Alex Pereira ends Israel Adesanya’s title reign with comeback TKO at UFC 281


Different sport, same result.

On Saturday night at New York City’s historic Madison Square Garden, Alex Pereira repeated his kickboxing success against Israel Adesanya to dethrone the middleweight champion in the main event of UFC 281.

Pereira defeated Adesanya in 2016, beating the Nigerian-born New Zealander in 2017, and the pair’s mixed martial arts meeting on Saturday ended in a familiar fashion: the Brazilian got his hand raised.

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Adesanya’s greater experience in MMA – with 25 matches to his name compared to Pereira’s eight – seemed to be enough, with the 33-year-old nearly standing his challenger at the end of the first round and outsmarting the exhausting Brazilian in the third. and fourth.

But in the final frame, a renewed “Poatan” chased Adesanya and the “Last Stylebender” finished on the feet with a flurry of punches, completing a rapid rise in the rankings and to the title.

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Pereira, 35, had made an ominous entrance at Madison Square Garden, his arrival at the Octagon was ominous, but the charismatic Adesanya tried to seize the moment and followed suit with a ring walk in tribute to the Saw horror movie franchise.

Adesanya’s grip on the occasion seemed to tighten over the next 20 minutes as he got the better of the striking exchanges on round 1 and even briefly ripped Pereira’s consciousness away from him with a right cross and left hook on the buzzer.

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Pereira was able to hold his own and come back to his senses, and he arguably managed a competitive second round, before Adesanya answered one of the most important questions about the fight in the next two rounds. The 33-year-old defeated “Poatan” in the clinch and on the canvas to pull the scorecards forward, with a sixth consecutive successful title defense at the time.

Adesanya showed superior grappling skills as he pulled the scorecards forward

(Getty images)

However, Pereira’s cornermen were clear in their messages: “You have to knock him out.”

Immediately, 35-year-old Adesanya pressured and propped him up against the fence, as he had done on every previous occasion, and this time the Brazilian was able to connect with meaningful strikes. Uppercuts and left hooks slipped through Adesanya’s guard, spreading the champion’s wits.

Referee Marc Goddard stepped in to save Adesanya, marking just the second loss in “Stylebender’s” MMA career – his only previous loss came in a light heavyweight title shot against Jan Blachowicz last year.

Meanwhile, Pereira rose to the top of the sport in just his eighth fight, with six of his seven wins via knockout/TKO.

Pereira Leaves Madison Square Garden As The New UFC Middleweight Champion

(Getty images)

In the co-main event, Zhang Weili became a two-time women’s strawweight champion by submitting Carla Esparza in the second round, after Dustin Poirier similarly defeated Michael Chandler via the bare back choke in the third round of their lightweight clash.

Meanwhile, former lightweight champion Frankie Edgar fought for the last time and suffered a devastating first-round knockout loss to Chris Gutierrez, who won with a jumping knee.

Full UFC 281 Results

main card

Alex Pereira def. Israel Adesanya via TKO in fifth round (punches, 2:01)

Zhang Weili def. Carla Esparza via second-round submission (naked rear choke, 1:05)

Dustin Poirier beats. Michael Chandler via third-round submission (naked rear choke, 2:00)

Chris Gutierrez beats. Frankie Edgar via knockout first round (jumping knee, 2:01)

Dan Hooker def. Claudio Puelles via TKO in second round (body kick, 4:06)

Zhang Weili (above) regained the strawweight title by Carla Esparza. to submit

(Getty images)

Preliminary rounds

Renato Moicano beats. Brad Riddell via first round submission (naked rear choke, 3:20)

Ryan Spann def. Dominick Reyes via knockout first round (punch, 1:20)

Erin Blanchfield beats. Molly McCann via first round submission (Kimura, 3:37)

Andre Petroski def. Wellington Turman via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)

early preliminaries

Dustin Poirier (left) won a thrilling fight with Michael Chandler

(Getty images)

Matt Frevola defeats. Ottman Azaitar via knockout first round (2:30)

Karolina Kowalkiewicz beats. Silvana Gomez Juarez via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)

Michael defeats Trizano. Seung Woo Choi via knockout first round (4:51)

Montel Jackson def. Julio Arce via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)

Carlos Ulberg def. Nicolae Negumereanu via knockout first round (3:44)