Israel Adesanya didn’t just exorcise his demons at UFC 287 – he put them to sleep. In an intense main event at the Kaseya Center, Adesanya knocked out his rival, Alex Pereira, at 4 minutes, 21 seconds into the second round, reclaiming the UFC middleweight championship and becoming the first two-time middleweight champion in UFC history.
The history between the two fighters is well known. Pereira had previously beaten Adesanya three times, twice in kickboxing and once in their first UFC match, with two of those victories by knockout. But on Saturday night, Adesanya proved that he could overcome his past setbacks and defeat Pereira, a formidable opponent who had been ranked No. 10 on ESPN’s pound-for-pound MMA list.
Adesanya’s victory was not only a testament to his skill and determination but also a display of his ability to evolve as a fighter. “I hope every one of you behind the screen, in this arena, can feel this level of happiness just one time in your life,” he said in his postfight interview. “But you never feel this level of happiness if you don’t go for something.”
During the fight, Pereira seemed to have the upper hand, pushing Adesanya against the cage and delivering powerful combinations. However, Adesanya revealed that he was playing possum, countering with a massive right hand that hurt Pereira, followed by another right and a left hook that put him down. The fight concluded with Adesanya delivering a hammerfist as referee Dan Miragliotta pulled him away, with Pereira unconscious on the canvas.
In a symbolic display of victory, Adesanya stood over Pereira and mimicked the bow and arrow taunt that Pereira had used during his entrance earlier that night. “The hunter became the hunted,” Adesanya said, reflecting on his hard-earned win.
UFC president Dana White praised Adesanya’s performance, stating, “He’s special. He’s different.” He also expressed his belief that Pereira would move to the light heavyweight division after the bout, due to the challenges he faces in making the 185-pound limit as a middleweight.
Despite the fierce rivalry, Adesanya showed respect for his opponent after the fight. “No matter what, Alex is a great champion,” he said. “He lost the belt tonight, but he will always be a champion. In his story, I’m the antagonist. In his story, I’m the bad guy. But tonight, it’s my story. History.”
This victory cements Adesanya’s status as a dominant force in the UFC middleweight division. With a record of 24-2, eight title fight wins, and a successful rematch against his longtime rival, Adesanya has proven that he has the skill, determination, and mental fortitude to overcome any challenge that comes his way.
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