Israel Adesanya was making the fifth defence of his middleweight title as he welcomed the challenge of the hard-hitting Cannonier.
Israel Adesanya retained his middleweight title with an effortless victory over Jared Cannonier at UFC 276.
The champion was barely out of second gear over the five-round main event as he cruised to a fourth title defence.
But the Las Vegas crowd were left less than impressed as they booed the fight throughout before all three judges handed the Nigerian victory by margins of four and five rounds.
“He had an excellent gameplan; it was really hard to get my follow-ups going, my second phases going,” reflected the champion before calling out bitter rival Alex Pereira who holds two wins over the champion, albeit in the kickboxing ranks. “You know who’s next,” continued Adesanya.
“The first time, I told you, was an error on my part. Next time I put you on skates, you’re going to be frozen.”
Adesanya unified the middleweight title with his first win over Robert Whittaker in 2019 with the only blotch on his record since his defeat by then light-heavyweight champion Jan Blachowicz two years later.
Cannonier, meanwhile, had won five of his previous six fights with victories over Kelvin Gastelum and Derek Brunson securing his shot at the title.
Adesanya carried an urn to the cage as he paid homage to WWE legend The Undertaker in the most theatrical of his flamboyant entrances. And the champion adopted a kick-heavy approach in the opening stages as Cannonier swung and missed with an overhand right.
The champion increased the pace at the start of the second round as he effortlessly switched stances to land his ram-rod jab.
And just as the Sin City crowd began to grow restless, Adesanya began to put his punches together before the fight was paused when Cannonier was poked in the eye.
Cannonier’s right eye had started to swell up by the third round but the challenger adopted a more aggressive approach as the title fight hit the halfway mark.
He managed to pin Adesanya to the cage but the champion slithered out of danger.
Adesanya snapped back Cannonier’s head with another unerring jab at the start of the fourth session as he continued to dominate.
The challenger was able to land a lone right hand midway through the round but his successes were few and far between as the crowd grew restless again.
Cannonier’s corner told him he was down three rounds to one going into the final stoppage, meaning the American needed a stoppage to win the title.
Adesanya was content to coast through the last five minutes, much to the chagrin of the 19,000 fans in the T-Mobile Arena. And Cannonier offered little thread as his title challenge fizzled out.
In the co-main event, Alexander Volkanowski dominated Max Holloway to win every round of their trilogy fight and settle their long-running rivalry.
There were also main-card triumphs for Bryan Barberena over Robbie Lawlor and for Pereira, who knocked out Sean Strickland in the first round.