Alex Pereira is currently the only Brazilian man holding a UFC belt, and he has a tough task ahead.
“Poatan” rematches longtime rival Israel Adesanya in the main event of UFC 287 on Saturday in Miami. Ahead of the bout, Brazilian MMA legends broke down the matchup on MMA Fighting’s Portuguese-language podcast Trocação Franca.
Demian Maia, two-time UFC title contender and UFC Fight Pass color commentator
“It’s a tough fight for both. An interesting thing about them is that ‘Poatan’ beat Adesanya in both kickboxing and MMA, but he always had trouble during the fight. People say Adesanya was winning in MMA and ‘Poatan’ managed to land, but it was the same thing in kickboxing. ‘Poatan’ has this Phoenix power and that makes everything very interesting until the last minute.
“[Pereira] came here to train in the gym once and he’s very strong for the division. He’s not a guy that looks gigantic, but it’s all muscle there. He’s lean and very strong, and he hits hard. That’s a huge advantage. You can develop that [punching power], but you’re born with [what Pereira has]. That short hook, when it lands, it drops you.
“Let’s see how Adesanya’s head will be because it’s not easy to lose three times to the same person, and two by knockout. You must have a strong head. Adesanya does, he’s great, one of the most technical guys on the feet, but when you have a kryptonite there, sometimes it’s hard.”
Jose Aldo, former UFC and WEC featherweight champion
“Adesanya is very smart, a martial artist. No doubt he’s coming with a new mindset, a new style to fight differently. Like it or not, he was winning the fight until that fifth round, he was way ahead until ‘Poatan’ landed that good hand and got the victory. I see a new story.
“I don’t see ‘Poatan’ as a huge favorite. I’m obviously rooting for him. I hope he gets in there and defends his belt and comes out victorious, but with the experience I have in fighting, it’s a new story, a new Adesanya. He’s trying to learn new stills to get in there and surprise ‘Poatan.’”
Rafael Cordeiro, vale tudo veteran and Kings MMA head coach
“I think it’s going to be another great fight. The champion is a huge favorite. He’s placed his flag there. He opened as the underdog and that shows you this betting stuff is bullsh*t and means nothing. I think ‘Poatan’ will impose his spirit. He’s confident. F***, three wins — no way you’re not confident. I see Adesanya as [Kazushi] Sakuraba when Wanderlei [Silva] was making that noise over him [in PRIDE]. They fought three times, and Wanderlei knocked him out all three times.
“I think the spirit will make the difference this time. Let’s see how Adesanya feels face-to-face with the champion, how his spirit reacts knowing there’s a script and he always starts well and in the end, f***, the cowboy comes and takes his money. [Laughs.] People said Adesanya has more experience in MMA. Sure, he does, but ‘Poatan’ has more experience inside Adesanya’s head. It’s even.”
Charles Oliveira, former UFC lightweight champion
“Opinions are opinions and sometimes we give them and people get upset, but since you’ve asked for mine — if you look at all of their fights, ‘Poatan’ was able to land that hand in the final rounds and make history. Adesanya is very experienced, very smart at what he does, and ‘Poatan’ needs to be more aggressive than he was last time to connect his punches as soon as possible. Adesanya has landed more strikes, he was winning the rounds until that hand connected.
“I don’t think Adesanya will make mistakes this time like he did in that final round. He’s hungry to win. I saw him in Australia, he’s strong, he’s fine, and he really wants to become champion. ‘Poatan’ has to make Adesanya miss. Be more aggressive in those rounds and make Adesanya miss so his punch lands. His hands are very heavy and he connects them well. Make Adesanya miss and don’t wait too long, because Adesanya won’t miss this time.
“I’ll always bet on the Brazilian, even if the foreigner trains with me. I know how much it takes to get there, the warrior he is. If I had to bet, I’d bet on ‘Poatan’, but I think he has to be more aggressive than he was in the other fights.”