In tonight’s pay-per-view headliner, Adesanya will look to successfully defend the 185-pound belt for the sixth time. But on paper, at least, this attempted retention isn’t like any other.
Inside Madison Square Garden, “The Last Stylebender” will meet a figure from his past in the form of Pereira, a former two-division Glory Kickboxing champion who holds two victories over Adesanya in the striking-only sport.
With a perfect 3-0 start inside the Octagon since arriving in late 2021, including a brutal knockout win over Sean Strickland this past July, “Poatan” has secured the chance to record a third win over Adesanya across combat sports and ascend to the top step of the UFC’s middleweight ladder.
But doing that will certainly be no easy challenge.
Not only has Adesanya looked totally dominant at 185 pounds, where he’s 12-0 in the UFC, but he also boasts much more high-level MMA experience than Pereira, who’s only competed seven times as a professional.
In addition, “The Last Stylebender” also has experience facing the Brazilian. While 0-2 down to Pereira officially, the story is certainly a lot closer than the numbers would suggest, with many believing he actually won their first contest.
With that in mind, and even with the evolution of Pereira’s game during his MMA transition. the Nigerian-New Zealander may have somewhat of an idea what to expect in terms of the challenger’s offense.
Adesanya Singles Out Two Of Pereira’s Weapons
During a recent interview with Morning Kombat’s Luke Thomas, Adesanya was asked whether he’s identified any of Pereira’s weapons other than his patented left hook that he’ll need to keep a close eye on come fight night.
The reigning middleweight kingpin named two shots: a follow-up strike stemming from Pereira’s left hook, as well as the Brazilian’s jab.
While he described both as “sneaky,” Adesanya suggested that “Poatan” all have a much harder time finding a home for his attacks than he did during his first three Octagon outings.
“He’s got a nice sneaky backhand. Like, when he misses the left hook,” Adesanya said whilst mimicking the shot. “Because he doesn’t overturn at the beginning when he’s fresh. He throws the left hook and his core is tough, it’s tight, so he’s able to come back with the backhand. Later on, when it’s labored, then he overthrows.
“Also, his jab. He’s got a sneaky jab. But the thing is, the guys he’s been fighting, they had sh*t footwork. They just stood right there in front of him to get hit,” Adesanya added. “So, it looks cool. It looks like he’s doing a lot of work. And he is, but he’s doing it on someone who doesn’t fight like me.”
In the buildup to UFC 281, Adesanya has admitted that his upcoming defense is personal, and about much more than just retaining the belt. With that in mind, he’ll look to pull one back in his head-to-head combat sports series against Pereira with a convincing win in their first cage battle.
While most have singled out Pereira’s left hook as the potential game changer tonight, Adesanya will no doubt have to deal with a wider arsenal if he’s to turn away yet another challenger.
Who do you think will leave MSG with the UFC middleweight gold, Israel Adesanya or Alex Pereira?
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