At UFC 281 this weekend, Adesanya will headline a pay-per-view for the third time this year. And in his sixth title defense, he’ll go toe-to-toe with former two-time kickboxing rival Pereira, who’s burst onto the MMA scene since transitioning from the striking-only sport.
In three UFC appearances, “Poatan” has had his hand raised in every bout, with knockouts on debut against Andreas Michailidis and last time out at UFC 276 versus high-ranked contender Sean Strickland.
With that, the Brazilian has secured a fast rise up the middleweight ladder to book a third combat sports showdown with “The Last Stylebender” inside New York’s prestigious Madison Square Garden.
The last time Adesanya fought at MSG, he recorded a vicious first-round knockout win at UFC 230 in 2018. The victim of that finish? Brunson, who’s now broken down his former opponent’s upcoming matchup.
Brunson: ‘Pereira Has Five Rounds To Land That One Punch On Adesanya’
During an interview with Helen Yee, Brunson looked ahead to the next championship fight in his division, having missed out on securing an opportunity of his own when he faced Jared Cannonier this past February.
Despite some suggesting that Adesanya might employ a rare grappling offense against Pereira, whose level on the ground seems somewhat uncertain this early into his MMA career, Brunson expects the UFC 281 main event to remain on the feet.
With that, the #5-ranked middleweight suggested that it comes down to a battle between Adesanya’s ‘point-fighting’ style and Pereira’s pursuit of a kill shot.
“I think this fight will be a kickboxing fight. Unless Izzy’s gonna just shoot for takedowns. Alex, he’s Brazilian, so we gotta figure that he knows some type of jiu-jitsu,” Brunson said. “I think he had an MMA fight like 12 years ago, so like, I’m sure he’s been training jiu-jitsu this long time. So, I’m pretty sure he’s good off his back and knows how to stop takedowns. So, this looks like it’s going to be a kickboxing match.
“With that being said, Alex is gonna look to stalk him, and he doesn’t move back a lot. He stays in the pocket, and looks to slip and roll and trade punches. It’s gonna be either Izzy’s gonna come out and try to point-fight him or Alex is gonna get in his face and find the shot,” Brunson added. “I think he’s definitely gonna stay in (Adesanya’s) face and it’s gonna be a good fight.”
The UFC 281 headliner certainly won’t be like any other defense for Adesanya. This time, he’ll be meeting a figure from his past and one who’s gotten the better of him on two separate occasions — once on the scorecards and once via knockout.
With that in mind and given that “Poatan” was able to find a KO shot in a fight he was losing when he collided with Adesanya for the second time, Brunson is backing the challenger to blemish the Nigerian-New Zealander’s middleweight MMA record come Saturday night.
“Man, if you’re gonna put me on the spot and ask me… If I had to pick, If I was betting, I’m gonna bet on Alex… because he beat him twice,” Brunson noted. “Izzy was winning the kickboxing match he got knocked out in by Alex, that’s what I heard… Alex stays in there and looks to trade. So, five rounds, you got five rounds to find your one punch.”
Who do you think will have their hand raised at UFC 281, Israel Adesanya or Alex Pereira?
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