‘Like something out of a movie’: How Alex Pereira came back to stun Israel Adesanya at UFC 281

Brazilian Alex Pereira upset Israel Adesanya to relieve the New Zealander of his UFC middleweight title.

Frank Franklin II/AP

Brazilian Alex Pereira upset Israel Adesanya to relieve the New Zealander of his UFC middleweight title.

UFC President Dana White has described the moment Alex Pereira came out of his corner in the last round to stop Israel Adesanya and relieve the New Zealander of his middleweight crown as something “straight out of the woods”. ‘a movie”.

An exhausted Pereira hung out on the scoreboards ahead of the fifth round of a thrilling UFC 281 main event at New York’s Madison Square Garden, with Adesanya (23-2) seemingly set to make a successful sixth defense of its title in front of 20, 8845 Fans.

But with just two minutes left on the clock, Brazil’s Pereira (7-1) suddenly found a second wind, unleashing a flurry of blows – including a vicious left hook and an uppercut – that badly knocked Adesanya out and forced referee Marc Goddard waving it. as he collapsed against the fence.

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It was a dramatic end to a contest that Adesanya appeared to be in control of after dominating the third and fourth rounds with his superior grappling skills.

The stunning result ends Adesanya’s 12-fight unbeaten streak at middleweight – one shy of legendary Anderson Silva – as Pereira picked up his third victory over ‘The Last Stylebender’ after beating him two times – once by knockout – in kickboxing competitions. in 2016 and 2017.

Pereira, 35, is now 4-0 in the UFC and a unified champion at 185 pounds just a year after starting MMA full-time.

Some had wondered if he was ready for a title with just three fights under his belt, but he responded to those criticisms in style by becoming the first man to stop Adesanya in the Octagon.


Israel Adesanya was in a confident mood ahead of his UFC middleweight title defense against Alex Pereira.

The Kiwi’s only previous loss was a unanimous decision to Polish champion Jan Blachowicz in March last year, when he moved up to light heavyweight in a daring bid to become a two-weight champion.

At the post-fight press conference, White revealed Pereira’s Rocky-esque comeback was inspired by harsh words in his corner before that fateful final round.

“I don’t know if you guys [in the media] have headphones on your side, but in the corner of Pereira this round [before the fifth]it was like straight out of a movie,” White said.

“I wanted to hear what the corner was saying, so I put the headphones on and one of his trainers, I don’t know who it was, was like, ‘You lose this fuckin’ fight, you gotta knock him out in this round!

“You’ve got to go forward, you’ve got to throw cluster punches, you’ve got to throw combinations. Let your fucking hands go, you’re going to be world champion in five minutes.

“And then he gets up and walks out there…it was really straight out of a movie.”

White hadn’t spoken with Adesanya but was full of praise for the dethroned champion, saying he never ducked anyone and was always looking for the biggest challenges.

“Israel Adesanya didn’t even shy away from a fight. He loves to fight all the time. A lot of people talk publicly, and it’s a whole different story behind the scenes,” White said.

Israel Adesanya was in the lead for most of his fight with Alex Pereira before being stopped in the final round.

Frank Franklin II/AP

Israel Adesanya was in the lead for most of his fight with Alex Pereira before being stopped in the final round.

“This guy is an absolute stud, [he] still wants to stay active and you know, a fight that most guys would pause and say “give me more time, give me this and that”, he dove right into that fight.”

White said he was ready to have a rematch and give Adesanya a chance for immediate revenge for his long-running rivalry with Pereira, but dismissed fears the stoppage would be premature.

“I didn’t have a problem with the stoppage. He [Adesanya] was hurt, he obviously hadn’t been out. He seemed pretty hurt to me,” he said.

White also announced that Pereira took ‘performance of the night’ honors for his unprecedented win, pocketing a check for US$50,000 (NZ$82,000) to go with the shiny new belt wrapped around her size.

The lightweight barnburner between Dustin Poirier and Michael Chandler – which Poirier won via third-round submission – took home the “Fight of the Night” award.

Earlier on the card, Adesanya’s City Kickboxing Gym teammates Dan Hooker and Carlos Ulberg scored impressive saves in their respective lightweight and light heavyweight contests.

Hooker (22-12) outclassed Peruvian Carlos Puelles en route to a second-round TKO victory, while Ulberg (6-1) needed just 76 seconds to knock out Romanian Nicolae Negumereanu in a performance of stars.

But Christchurch’s Brad Riddell suffered his third straight first-round loss when he was stopped by fellow Brazilian Renato Moicano via submission.

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