Not since the meteoric rise of Brock Lesnar has the sport of MMA seen a fighter make a switch to the sport and rise to the mountaintop immediately. At UFC 281, Alex Pereira added his name to that short list when he reached the top of the sport when he defeated Israel Adesanya for UFC middleweight championship.
Alex Pereira Stops Israel Adesanya in the 5th Round to Claim Middleweight Crown at UFC 281
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Pereira is the only man in the history of GLORY Kickboxing to hold a belt in two divisions at the same time. We knew he was an elite striker without the history between him and Adesanya being known. When you add both arts together though this fight should have been more predictable in hindsight.
Adesanya has never been a power hitter in either kickboxing or MMA. Out of 103 professional wins across combat sports, only 45 of them have come back knockout. He thrives on picking his opponents apart and using his defense to stick outside in the process to avoid major damage. For Alex Pereira, he simply did not allow for that to happen, this fight between them almost mirrored the second kickboxing match between the two men.
In their second kickboxing matchup, Adesanya was able to hurt the Brazilian several times before the heavy hands of Pereira made the biggest difference. At UFC 281, the same thing was happening. Adesanya was hitting Pereira with everything in his arsenal, he even was scoring takedowns and ground control, but he simply did not have anything that was a game-changing attribute.
Alex Pereira was hurting Israel Adesanya with jabs, the jabs he was throwing were making the same impact as Adesanya’s straights and hooks. He was able to coast and survive rounds three and four and almost let Adesanya wear himself out with his grappling before he emptied his gas tank in round five.
Pereira was able to close the distance against the cage in round five and started to tee off on The Last Airbender, ultimately rocking him several times before referee Marc Goddard stepped in. The stoppage was debated on social media, but nonetheless, the fight was waived off .
All in all, Alex Pereira leaves Madison Square Garden with a third victory over Israel Adesanya, but that does not mean he is done with him. One has to imagine that Adesanya did enough in the fight, as well as being a five-time defending champion, to have earned a rematch. Perhaps the rematch comes in Australia or Brazil, both places the UFC is going in the first quarter of 2023.
Regardless, this fight shook up the middleweight division in a much-needed way. Men who had once been afterthoughts are now back in the title picture after losing decisively to Adesanya. The middleweights have become worthy of your undivided attention once again starting Jared Cannonier and Sean Strickland in December.