Israel Adesanya had a lot to prove in his rematch against Alex Pereira at UFC 287.
Despite beating every other middleweight he’d ever faced in his career, Adesanya just couldn’t vanquish his boogeyman in Pereira after losing two him twice in kickboxing and then suffering the same fate this past November in their first encounter in the UFC. It was almost like Adesanya was destined to lose against Pereira every time they met but “The Last Stylebender” had a much different result in mind as he approached the fourth fight overall and second matchup in the UFC.
“When you watch the way Izzy fought, the biggest adjustment that I saw him make was he wasn’t trying to neutralize Alex Pereira anymore — he was firing back,” Matt Brown said about Adesanya’s performance on the latest episode of The Fighter vs. The Writer. “He claims that he trapped him, did a little rope-a-dope thing against the cage, and I think it’s true, but you can’t just say enough good things about Israel Adesanya. To me, it’s the most epic — it wasn’t a comeback necessarily within the fight — but overall it was a comeback story and this has to be the most epic comeback story in history so far. He overcame everything in this fight.
“I feel like the first MMA fight, he was very defensive. He would kind of touch and go or touch and grab and this time, ‘I’m going to f****** hurt you this time’ and he did exactly that.”
Adesanya was actually winning his previous fight against Pereira including his most dominant round where he took the Brazilian to the ground and effectively outgrappled him for the better part of five consecutive minutes.
What ultimately cost him was Pereira storming back in the fifth and final round to score a late knockout, which made many believe that Adesanya might turn to his wrestling again in the rematch. After watching the fight, Brown says Adesanya had no intention whatsoever of using his grappling because deep down inside, the 33-year-old middleweight from Nigeria knew he could beat Pereira on the feet.
“I felt like this fight he just threw that out the window and said ‘I’m not wrestling you, we’re doing a kickboxing match and I’m f****** you up,’” Brown said. “I commend him for that.
“That took balls for him to do that. That took courage. That took bravery. That took all the things that qualify a champion like Adesanya and I think you’ve got to start putting him in the top five GOAT list now.”
It could easily be argued that Adesanya had already defined himself as one of the best middleweights in history alongside former UFC champion Anderson Silva, who is typically considered the gold standard at 185 pounds after he defended his title on 10 consecutive occasions.
Adesanya didn’t come close to that number prior to losing to Pereira, but he exacted his revenge in the rematch, and Brown says that deserves a lot of consideration when putting together a list of the greatest of all time in MMA.
“I have a hard time saying no to [putting him top five all time],” Brown said. “I don’t see how you could. What a mountain to overcome. I cannot sit here and say enough great things. What a competitor. What an athlete and look at the guys he’s beat before.
“It’s not like I’m basing this off one fight. Look at the guys he’s beat before. He’s got a f****** resume. He’s just spectacular. It’s f****** amazing what he’s doing. I’ll just leave it at that.”
Brown won’t necessarily put a number next to Adesanya’s name when it comes to where he ranks among the best to ever compete in the sport, although he believes it’s difficult to not place him near the top.
Even when Adesanya was almost cruising to victory over opponents such as Jared Cannonier and Marvin Vettori, which earned him some criticism, Brown believes those performances just showed how far ahead he was from the rest of the pack at middleweight.
While Jon Jones may have cemented himself as the top of the food chain, Brown argues that Adesanya’s resume stacks up next to anybody else on the list including former UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre.
“Maybe he wasn’t taking the risks that we’d like to see but he was winning handily,” Brown said. “I don’t think he lost a round to those guys. You can’t hate on a guy not losing ai f****** round. Like why do you want to fix what’s not broken? You won the round, do it again. If the knockout comes, it comes.
“If we want to compare with other GOATs that we always talk about, GSP had a very unexciting career as a champion. We simply put him up there for his wins, his amount of wins and not losing rounds. This fight just hit me a different way. Maybe I’m a little bit biased right now because it just happened this weekend and still a little bit high from it. It definitely gave me a buzz watching that and Adesanya just the way he did it, I think that’s an extremely special person to be able to do that.”
New episodes of The Fighter vs. The Writer with Matt Brown and Damon Martin drop every Tuesday and you can find audio versions of the podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, iHeartRadio and Stitcher