It turns out four times was the charm for Israel Adesanya.
After suffering a knockout loss to rival Alex Pereira this past November — his third defeat to the Brazilian across kickboxing and MMA — Adesanya had to battle a lot of demons and the perception that one opponent just had his number. Like he was living through a Quentin Tarantino movie, Adesanya deserved his revenge and he got it with a pair of brutal right hands that demolished Pereira to end their fifth fight in the UFC 287 main event.
The official stoppage came at 4:21 in the second round as Adesanya becomes a two-time UFC middleweight champion but more importantly he picks up arguably the biggest and most important win of his career.
“They say revenge is sweet and if you know me, I’ve got a sweet tooth,” Adesanya said afterwards. “This is f****** sweet. I’m telling you, no matter what, Alex is a great champion. He lost the belt tonight but he will always be the champion.
“I told you, the hunter is now the hunted. Beating me, he made me a better fighter, a better person. In this camp, I didn’t f*** around. That last one had everything. Since 2017, that last hammer fist was from the gods.”
With so much time spent together in prior fights, there was a lot of familiarity as Pereira and Adesanya were both looking to set up leg kicks early while trying to establish dominance on the feet. Pereira was hammering with the calf kick while Adesanya started finding his rhythm with a series of body shots.
As the second round got started, Pereira unloaded several hard shots that backed up Adesanya with shades of their last meeting starting to resurface. This time around, however, Adesanya was able to defend and reset to then fire back at Pereira with some stinging punches of his own.
Adesanya was constantly composed, never showing any fear when Pereira decided to get aggressive because he was just waiting for the best possible moment to unleash his best strikes.
That time finally came after Pereira landed a thudding leg kick that wobbled Adesanya momentarily, which led to “Poatan” going for the kill. Pereira started unloading a barrage of shots including a knee right up the middle but nothing landed clean, which then allowed Adesanya to fire back.
Adesanya came back over the top with a right hand that immediately rattled Pereira but it was the second shot that finally put him down. As Pereira crashed to the canvas, Adesanya threw one more punch for good measure but the fight was already over as referee Dan Miragliotta jumped in to save the former GLORY kickboxing champion from any further harm.
It was certainly a satisfying moment for Adesanya, who eventually made his way over to shake Pereira’s hand just before having the UFC title wrapped around his waist again.
The victory cements Adesanya’s legacy as one of the greatest middleweights of all time, especially now that he was finally able to secure a much needed win over Pereira. Given their history, it’s entirely possible these two will meet again in the near future but for now Adesanya should certainly enjoy his moment.
He definitely earned it.