MMA

Adesanya vs Pereira: The Story So Far

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Israel Adesanya has held his title longer than any other man currently in the UFC. He has faced the toughest competition available to him, and had even begun to rematch contenders already once defeated. With his signature slick kickboxing style, Adesanya has been unbeatable in his division for a long time. But that hasn’t always been the case.

Before Adesanya was headlining pay-per-views in the UFC, he was a veteran of eighty professional kickboxing bouts. He lost just five of those, and was never beaten inside the distance—until his final fight. Looking to rebound from a controversial decision loss to Jason Wilnis for the Glory Middleweight Championship, Adesanya accepted a rematch against an old rival: Alex “Poatan” Pereira. Despite being in control for most of the fight, it did not go his way.

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Hands of stone

Alex Pereira is one of the most feared kickboxers of his generation. A two-weight Glory champion, he is known for his devastating power, and in particular—his ghostly left hook. He has rapidly adapted to the new sport, aided by his training under former light heavyweight champion Glover Texiera—who has worked to level up Pereira’s grappling game to the necessary calibre.

Pereira has mounted a rapid ascension to the upper echelons of the UFC, having made only three appearances so far. A pair of spectacular knockout victories over Andreas Michailidis and Sean Strickland have shown unfamiliar MMA fans the type of violence that can be expected from Pereria, and what could be in store for the long-reigning champion Adesanya.

What happened already

Saturday night will be the third time Adesanya and Pereira have met. Their first bout came at “Glory of Heroes 1” in 2016 in Shenzhen, China. Contested at 190 pounds, they fought to a controversial unanimous decision in favor of Pereira. Surprise can even be seen in both men’s faces when the decision is read. 

They rematched a year later in what would be Adesanya’s last contest in the discipline. This fight went very differently from the last. After a comfortable first round, Adesanya took full control in the second. He was landing his right hand at will and badly beating Pereira, who was given a standing count. He was two up on anyone’s card headed into the final round. 

Adesanya ran at his opponent with a flying knee to open the third. He intended to continue the story where he left off before the break in rounds. But Pereria fought back more than he had earlier and in an early exchange, caught Adesanya with a short left hook—knocking him out cold. This fight showed the potential both of these men have to do damage to the other. 

They meet again at UFC 281

Adesanya thinks he is the better fighter. Periera believes the evidence is obvious that he is the better fighter. Two very different approaches to the same style. The champion has dealt with a versatile pantheon of challengers thus far in the UFC, but none quite like this one. Five years after their last meeting, and in a whole different sport—Israel Adesanya will face Alex Pereira for a third time this Saturday at UFC 281. 

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