Israel Adesanya reclaimed his middleweight title in spectacular fashion and earned his first win over Alex Pereira.
‘The Last Stylebender’ endured a tough first round at UFC 287 on Saturday as he ate several calf kicks, but they didn’t matter as he closed the show with powerful head kicks in the second round and won a bonus of $50,000.
Pereira was caught with a massive overhand shot as he pushed his longtime rival against the fence before Adesanya chased him with another big strike that knocked the Brazilian out in Miami.
The Nigerian-born New Zealander landed a follow-up ground strike before referee Dan Miragliotta intervened and he officially became a two-time UFC champion.
He then made sure the Pereira family knew about his cold celebration and later revealed he had been waiting a long time to do so.
Adesanya entered the main event with his back against the wall after suffering three losses in his first three meetings with Pereira.
Last year, he was knocked out in the fifth round of a fight he won at UFC 281, which was the middleweight duo’s first encounter in MMA.
Prior to that, Pereira ended Adesanya’s 12-fight kickboxing winning streak with a controversial unanimous decision victory in 2016 that led to a rematch.
A year later, Pereira left no doubt when he landed an overhead left hook to put a cold Adesnaya on the canvas and he then needed oxygen as he struggled to instantly regain consciousness.
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“I am small,” he said of his celebration.
“I remember. The first time he knocked me out in Brazil, his son got in the ring and started lying dead next to me. I was like, ‘You’re a fucking little prick. , I’ll kick your ass if your dad doesn’t do it for you.’ I looked for his child, I pointed at him, and I saw him and I was like, “Hey, hey, hey,” just to remind him.
Adesanya, however, revealed there was complete respect between them afterwards: “I’ve already said to him, ‘Thank you for everything you’ve done. Thank you for beating me because [by] by beating me, he made me a better fighter, a better person.
“In this camp, I did not fuck. If you know me, you know I love holidays, but I didn’t fuck, I stayed on the grind.
“I put myself through it, you can see it on FREESTYLEBENDER on YouTube. I don’t put my strengths [Instagram]I got to work.
“I tire myself so as not to tire myself when I get here.”
And former UFC champion Michael Bisping was stunned by Adesanya’s win.
Speaking on his YouTube channel, he said: “Wow. Crazy. Just crazy.
“We know the story. Pereira had beaten him three times, stopped him twice.
“Well, it doesn’t matter because Israel Adesanya put a swab on it, put a nail in the coffin, put him to bed, knocked him out, put him to sleep, sent to the realm of shadows.
“Whatever you want to call it. Israel Adesanya has just closed the book.
“The crazy pressure Izzy must have felt going into this one. Let’s be honest.
“The guy had beaten him three times, stopped him twice. It’s a big, big mental hurdle to overcome.
“What a shot. What a performance. What a comeback,” Bisping continued. “All respect to Israel Adesanya because he went out there and he did it in absolute style.”
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