Even though he’s the less experienced fighter when it comes to MMA, Alex Pereira still thinks he holds a distinct advantage over Israel Adesanya.
The pair are scheduled to headline UFC 281 at Madison Square Garden tonight with Adesanya’s middleweight title on the line. Much of the buildup around the fight has revolved around the rivalry between the two, as Pereira holds a pair of victories over Adesanya from their kickboxing days.
Adesanya’s knockout loss to the Brazilian in 2017 was the last time he competed in kickboxing. With an 8-0 record already under his belt, “The Last Stylebender” made a full-time move to MMA and arrived in the UFC in 2018.
A 2019 title shot saw him finish middleweight champion Robert Whittaker to claim the belt, and since then the 33-year-old’s only misstep has been a decision loss to Jan Blachowicz in 2021 in a failed bid to become a two-division champion.
Pereira Prepared For Striking Battle
Although he dabbled in MMA on a few occasions, Pereira largely focused on kickboxing for the majority of his combat sports career.
“Poatan” held two belts in GLORY, but after a 2021 loss to Artem Vakhitov the Brazilian decided to fully commit to MMA and joined the UFC. It didn’t take long for Pereira to make an impression, as three-straight wins with with a pair of knockouts was enough for the promotion to match him up with Adesanya.
Much has been made about the possibility of Adesanya drawing on his MMA experience to win the fight, but the Brazilian isn’t so sure that will be a factor. “Poatan” was asked at the UFC 281 media day if he had seen any evolution in Adesanya’s game since their kickboxing fights, which prompted Pereira to remark on how the fight is expected to play out.
“Well, we both have evolved a lot,” Pereira said. “But I think I have the edge on the kickboxing, because I evolved a lot after the fight. People wanna say, ‘Oh, but now this is a MMA fight.’ But many people think it’s gonna be a kickboxing fight inside the Octagon. So with that said, who do you think is gonna have the edge? Me, that kept doing kickboxing for all those years, or him that stopped training kickboxing?”
The middleweight title bout between Adesanya and Pereira will headline a loaded UFC 281 card that also includes Carla Esparza defending her strawweight title against former champion Weili Zhang in the co-main event.
What do you make of Pereira’s claim that his kickboxing experience will be a key factor in his fight with Adesanya?