Alex Pereira ended Israel Adesanya’s reign as middleweight king at UFC 281.
Alex Pereira repeated history by stopping Israel Adesanya in New York on Saturday night, this time taking the middleweight championship from the New Zealander at UFC 281.
The two fighters had met before in their kickboxing days, with Brazilian Pereira boasting a pair of wins over ‘The Last Stylebender.’
The last of those was a showstopping knockout in Sao Paulo in 2017, but Adesanya boasted having no psychological trauma from the incident while going on to the UFC and becoming its middleweight champion three years and a month before he met Pereira for the third time.
With Pereira putting together just seven fights in MMA after migrating from the Glory kickboxing promotion where he was its first-ever simultaneous two-weight champion, a 19-1 Adesanya’s experience told in the fight where he was making his sixth title defense.
Pereira started well, but was rocked at the end of Round 1 by a slick combination from his nemesis. In Round 2 he fared better, but looked gassed and found out at the top level in the third and fourth rounds, with many criticizing the UFC for fast-tracking him to a title shot off the back of an old rivalry.
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A corner led by ex-light heavyweight champion Glover Teixeira “kept it real” with Pereira before the fifth round as he later explained.
“I said, ‘Do I have to knock him out?’” Pereira recalled. “Glover said, ‘You do have to knock him out.’ I said, ‘OK, let’s do it.’”
As the action recommenced, Pereira landed a kick to the peroneal nerve of Adesanya’s right leg which was crucial.
“That’s why my footwork was compromised,” Adesanya said. “It was just my leg. My leg gave away. Kudos to him. He invested in those [calf kicks] well.”
Pereira then let off a barrage of punches that hurt Adesanya up against the cage. After Adesanya barely looked up and defended himself, referee Marc Goddard stepped in to stop the action.
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“So many years of hard work and dedication, and here I am, champion of the world,” said Pereira.
“It’s another great story for him, but it’s not over,” Adesanya vowed. “This is still war.” “F—ing crazy, isn’t it?” Adesanya added. “Similar to the last time – same story.”
With a rematch likely next for both men, president Dana White hailed “a great champion for us”.
“He likes to fight all the time,” White said of Adesanya. “He doesn’t say no. He’ll fight anybody. Those are fun guys to have. And he’s a good person.”