LAS VEGAS -- The UFC's final fight of 2022 came down to the scorecards on Saturday, as former middleweight title challenger Jared Cannonier defeated Sean Strickland via split decision.
Cannonier (16-6) out-pointed Strickland (25-5) over the course of a five-round main event that took place almost exclusively on the feet. Judges Derek Clearly and Junichiro Kumijo each scored the bout 49-46 for Cannonier. The final judge, Sal D'Amato scored it a complete opposite 49-46 in favor of Strickland.
"I thought I had it [three rounds to two]," Cannonier said. "You saw the blood on his face. I thought I did enough."
All five rounds were competitive, however Cannonier, 48, did appear to land the more significant offense. Strickland did well landing his straight jab and front kick throughout the fight, but Cannonier's strikes were more versatile and carried more weight. He never came close to a finish, but he did hurt Strickland with strikes along the fence in the fourth round.
According to UFC Stats, Strickland actually out-landed Cannonier in total strikes 126 to 116, but he attempted almost 100 more strikes than Cannonier in order to do so. Cannonier also targeted the body and legs with kicks, which he felt was a strong deterrent for Strickland's notoriously accurate jab.
"I wouldn't say he was tricky, but he's got a very good eye for that distance," Cannonier said. "He's done so much sparring and he's been doing this for so long. He was able to maintain a good distance and not just walk forward like a zombie."
It's a nice main event rebound for Cannonier, who unsuccessfully challenged Israel Adesanya for the middleweight championship in July. Cannonier lost four of five rounds to Adesanya and would have been facing a potentially lengthy road back to a title, however Adesanya suffered an upset knockout loss to Alex Pereira last month at UFC 281.
"Anybody who gets me closer to the title fight or the title fight is what we're shooting for [next]," Cannonier said.
For Strickland, who trains out of Las Vegas, it's a further slide down the rankings in 2022. He came into the year riding a five-fight win streak, but has now lost back-to-back fights to Cannonier and Pereira.