Alex Pereira secures fifth round comeback TKO over Israel Adesanya to win middleweight title at UFC 281

Alex Pereira vs. Israel Adesanya 4: A Recap of the First Three Fights

This weekend, Alex Pereira looks to go up 4-0 against former UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya. The fight will serve as your main event of UFC 287 and Adesanya will be looking to break the curse of Poatan that’s loomed over his entire career. But how did we get here? The new fans will not know as much about the Pereira-Adesanya rivalry. So, we are out to fix that. Here’s a short history recap of the first three fights between Alex Pereira and Israel Adesanya.

Alex Pereira vs. Israel Adesanya 1: A Questionable Decision

The first fight between Pereira and Adesanya took place back in 2016. A small kickboxing promotion called Glory of Heroes (not to be confused with Glory Kickboxing where Adesanya and Pereira both eventually fought), set off a chain of events that was not expected. The card took place in Shenzhen, China and two young fighters would compete at 85 kilograms.

The sixth fight on the card, Pereira and Adesanya would face off for the first time. The fight was rather uneventful and seemed like Adesanya was winning on points. But after the three rounds, Pereira was declared the unanimous victor. At the time, not much was made about the questionable decision but as time went on, the legitimacy of Pereira’s win would come into question.

The Rematch: Higher Stakes

After the loss, Adesanya would go on a seven-fight winning streak, winning three fights in Glory Kickboxing. He took on Jason Wilnis at Glory 37 challenging for the middleweight title and lost a decision. Pereira, on the other hand, would only fight twice, a win against Junior Alpha and a TKO loss to Artur Kyshenko at Kunlun fight.

The two were scheduled for a rematch at Glory of Heroes 7, a year after their first meeting. That fight saw Israel Adesanya really getting the best of Alex Pereira. But in the third and final round, Pereira did what he does best and landed that left hook and left Adesanya on the mat with an oxygen mask: a terrible optic.

Isreal Adesanya knocked out by Alex Pereira in their second meeting

Adesanya would not kickbox again, moving on to MMA. Pereira would go on to achieve great things in his first sport, however.

A Rise in Popularity

Alex Pereira would continue kickboxing for a few years. After beating Adesanya a second time, he would go to Glory and start his rise. After a failed decision to Yousri Belgaroui, Pereira went on a tear. He beat the legendary Simon Marcus to win the Glory title at Glory 46. His return would see him take on Yousri Belgaroui in a rematch that he would win via doctors stoppage and defending his title. He rematched Belgaroui again and knocked him out in the first round. Another rematch was next as he beat Simon Marcus again. Jason Wilnis, Donegi Abena and Ertugrul Bayrak were all next to fall.

After that Alex Pereira moved up to light heavyweight in 2021 to face Artem Vakhitov. He took home the second belt but MMA was all anyone could talk about. Vakhitov and Pereira rematched, and it was Vakhitov that was declare the victor by majority decision.

On the other side of the world, Adesanya made his rise to fame. Now an MMA fighter full time, he got his call to the UFC and finished Rob Wilkinson with a second-round knockout in Perth, Australia. He would go on a tear to the UFC title beating names like Marvin Vettori, Brad Tavares, Derek Brunson, and Anderson Silva.

Adesanya became a household name when he fought for the interim title against Kelvin Gastelum in a five round war that had Adesanya saying to himself “I’m prepared to die.” He would take the decision an a match with Robert Whittaker to unify was imminent. Israel Adesanya put on the performance of a lifetime and finished Whittaker in two. Yoel Romero was next and it was an uneventful fight that saw Adesanya draw much criticism. He redeemed himself by styling on Paulo Costa and humping him after the fight.

Adesanya then made a failed attempt to go up to 205 and face then-champ Jan Blachowicz after failing to secure a fight with Jon Jones. He lost that via decision. After that, Adesanya beat Marvin Vettori, Robert Whittaker again, and Jared Cannonier all by decision. But there was another coming up the tail that had Adesanya in his sights. That old rival that won’t disappear…

The Rise of Poatan

After losing to Vakhitov, Pereira announced that he was signed to the UFC and planned on fighting MMA full time. His debut was at UFC 268 against Andreas Michailidis which he won via flying knee. He took on Bruno Silva four months later and secure a victory.

Next, he took on a title eliminator against Sean Strickland, a perfect stylistic matchup for Alex Pereira. That fight would be what Pereira needed to get to his old foe and foil his plans again. Pereira would easily knock out Strickland with a left hook and be granted the fight with Adesanya.

In the third matchup, the first in MMA, Adesanya and Pereira would face off again at UFC 281. There, Adesanya had the most success, and even wobbled Pereira at the end of the first. After a second round won by Pereira, weird judging there if I might add, Adesanya was cruising to another decision victory as Pereira came forward with relentlessness. At the mid-point in the fifth and final round, Pereira caught Adesanya and hurt him bad. Trying to escape, Adesanya couldn’t get away from Pereira. Eventually he was dipping his head and the ref would call the fight off. Disaster had struck for Adesanya and Pereira was, once again, victorious over him.

Now the two faceoff again and much in is in the balance. Adesanya has new contenders trying to make their way up like Dricus Du plessis, Roman Dolidze and Khamzat Chimaev. Pereira looks to take another win over Izzy or face him a fifth time. With a win, Pereira will likely look to move up and face Jamahal Hill, the man who beat his teammate Glover Teixeira for the light heavyweight strap, or face Jiri Prochazka, the former champion.

One thing is for sure, there is so much drama in this matchup an so much history. Israel Adesanya and Alex Pereira are arguably an inseparable dyad.

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