaker said, “He is a very high-quality athlete. Take a look at the men he has lost to – these are the top dogs. I saw him come up to fight me, and then you saw the backend of it after he lost against me and Izzy (Adesanya). Now he’s cleaning out. Yeah, he’s a very, very high-caliber fighter.”