What’s the secret to a perfect start to the day? For us combat sports enthusiasts, of course, a stacked UFC fight show headlined by a world-class title fight! This Sunday morning, the UFC 287 will spoil us with some truly mouthwatering fights.
Among them, a promising teenage prodigy and the youngest fighter in UFC history to win his debut match, Raul Rosas Jr., will look to further improve his 7-0-0 career record in a bout against Christian Rodriguez.
Later, in the show’s co-main event, we will see one of UFC’s most colorful characters, Jorge Masvidal, return to the Octagon after more than a year away to face Gilbert Burns.
But of course, it’s the main fight of the event that will have our full attention. In a middleweight title bout, Israel Adesanya will seek revenge and to reclaim his belt against the current champion, Alex Pereira. However, this will not be just their second encounter. No. Their rivalry goes back a long way…
Brazilian fighter Alex Pereira and Israel Adesanya from Nigeria have indeed been involved in a long-standing rivalry that extends across the realms of mixed martial arts. The two have locked horns twice in a kickboxing ring before stepping into the Octagon.
During his kickboxing tenure, Pereira accumulated a total of 40 fights, of which he won an impressive 33 while losing 7. Meanwhile, Adesanya managed to build even more spectacular numbers, having won 75(!) out of his 80 fights. However, two of his five losses came against one man (twice), Alex Pereira.
Their first kickboxing fight took place in April 2016. After three close rounds of action, Pereira took the win by a rather controversial unanimous decision, which Adesanya, of course, strongly disputed.
Approximately a year later, in March 2017, they met for a rematch. Despite being seemingly ahead of the Brazilian in the first two rounds, the second fight ultimately ended in a much worse fate for Adesanya as Pereira knocked out the Nigerian with a left hook in the final round. This also marked not only the first knockout loss of his career but also his last professional kickboxing fight.
Their last meeting
Adesanya went on to sign with the UFC in 2018. From then until November last year, he dominated the middleweight division, winning the champion title in October 2019 and proceeding to defend it five times. During this time, he collected wins against various well-known fighters, such as Anderson Silva, Paulo Costa, Yoel Romero, and others. He quickly became one of the biggest names in the promotion and arguably the best fighter in mixed martial arts, both offensively and defensively.
Pereira entered the UFC only late in 2021 with a record of 3-1-0. He went on to win three more before earning the famous title fight against Adesanya. It was November of 2022 when the two met for their third professional duel, and first one in MMA. Determined to claim sweet revenge over the Brazilian, Adesanya stepped into the Octagon with his champion belt as a slight favorite.
This time, too, Adesanya started quite strong. He got mighty close to his unfulfilled dream of defeating his archrival, almost knocking Pereira out at the end of the first round. However, the bell interrupted this fantasy. In the final round, after seemingly being ahead of his opponent the entire fight, this dream crumbled altogether. Pereira somehow recovered and started showcasing his prowess to secure a KO and land his third win against “Izzy”, additionally snatching his UFC Middleweight champion belt. It was only Adesanya’s second knockout loss (kickboxing and MMA combined) – again – at the hands of Pereira.
What are the odds?
Both fighters possess devastating striking abilities and have shown that they are capable of putting on unforgettable performances in both the ring and the octagon. Yet, both men excel with contrasting fighting styles. Adesanya is one of the most technically gifted strikers, boasting a massive reach, which, in most cases, is far superior to his opponents. In addition, the Nigerian is comfortable switching stances multiple times during the fights, which keeps his opponents guessing. Of course, it’s mandatory to mention his brilliant use of leg kicks, which not only help maintain a comfortable distance between him and the opposition but also can deal a significant amount of damage.
Meanwhile, Pereira boasts the ability to maintain his knockout power all the way through a fight, whether it be a kickboxing, three-round MMA, or five-round championship bout. A vivid example is that he was able to knock out Adesanya in the last round of their second fight and did the same in the last round of their first MMA fight. He prefers to wear out his opponents and take a few shots before landing some of his own. It reflects perfectly in his kickboxing record, where he knocked out the majority of his opponents.
So does Adesanya stand a chance against Pereira? Or is the Brazilian simply his Kryptonite and a guy who was engineered to beat him over and over again? Sure, Adesanya has far more experience in MMA with a record of 23-2-0, while Pereira heads into the fight with 7-1-0, but history has proven that the stats don’t favor anyone.
Despite their mutual encounters, Adesanya is favored to win on Sunday morning with the odds of 1.75, compared to the reigning champ’s 2.12. At the end of the day, it will come down to the heavily anticipated fight this weekend for us to find out who will wrap the middleweight division champion belt around his waist. One is certain – it will be yet another unforgettable fight between the two and a real treat for everyone watching it.