MMA Fight of 2023: Number 2

December 28, 2023
7 months
Image of Israel Adesanya celebrating knockout over Alex Pereira

No one likes the idea of having to be around their bully. Israel Adesanya had to be going mad that he couldn’t find a way to beat Alex Pereira. Entering UFC 287 in April of this year, Adesanya had lost to Pereira three times, twice in kickboxing and once in MMA. When Adesanya lost to Pereira during their first UFC fight, he was up on all three scorecards before being knocked out in the fifth round of their middleweight title belt.

But Adesanya wanted UFC 287 to be different. He might be viewed differently if he could score one positive result against Pereira. MMA breaking news shows what happened that night in Miami, Florida, was more than a battle for a belt.

According to Boxing News, Adesanya and Pereira put together the No. 2 MMA fight of the year in a battle that further cemented Adesanya’s legacy as one of the promotion’s greatest champions. This feud has slowly developed into one of the greatest rivalries in combat sports history.

Rivalry Started Before UFC

Image of Alex Pereira Knocking out Israel Adesanya in Kickboxing

Pereira was brought into the UFC to give Adesanya a worthy challenger. During a 2013 kickboxing match at Glory of Heroes 1 in China, Pereira won a controversial decision over Adesanya. When the two reunited a year later, things went much differently.

While Adesanya still controlled the bout with his activity, Pereira caught him with a left hook in the third round, giving him a knockout victory. Pereira didn’t start taking MMA seriously until the pandemic. Meanwhile, Adesanya started picking up his activity in MMA in 2016.

By 2018, Adesanya landed in the UFC. Adesanya would get his first shot at interim middleweight gold when he beat Kelvin Gastelum by decision at UFC 236 in April 2016. In Adesanya’s next fight, he would knock out Robert Whittaker to claim undisputed gold.

While Adesanya was an active champion, he received criticism for not finishing fights and attending the scorecards. The UFC wanted a challenger who could bring the best out of him. After Pereira entered the UFC in 2021, he would be on a collision course for the title if he could show his skills to keep up in the octagon.

After three straight decision wins over Jared Cannonier, Marvin Vettori, and Whittaker, the UFC felt Pereira would be ready to fight Adesanya at UFC 281 in November 2022. This fight would be one of the most anticipated in history. Pereira had shown a lot of progress in the octagon and would be a worthy challenger for Adesanya.

Pereira Shows He’s Not Lost in a Different Discipline

Pereira returned to MMA in November 2020 after four years away from the sport. Fighting in LFA, Pereira knocked out Thomas Powell in the first round to improve his record to 3-1. Immediately leaping in, the UFC put Pereira into the pressure cooker.

In Pereira’s first fight, he melted Andreas Michailidis with a flying knee 18 seconds into the second round. Pereira followed that up by grinding out a decision over Bruno Silva and finishing Sean Strickland with punches. After three UFC fights and sporting a 6-1 record, Pereira was set to fight Adesanya.

Anyone looking at MMA news sites would see that the UFC hoped Pereira would develop into a legitimate contender. What would happen would be a stunner for all involved.

First Fight Between Them is a Stunner

Image of Alex Pereira punching Israel Adesanya

Adesanya didn’t play around with Pereira. He was active and did his best to keep the big man off-balance during their first MMA fight. Adesanya, who isn’t a grappler by any stretch, even shot for a takedown in the fourth round and controlled the action on the ground.

Entering the fifth round, Adesanya appeared set to make his sixth defense of the middleweight crown. But things didn’t go as planned. Pereira never resigned himself to defeat. During the fifth round, Pereira was able to trap Adesanya along the cage and land powerful strikes. Adesanya was stunned and couldn’t effectively defend himself, forcing referee Marc Goddard to stop the fight.

Izzy Learns From His Mistake

The rematch was set for April 2023 and was highly anticipated. Many people believed that the physically imposing Pereira simply had Adesanya’s numbers. While Adesanya may be able to outpoint Pereira, not many believed the former champion would knock out his rival.

In the second fight, Pereira focused on slowing Adesanya’s movement. Pereira landed several heavy leg kicks that seemed to be making an impact on the challenger. However, in the second round, Pereira would abandon his patient approach.

Much like the fight between the pair in the UFC, Pereira trapped Adesanya against the cage. But things changed this time around; Adesanya had a plan. He covered up and waited for Pereira to throw a knee.

Suddenly, Adesanya landed a short combo that backed Pereira up with a check hook. When Pereira stumbled back, Adesanya sent him back to the octagon. MMA news sites show Adesanya followed up with a heavy hammer to stop the fight and grab the victory.

Ain’t Going to Be No Rematch

Adesanya, visibly relieved, celebrated by standing across the octagon from Pereira and shooting imaginary arrows at his grounded opponent before screaming in excitement. He then found Pereira’s son in the crowd, pointed at him, and fell to the octagon, mocking his dad for being knocked out.

Pereira’s son had mocked Adesanya years earlier after his dad knocked Adesnya out in their kickboxing match. Both men went their separate ways after the rematch. Pereira decided to go up in weight class and won the light heavyweight title by knocking out Jiří Procházka in the second round.

Pereira let it be known that he is still interested in fighting Adesanya. But he doubts his rival feels the same way. Adesanya is now taking a break from MMA after losing his title to Strickland. Both men will forever be tied together because of their history. 

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