Israel Adesanya suffered his third loss to Alex Pereira at UFC 281 (Photo: UFC/Twitter)

In a fight for MMA bragging rights, Alex Pereira (7-1) defeated Israel Adesanya (23-2) in a come-from-behind stoppage victory to become UFC Middleweight Champion.

The win for Pereira marks the third time he has defeated Adesanya across two combat sports, this fight being the first time he had done it in MMA.

The history between the two had been very well documented during the lead-up, as it dates all the way back to their kickboxing days.

Pereira and Adesanya fought each other twice with the former winning on both occasions, taking the decision victory in their first fight whilst also viciously knocking Adesanya out in their second fight with his trademark left hook.

During the build-up however, Adesanya provided context for fans and journalists for both of their previous encounters.

Stating the first fight’s decision had been highly disputed as well as the fact that the current champion was closing in on a stoppage victory in their second fight, before the referee questionably separated the two for a standing eight count.

After defeating fourth-ranked Sean Strickland (25-4), the stage was set for their highly anticipated third encounter which promised a display of world-class striking. The fight gave the crowd many twists and turns before finally culminating in a devastating stoppage.

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Despite starting with a jumping push kick from Pereira, the first round was mainly fought technically at a close striking range.

Adesanya started off by throwing leg kicks whilst also throwing feints to gain a reaction out of his Brazillian foe. Pereira tried to back the champion against the cage to land the lead left.

Although ‘Poatan’ was having success with this aggression, Adesanya was able the circle away from the cage while also using straight punches to keep his opponent away.

At the end of what was shaping up to be a very close round one, Adesanya suddenly caught the former GLORY Kickboxing Champion with a right hand under the ear that badly staggered him before following up with a left at the buzzer. Saving Pereira from a potential stoppage loss.

The champion started the second round high on confidence as he continued to pick apart his opponent, by moving around and trapping Pereira’s left hand to set up his straight punches.

Fighting on the back foot looked to be serving Adesanya well until Pereira trapped him and started to unload on the Nigerian with hard jabs and left hooks.

After spending time in close range the fight entered the clinch before Pereira scored a takedown to seal the round.

Despite a good second round for Pereira, the tide looked to be turning in the third as ‘The Last Stylebender’ scored the first takedown in his UFC tenure and was able to control his opponent throughout.

Given the Brazilian’s inexperience on the ground and in five-round fights, the commentators octagon side started to think Pereira was starting to slow down going into the championship rounds.

The fourth round saw the champion start to have his way, as he began to throw more body kicks at his tired opponent as well as his straight punches before clinching up.

Going into the final round, it looked like Adesanya had the fight won, having banked three of the four rounds.

Clearly needing a knockout to win, Pereira started off the round with high volume and started to land more flush. After a clinch exchange, Adesanya fell to the ground after his leg kick was checked and Pereira started to chase him.

After a little more time on the cage, Pereira finally caught Adesanya with a huge left hook that visibly rocked the champion who desperately looked to clinch.

The challenger unloaded on Adesanya who slipped to the ground before getting up, but the referee had seen enough after Adesanya looked defenseless against the cage as he stepped in after 2:01 of the fifth and final round to declare ‘Poatan’ the new Middleweight Champion.

In his post-fight Interview with Joe Rogan, Pereira stated that the fight with Adesanya was hard and that he was happy that he shut up his critics.

“It was a very hard fight” Pereira said, “but just as Glover (Teixeira) said I was going through a fight every day in the gym, going five rounds all the time”.

“For everybody saying I couldn’t go five rounds, look what I just did right now, I’m ready for the next”.

Given this is Adesanya’s first loss in the Middleweight division, commentators began discussing an immediate rematch for the Nigerian.

However, as this is his third loss to his Brazilian foe there is a slight possibility that he may need to fight once more to get another shot at the title.

Pereira was awarded the Performance of the Night bonus along with Zhang Weili.

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