Alex Pereira entered the UFC with the goal of dethroning middleweight champion Israel Adesanya. Having already defeated him twice in kickboxing, the anticipation built seeing Pereira climb his way through the UFC, eventually earning his shot through a spectacular knockout of rival champ-chaser Sean “Surefoot” Strickland. Despite being down on the cards going into the last round, Pereira knocked Adesanya out.
The upset turned Alex Pereira into a hugely recognizable name within the sport. His enormous size and drastic weight cut drew speculation of a move up to 205 pounds, but he decided to stay put in order to defend his title in a rematch with Adesanya. He was defeated by knockout in the second round. Now without a belt, Pereira was forced to choose between fighting his way back to the championship through the wrestling-heavy middleweight elites, or answering one of many favorable callouts in the division above. Thus—Alex Pereira, light heavyweight contender.
— Alex "Poatan" Pereira (@AlexPereiraUFC) April 13, 2023
The debate has already begun on who Pereira’s first opponent will be in his new weight class. Below are three potential options for who could be that man.
Johnny Walker has picture-perfect striking—as long as that picture is painted by Pablo Picasso. His recent knockout victory of touted kickboxer Paul Craig sums up the general wackiness of Walker’s style. Unpredictable, unorthodox, and seemingly improving; Walker is riding a two-fight streak of first round finishes. His most recent defeat came at the hands of current champion Jamahal Hill.
This angle of Jamahal Hill’s knockout over Walker is NUTS pic.twitter.com/760sRoUzkA
— Spinnin Backfist (@SpinninBackfist) August 1, 2022
A win against Walker would stake the same claim at light heavyweight as Pereira did in defeating Sean Strickland—beating a middling striker in a fight that should realistically warrant another before an opportunity against the champion. A clean, precise and powerful UFC and two-weight kickboxing world champion, against a man whose most notable in-cage moment was dislocating his own arm while doing ‘the worm’. And no one should be shocked if Walker pulls it off.
Welcome to UFC 1! In the red PRIME Hydration recovery zone, covered in cool-ass Chinese dragon tattoos, we have elite kickboxer Alex Pereira! And his opponent in the blue PRIME Hydration recovery zone, sporting his signature tartan gi, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt Paul Craig! It’s time!
PAUL CRAIG DOES IT AGAIN 💥
— UFC (@ufc) March 19, 2022
Perhaps the most intriguing matchup for Pereira at light heavyweight, a bout against Paul Craig is likely the most contrasting style clash possible between two ranked fighters in any division of the UFC. If Craig can take the fight to the ground quickly, Pereria may only last seconds. If they engage on the feet in any capacity—Craig will be lucky to leave with his jaw. However, this pairing is essentially a lose-lose from a promotional standpoint so it’ll likely remain confined to our dreams.
Former champion Jan Blachowicz recently drew with Magomed Ankalaev in a title match for the vacant strap, when Jiri Prochazka vacated due to injury. At forty-years-old, Blachowicz is running out of time to regain the belt he lost in 2021. He will likely need one emphatic victory to get another chance at the belt, and silencing a star like Alex Pereira would be the perfect way to do it.
Jan Blachowicz pad work is terrifying😳 pic.twitter.com/p6qzvAxB6q
— 🌴ᴛʜᴇᴀʀᴛᴏꜰᴡᴀʀ🌴 (@TheArtOfWar6) December 10, 2022
Although Blachowicz is primarily a kickboxer in style, he would present a greater grappling threat to Pereira than any of his previous opponents. When he faced Israel Adesanya a few years ago, Blachowicz was able to outpoint him with a mix of positional control and effective use of long-range weapons on the feet. It would be surprising if Blachowicz didn’t employ the exact same gameplan to a matchup with Pereira, perhaps with even more focus on top-control wrestling to further neutralize the increased knockout threat.