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Adesanya’s strategy as he knocked out Pereira in second round to reclaim UFC belt

Adesanya’s strategy as he knocked out Pereira in second round to reclaim UFC belt

Israel Adesanya took just two rounds to end Alex Pereira’s dominance and reclaim the middleweight title he lost last November.

Adesanya suffered a controversial points loss to Pereira in their first fight, a kickboxing match. In their rematch, also in kickboxing, Adesanya was leading but was knocked out. In November 2022, in their first MMA clash, again Adesanya was ahead, but he was beaten in the final round.

But on Sunday, in his fourth attempt, Adesanya, fondly known as The Last Stylebender, finally got his win over Pereira, and in stunning fashion with a knockout at minute 4:21 of Round 2.

The opening round was a razor-close affair. Pereira seemed intent to mirror his strategy from their first fight, throwing an array of leg kicks and attacking Adesanya’s calf, while the Kiwi-Nigerian had some success with his counters, particularly with his body kicks.

Adesanya finally landed the punches he sought for years – and when they landed, he once again became the UFC middleweight champion.

In the UFC 287 main event Saturday at Kaseya Center in Miami, Adesanya (23-2 MMA, 12-2 UFC) defeated Alex Pereira (7-2 MMA, 4-1 UFC) by knockout at 4:21 of Round 2.

The fight Saturday was the rivalry’s fourth in combat sports and the second in MMA. It was also the first Adesanya won. Pereira entered the bout at 3-0 in the lifetime series, with two kickboxing wins (one by knockout and one by decision) and a UFC title-earning TKO victory over Adesanya at UFC 281 in November. Both of Pereira’s stoppage victories were late-round comebacks, further igniting the uneasy feelings with Adesanya.

The first round was a leg kick battle. Adesanya utilized his technical striking as Pereira leaned on his signature power. A close opening five minutes of point-fighting was followed by a more aggressive second round from both fighters, particularly Pereira, who landed a hard knee and punches combination.

With Adesanya against the cage, Pereira attempted more strikes but was met by two conscious-stealing right hands. Adesanya landed one massive hammerfist follow-up before referee Dan Miragliotta dove in to save the stiffened Pereira.

That’s when the celebration began. Adesanya stood over his long-time rival and pretended to shoot arrows at his downed opponent, a play on Pereira’s signature walkout motions. Breakdancing followed before the UFC middleweight title was once again wrapped around Adesanya’s waist.

Adesanya, 33, earns his title back following the UFC 281 loss by TKO in November. He moves to 8-2 in UFC title fights as he embarks on his second stint as middleweight champion.

Pereira, 35, who pivoted to MMA full-fledged in 2020, loses for the first time since his professional debut in 2015. He was fast-tracked to the title prior to his championship win in November with wins over Andreas Michailidis, Bruno Silva, and Sean Strickland.

“People, Earth; I need to say something, listen to me,” Adesanya said. “I hope every one of you behind the screens or in this arena can feel this level of happiness just one time in your life. I hope all of you could feel how f***ing happy I am just one time in your lives. But guess what: You will never feel this level of happiness if you don’t go for something in your own lives. When they knock you down. When they try and s*** on you. When they talk s*** about you. And they try and put their foot on your neck.

“If you stay down, you will never ever get that resolve. Fortify your mind and feel this level of happiness as you rise.”

He also said “Bro, they say revenge is sweet and you know me, I’ve got a sweet tooth. You already know: This is f***ing sweet.”

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