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Alex Pereira stuns Israel Adesanya with fifth-round standing knockout to win title in UFC 281 main event

UFC 281: Adesanya v Pereira Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

In just his fourth fight in the UFC, Alex Pereira is the new middleweight champion after he vanquished longtime rival Israel Adesanya with a stunning fifth-round knockout.

Just when it looked like Pereira was staring down a loss, he decided to leave everything in the cage and he came after Adesanya with everything left in his arsenal. A left hook staggered Adesanya and that spelled the beginning of the end as Pereira just unloaded a barrage of punches in succession.

Adesanya fell to the ground for a moment but managed to stagger back to his feet only for Pereira to continue the assault until referee Marc Goddard saw enough to rescue “The Last Stylebender” before he took further damage. Pereira celebrated his victory with the fight ending at 2:01 in the fifth and final round in the UFC 281 main event.

“I feel so blessed,” Pereira said about his victory. “I worked so hard for this. Sorry to everybody that I had to post some stuff, I had to do a little bit of trash talk this time. But I had to get in his head to get this fight.”

It was truly a battle of elite strikers with Adesanya and Pereira both displaying high-level technique throughout the fight. The first big shot of the night actually came from a well-timed right hand from Adesanya that caught Pereira off guard.

Whenever Pereira was able to cut off the cage, he started getting more aggressive while launching knees and shots to the body. Just when it looked like Pereira was getting his rhythm, Adesanya blasted him with a right hand that had the Brazilian wobbled badly.

Adesanya followed up with another left hook just as the horn sounded, which likely saved Pereira from suffering a potential knockout.

With a chance to recover between rounds, Pereira came out more aggressive as he sought to trap Adesanya against the cage but the reigning middleweight champion was quick to circle away to avoid the power shots coming at him. Pereira finally started connecting with a straight punch that was snapping Adesanya’s head back but he was wary to go wild because there was so much inherent danger in letting his defense slip.

While Adesanya was still landing his jab and some slick straight punches, Pereira was beginning to mount a better offense as he began cracking the City Kickboxing fighter with some stiff strikes of his own.

After a strong second round from Pereira, Adesanya shifted the momentum with a takedown — his first in the UFC — as he looked to take the back and work his grappling game. Pereira looked somewhat lost on the ground with Adesanya maintaining control on top and raining down with short punches and elbows from inside the guard.

The exhausting exchanges on the ground took a toll on Pereira, who was much more labored in his movement once the fight moved into the championship rounds. Pereira was obviously still dangerous but it appeared that Adesanya was really beginning to chop him down.

With five minutes remaining, Pereira decided to just go after Adesanya in a kill or be killed moment and the game plan paid off.

As Adesanya backed up against the cage, Pereira cracked him with the left hook that led saw the champion wobbled momentarily. Smelling blood in the water, Pereira began throwing bomb after bomb with Adesanya showing no real signs of fighting back but instead just shifting into survival mode.

Once it was clear Adesanya was only eating punches without offering much resistance and Pereira still headhunting for the finish, the referee decided to stop the contest. It was a dramatic ending to arguably one of the best middleweight title fights in history.

“It was a very hard but just like Glover said, I was going through a fight every day at the gym,” Pereira said. “For everybody that said I couldn’t do five rounds, look at what I did just now. I’m ready for the next.”

It’s an improbable run for Pereira, who likely secured this title shot based largely around two previous wins over Adesanya in kickboxing. Now he’s scored a third victory while becoming the UFC middleweight champion.

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