Pereira claims UFC title via TKO

Pereira claims UFC title via TKO

1: 00 AM ET

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    Marc RaimondiESPN Staff Writer

NEW YORK — Alex Pereira had Israel Adesanya‘s number in kickboxing. He also has it in MMA.

Pereira, the only man to ever knock out Adesanya, stopped him again via TKO at 2 minutes, 1 second of the fifth and final round Saturday night in the main event of UFC 281 at Madison Square Garden. Pereira won the UFC Middleweight title with this win in his fourth fight. Adesanya had been the champion since 2019.

Adesanya was winning the fight up to the end, when Pereira landed a barrage punches that left Adesanya with a broken jaw. After a series of left hooks, right hands and other punches, Marc Goddard intervened to stop the fight. However, Adesanya was not knocked out.

Pereira said that in his corner before the fifth round, his coaches and his MMA mentor Glover Teixeira, the former UFC light heavyweight champion, “kept it real” with him.

” I asked Pereira, “Do I have to knock him down?” Pereira spoke through an interpreter. “Glover said, “You have to knock him out. I said, ‘OK, let’s do it. ‘”

Pereira and Adesanya fought twice before in kickboxing, with Pereira winning both times, the most recent a 2017 knockout of Adesanya.

“It’s another wonderful story for him, and it’s not over,” Adesanya stated. “This is still war. “

Coming in, ESPN had Adesanya ranked No. 2 on its pound for pound list of top MMA fighters. At middleweight, Adesanya was No. Pereira was ranked No. 7.

All three judges had Adesanya ahead 39-37 going into the fifth round, with Adesanya winning every round except the second. Similar circumstances were seen in their second kickboxing match. Adesanya won the first two rounds and Pereira lost the third.

“F—ing crazy, isn’t it?” Adesanya said. “Similar to last time — same story. “

In Saturday’s first round, Adesanya rocked Pereira and Pereira was almost saved by the bell. Pereira returned strong in round two with a pair left hooks. Pereira was unable to hold Adesanya at bay in the third round and fourth. Adesanya even did some grappling and wrestling to win the third.

In fifth, Adesanya stumbled and rolled backwards after a leg kick exchange. In the postfight news conference, he stated that Pereira had landed a kick on the peroneal nerve in his right leg. This can cause paralysis.

” That’s why my footwork had been compromised,” Adesanya stated. “It was my leg. My leg gave up. Kudos to him. He made a good investment in those [calf kicks]. “

Pereira (7-1) knocked out Sean Strickland in the first round at UFC 276 in July to earn the title shot. The Brazilian slugger is 4-0 in UFC and has six KO/TKOs from seven career MMA victories. Pereira, 35, is a former Glory Kickboxing middleweight and light heavyweight champion.

” “It took me many years of hardwork and dedication to become the champion of the world,” Pereira stated.

Adesanya (23-2) had won three straight fights and was undefeated at middleweight coming into this bout. His only career loss before this was in a light heavyweight title fight last year against Jan Blachowicz. The Nigerian-born New Zealand resident had five successful middleweight title defenses following a win over Robert Whittaker to earn the belt in October 2019. Adesanya, 33, was coming off a unanimous decision win over Jared Cannonier at UFC 276 in July. Dana White, president of UFC, said that he would not rule out a rematch between Pereira or Adesanya. Adesanya stated that he is expecting it.

“He has been a great champion to us,” White said about Adesanya. He loves to fight every day. He doesn’t say no. He will fight anyone. These are great guys to have. He’s a great person. “

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