NEW YORK — Don’t look now but veteran Jared Cannonier may have finally found his division. UFC, meanwhile, may have found itself another quality contender.
Cannonier (11-4), who previously fought at heavyweight and light heavyweight, made his 185-pound debut — on short notice, no less — a memorable one as he stopped David Branch with punches early in Round 2 at UFC 230.
An explosive right hand from the 34-year-old Cannonier as both fighters were exiting the clinch dropped Branch in a heap and woke up the Madison Square Garden crowd. Cannonier instantly swarmed in to land a flurry of hammer shots until he forced the stoppage at 23 seconds of the round.
“It feels good, especially to do it here on one of the biggest stages in the world,” Cannonier said. “A lot of people have come here to earn a lot of notoriety and fortune and I’m just happy to have done the same. I know that I’m one of the best in the world and, again, another opportunity to prove that and I made good on that and came away with my hand raised.”
Cannonier was a late addition to the card after Luke Rockhold pulled out of his co-main event rematch with Chris Weidman and Branch’s original opponent, Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza, moved up to face Weidman. Cannonier claimed the weight cut wasn’t a problem at all and even came in two pounds under the limit as he went on to shake a two-fight losing skid.
Branch (22-5) controlled the opening round on the ground by taking Cannonier down at will. But the 37-year-old, who is a former two-division champion with World Series of Fighting, went on to suffer his second defeat in three fights after being submitted by Luke Rockhold in 2017.
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