On November 12, former kickboxing rivals Adesanya and Pereira will collide in mixed martial arts for the first time. Having dominated the 185-pound division since his arrival, defending the title five times against the top names in the weight class, Adesanya is next set to be tested by a figure from his past.
In just one year under the UFC banner, Pereira has won three fights, most recently knocking top contender Sean Strickland out with a brutal left hook at UFC 276. With that, he’s secured a fast ascent towards the top step, with the Brazilian returning to where it all began in New York with title glory on his mind.
Both before and after the official announcement of this matchup, fans and pundits have debated Pereira’s fast climb towards contention, with some suggesting that the UFC has wrongly pushed “Poatan” in order to capitalize on the history between him and Adesanya.
In their two kickboxing contests under the Glory of Heroes banner, Pereira emerged victorious on both occasions, first on the scorecards in 2016 and then via a brutal knockout the following year.
If Adesanya is to exact revenge and avoid an 0-3 skid versus Pereira across combat sports, a former champion in his division says it’s crucial that he maintains the correct mindset come fight night.
Rockhold: Adesanya Can’t Let Pereira Into His Head
During an interview with Helen Yee earlier this year, Luke Rockhold assessed how the next championship fight could play out in the 185-pound division.
According to the Californian, the result will come down to whether or not “The Last Stylebender” can avoid letting Pereira get into his head pre-fight, something he believes that Adesanya failed to do before getting KO’d by the Brazilian back in 2017.
“It depends on how Israel fights… ’cause he’s (Pereira) in his head,” Rockhold said. “If he’s in his head and you let guys get in your head — he lost to him a close one, and then he got clipped on the second one ’cause he let him get in his head. He was in his head, you could see he was in his head.
“So, if Israel lets him get in his head this time around, that’s interesting. Israel’s gotta check himself and he’s gotta fight MMA. We all know Alex Pereira sucks on the ground. Even Israel could probably f*cking put him away on the ground,” Rockhold added. “This kid’s dangerous as hell on the feet. So, it all depends on how Israel — what his headspace is and how he fights.”
How do you think the UFC 281 main event between Israel Adesanya and Alex Pereira will play out?
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