Alex Pereira Went From Adesanya’s Rival to One of UFC’s Kingpins

July 5, 2024
3 weeks

Alex Pereira took a four-year break from mixed martial arts before he returned in November 2020. Pereira has set the sport on fire, piling up an 8-1 record, capturing the light heavyweight and middleweight championships and collecting five wins over former UFC championships. The question for Pereira, who is the current light heavyweight champion, is where he stacks up compared to the other top fights in the sport.

People looking at MMAfighting latest news see the UFC’s latest men’s pound-for-pound ratings have Pereira ranked as the promotion’s second-best fight behind lightweight champion Islam Makhachev. Pereira’s most recent win at UFC 303 vaulted him past Jon Jones in the rankings.

Jones is the former light heavyweight champion and current UFC heavyweight champion. While Jones’ past is clouded with legal issues and failed drug tests, there is a hot debate about how Pereira stacks up. Pereira was brought in as a foil to Israel Adesanya.

Adesanya, the former middleweight champion, had a long history with Pereira. Pereira had defeated Adesanya in two kickboxing fights before they were paired together in the octagon.

The Case for Pereira to be Number 1

It’s hard to fathom how fast Pereira’s rise to the top has been. People knew that Pereira had terrifying stopping power, but there was some question about whether he could handle the grappling. Pereira has been fortunate not to be paired with a fighter who employed a wrestling-heavy style, but he has passed several tough tests.

Pereira claimed the UFC middleweight championship in his fourth fight in the promotion when he beat Adesanya. Pereira’s win was shocking because he was down going onto the scorecards going into the fifth round. While Pereira was knocked out by Adesanya in the rematch, he decided to go up a weight division.

Pereira has rolled off four wins at light heavyweight, defending the belt twice. Pereira accepted his last fight against Jiří Procházka at UFC 303 on short notice. Despite having broken toes and little time to prepare, Pereira picked up a win in the second round via a head-kick knockout.

Pereira is an extremely active fighter, competing in three fights in 2022 and 2023. If Pereira takes on another fight this year, it will be the third straight year that he had three or more fights in the UFC.

That activity level is impressive for any champion. Pereira has to stay busy to build his legacy. He is 36 years old and got a late start to the sport. Pereira will want to keep up the momentum he has already set.

Current Top-Ranked Fighter is Consistent

Islam Makhachev, the current top pound-for-pound fighter, is ripe for having holes poked in his resume. But the case against him isn’t necessarily a fair one. The best MMA news sites show that Makhachev has won 14 straight fights.

But since Makhachev, who is a protege of Khabib Nurmagomedov, won the championship with a submission win over Charles Oliveira at UFC 280 in October 2022, he has only defended the championship against a fighter in his weight class once. Makhachev defended the championship twice against Alexander Volkanovski, a featherweight who was bumping up in class.

Makhachev defended his title successfully most recently at UFC 302 when he beat respected veteran Dustin Poirier. However, Poirier wasn’t viewed as his top contender. A fight with Arman Tsarukyan down the line could be where he gets truly tested.

Makhachev is a more well-rounded fighter than Perreira. His wrestling is excellent, and his striking has improved over time.

It’s Hard to Take Jones Seriously

Since the rankings have been released, Jones has been barking on social media about how he would submit Perreira. If he went to heavyweight, Perreira would likely struggle with Jones’ wrestling. But Jones hardly fights anymore.

Jones has only fought once, when he last defended his light heavyweight championship against Dominick Reyes at UFC 247 in February 2020. His only fight since then was when he returned at UFC 285 to submit Cyril Gane in the first round. Jones’ biggest weakness has little to do with anything he’s done in the octagon.

During his two title reigns in the UFC, Jones built his career record to 27-1 and defended his light heavyweight championship 11 times. Jones is scheduled to fight Stipe Miocic at a later date. It is thought that this will be the last fight of Jones’ career.

While Jones has been spectacular, he may have carved out a unique place in sports history. Jones may be the UFC’s greatest champion and the sport’s biggest bonehead. Jones has been suspended several times for failing drug tests.

He was also accused of domestic abuse and had drugs discovered in his car once after an accident where he fled the scene. Jones is one of the all-time greats. But his inactivity should keep him away from being the top fighter in the world right now.

Pereira Could be Deserving of the Top Spot

One advantage that Pereira has over some of his other contemporaries is his willingness to fight often. There is a chance that Pereira could finally see an opponent who is willing to try and grapple in his next fight with Magomed Ankalaev. If Pereira passes that test, there may be some questions about where his career could go next.

No fighter in UFC history has ever held a championship in three different weight classes. Pereira is only the ninth fighter in UFC history to be a multi-division champion, a club that Jones is also a part of. But the debate for the best pound-for-pound fighter right now is between Makhachev, Pereira, and Jones. Pereira’s activity gives him a leg up on the other two candidates despite him not being as well-rounded a fighter as the other two.

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By Dean McHugh.