Alex Pereira secured a monumental comeback win by knocking out defending champion Israel Adesanya in the fifth round of their championship bout to claim the middleweight title at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night.
MSG witnessed a classic card. It was a fantastic night of martial arts, and the main event was the icing on the cake.
The pair locked horns for the third time in their careers – 35-year-old Pereira defeating Adesanya twice during their kickboxing days – and it was the Brazilian who once again came out on top in the UFC Octagon.
Lightning struck twice for Adesanya as Pereira finished him in style in the final round after falling behind on the scorecards, which eerily resembled their previous kickboxing bout.
“For everybody that said I couldn’t do five rounds, look at what I did just now,” Pereira said after the fight.
Pereira knew he needed a finish going into the fifth round, and he delivered in dramatic fashion by stopping Adesanya with a flurry of heavy punches against the cage.
Israel “The Last Stylebender” Adesanya looked to be cruising to a decision victory, hurting Pereira badly at the death of the very first round with a powerful straight right hand immediately followed by a left hook, and by the end of the fourth round the Nigerian born champion seemed to be comfortably ahead.
The challenger had other plans and rallied in the fifth to stun 33-year-old Adesanya with a vicious right hand of his own that left his opponent reeling. He then landed a monstrous left hook and eventually had Adesanya slumping against the cage after a barrage of strikes. Referee Marc Goddard stepped in to save him from further damage and give Pereira the TKO win 2:01 into the final round.
Adesanya was on a twelve-fight win streak at middleweight, one shy of Anderson Silva’s record, before being dethroned by the tenacious and powerful Pereira.
Pereira, in only his fourth UFC fight, found most of his success by backing Adesanya up towards the cage, and this ultimately led to the stoppage against one of the best strikers and middleweights the UFC has ever had. Adesanya was made to fight on the back foot for large periods of the fight, but he was still able to land good shots and was always a threat.
Adesanya, usually so adept at avoiding his opponents attacks with wonderful footwork and head movement, seemed to be uncomfortable in this position at times though, partly due to the fact that Pereira landed several heavy leg kicks during the fight. Even though Adesanya had plenty of success including a rare takedown and looked dominant in the grappling exchange, Pereira’s size and power gave him problems and he could not see out the fight.
Alex Pereira’s devastating finish of Israel Adesanya capped off a historic night at Madison Square Garden. Pereira never gave up even as he began to fatigue, and emptied the tank to shock the world and take the crown from Adesanya who had held it since 2019. Adesanya was gracious in defeat, and he demonstrated this in the post-fight press conference. “He’s the new champion and congrats to him. He did it again,” he said.
It is likely there will be an immediate rematch, but for now, we are in the Alex Pereira era at 185 pounds.