The stakes were sky-high for Israel Adesanya heading into his title rematch with Alex Pereira at UFC 287, and “The Last Stylebender” delivered in spectacular fashion with an all-time great finish to recapture the UFC middleweight title in Miami.
Adesanya and longtime rival Pereira had met three times before, with the Brazilian winning all three meetings – two in kickboxing and one in MMA – as he dethroned Adesanya to capture the undisputed middleweight title via fifth-round knockout at UFC 281.
It meant Adesanya entered UFC 287 with his back against the wall, and he produced arguably the best finish of his UFC career to starch Pereira and reclaim the 185-pound crown.
The opening round started out in cagey fashion with both men looking to find their range with leg kicks. But it appeared that Pereira’s kicks had found their mark first, with a series of thumping low kicks to Adesanya’s lead leg forcing the Nigerian-born Kiwi to switch to southpaw.
Adesanya started to find his range as the round progressed, and looked the slicker, faster man when they entered boxing range. But the bout remained tense and tight as the second round got underway.
Seemingly buoyed by what he saw in the first round, Pereira turned up the aggression in the second stanza as he started to stalk Adesanya round the Octagon, and early in the round the pair engaged in a blistering exchange, with both men throwing with full power, before the action returned to the center of the cage once again.
And, as the pair headed toward the latter stages of Round 2, Pereira turned up the pace again as he connected with another hard leg kick that appeared to hurt Adesanya, who backed away toward the cage fence.
Pereira followed him and started to unload heavy punches, plus a big knee, as Adesanya covered up against the fence, seemingly in big trouble.
But, as “Poatan” looked to load up with big strikes in search of a finish, Adesanya exploded out of his shell and connected with two huge right hands. The first stunned Pereira to a virtual standstill, and the second sent him crashing to the canvas.
A follow-up hammerfist finished the job as referee Dan Miragliotta dived in to wave off the fight at the 4:21 mark.
It meant that Adesanya reclaimed the title as he improved his record to 24-2 and avenged his only career MMA loss as a middleweight.
UFC 287: Official results
- Israel Adesanya def. Alex Pereira via knockout (punches) – Round 2, 4:21 – for middleweight title
- Gilbert Burns def. Jorge Masvidal via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
- Rob Font def. Adrian Yanez via TKO (punches) – Round 1, 2:57
- Kevin Holland def. Santiago Ponzinibbio via knockout (punch) – Round 3, 3:16
- Christian Rodriguez def. Raul Rosas Jr. via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
- Kelvin Gastelum def. Chris Curtis via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)
- Luana Pinheiro def. Michelle Waterson via split decision (28-29, 29-28, 29-28)
- Joe Pyfer def. Gerald Meerschaert via TKO (punches) – Round 1, 3:15
- Loopy Godinez def. Cynthia Calvillo via split decision (28-29, 29-28, 30-27)
- Ignacio Bahamondes def. Trey Ogden via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
- Steve Garcia def. Shaylian Nuerdanbieke via TKO (body kick and punches) – Round 2, 0:36
- Sam Hughes def. Jaqueline Amorim via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)