Israel Adesanya has stunned longtime rival Alex Pereira to win back the middleweight title at UFC 287 in Miami, Florida. With this win, Adesanya makes up for three prior losses to Pereira. In kickboxing matches in 2016 and 2017, as well as at UFC 281, he suffered two defeats.
In the second round, with his back to the cage, Adesanya, 33, unleashed two crushing right punches that knocked Pereira, 35, to the ground.
Israel Adesanya, a Nigerian-born New Zealander, said, “I hope every one of you can feel this level of happiness for one time in your life.”
“But guess what – you’ll never feel this level of happiness if you don’t go for something in your life. When they knock you down, if you stay down you will never get that resolve.
“Fortify your mind and feel this level of happiness. I’m blessed to feel this again and again and again.”
According to Adesanya, his conflict with Pereira has given rise to the greatest storyline in MMA history. Adesanya switched to MMA full-time after his second kickboxing loss in 2017, and he went on to capture the UFC middleweight championship in 2019 and dominated the division for three years while successfully defending the unified title five times.
However, Pereira followed Adesanya to the UFC after fulfilling all of his goals in kickboxing, where he was a multiple-weight champion, and after winning his first three fights, was quickly promoted to a title match. Pereira defeated Adesanya in that contest inside the cage, prompting an immediate rematch and fourth bout between the two.
Israel Adesanya wore a dog collar during the walkout and warned before the fight that if he took it off inside the octagon, he would be unleashed. While Pereira’s walkout was “bone-chilling,” according to UFC announcer Joe Rogan, he halted midway through to yell and mime firing a bow and arrow as a tribute to his indigenous Brazilian ancestry.
Both boxers used leg kicks to assault in the opening moments of the fight, with Adesanya circling away from Pereira’s potentially lethal left hook while attempting to prevent the Brazilian from backing up. The fight really got going in the second round as Pereira applied pressure and pounded Adesanya against the cage, mirroring actions from their encounter in November.
Contrary to their first encounter, Adesanya was able to escape injury and respond with two flush right hands, leaving Pereira flat on his back. Adesanya exclaimed with joy before imitating Pereira’s taunt with a bow and arrow to celebrate.
Israel Adesanya prevailed to become the second middleweight champion and hand Pereira his first loss in five UFC fights. “I told you the hunter is now the hunted. Thank you for beating me because beating me made me a better fighter, a better person” said Adesanya.
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