UFC officials announced the pairing late Thursday night.
Rumors have been swirling for weeks about Whittaker’s return to action after he lost the 185-pound belt to Israel Adesanya in October. The former champion was anxious to book his next fight as he seeks to get back into title contention sooner rather than later.
Now he faces a stiff test from Cannonier, who has rocketed up the middleweight ranks with three straight wins in the division after competing at both heavyweight and light heavyweight in the UFC.
Thus far at 185 pounds, Cannonier has a 100 percent finishing rate with knockouts against David Branch, former champion Anderson Silva and most recently against Jack Hermansson. No opponent at middleweight has made it to the third round with Cannonier yet.
Whittaker vs. Cannonier joins the UFC 248 card, which also includes a strawweight title fight between reigning champion Weili Zhang and Joanna Jedrzejczyk with another championship bout still expected to be added for the March 7 event.