Mark RaimondiESPN staff writer3 minutes of reading
Miami — Israel Adesanya He didn’t just cast out demons. He put them to sleep.
Alex Pereira He has beaten Adesanya three times, twice in kickboxing and twice by knockout. On Saturday night, Adesanya returned the favor.
He knocked out Adesanya Perera with several brutal right hands at 4 minutes, 21 seconds of the second round in the main event of UFC 287 at the Kazeya Center. With the violent victory, Adesanya regained the UFC Middleweight Championship.
“I believe everyone behind the scenes, in this arena, can only feel this level of joy once in your life,” Adesanya said in his post-fight interview. “I hope you all can feel how happy I am right now. … But you can’t feel this much happiness if you don’t do something.”
Pereira was good again on Saturday night. He kept Adesanya against the cage, ripping combinations. But Adesanya later said he was playing bosum. He countered with a big right hand that hurt Perera. Adesanya then dropped Perera with another right and left hook.
Adesanya sealed the win with a hammer as referee Don Miragliotta pulled him off and stopped the fight. Perera fainted.
“It was all there at the end,” Adesanya said. “That’s from 2017. That last hammer came from the gods.”
Pereira defeated Adesanya via fifth-round TKO at UFC 281 at Madison Square Garden in November. Perera has also beaten Adesanya twice in kickboxing, most recently by knockout in 2017. Perera is the only man to beat Adesanya.
“They say revenge is sweet,” said Adesanya. “Knowing me, I’ve got a sweet tooth.”
Coming in, ESPN ranked Adesanya No. 5 and Perera No. 10 on its pound-for-pound MMA list.
Adesanya (24-2) had five title defenses at middleweight before losing to Perera last year. The Nigerian-born, New Zealand resident had never made it past 185 pounds before that bout, with his only MMA loss coming in a UFC light heavyweight title fight in 2021. John Blachowicz. Adesanya, 33, has the second-most titles in UFC middleweight history at age 8.
Pereira (7-2) entered Saturday’s match on a seven-fight winning streak, his only loss coming in his MMA debut in 2015. Hailing from Brazil, he is a former Glory Kickboxing middleweight and light heavyweight champion. Pereira, 35, trains with the former UFC light heavyweight champion out of Connecticut. Clover Teixeira.
“No matter what, Alex is a great champion,” Adesanya said. “He lost the belt tonight, but he will always be a champion. In his story, I’m the enemy, in his story, I’m the bad guy. But tonight, this is my story. History.”