Israel Adesanya has pulled off a stunning knockout win over Alex Pereira to reclaim the middleweight crown at UFC 287 in Miami, downing the Brazilian in the second round to avenge his only UFC defeat at middleweight.
Adesanya wanted a quick rematch after a November loss to Pereira stripped him of the 185-pound (84kg) championship belt he had held since 2019.
At UFC 287 at the Kaseya Centre late on Saturday, Adesanya dropped the middleweight champion Pereira with two right hands, then raised his fists in triumph as he took back his middleweight championship belt and cemented his legacy as one of the greatest fighters in the sport’s history.
“I hope every one of you behind the screen or in this arena can feel this level of happiness just one time in your life,” Adesanya said. “But guess what, you’ll never feel this level of happiness if you don’t go for something.”
After a cagey opening frame that saw Pereira target Adesanya’s lead leg with brutal kicks, the fight burst into life in the second as both men landed head kicks early and Adesanya’s crisp boxing began to tell.
Pereira (7-2) landed a knee that pushed Adesanya (24-2) into the cage in the second round. Adesanya came off the cage with two right hooks and a right hammer fist, followed by ground and pound to end the fight at 4:21.
“I don’t throw and hope, I aim and fire!” – Me 🏹 pic.twitter.com/jYCReHrrMk
— Israel Adesanya (@stylebender) April 9, 2023
The 35-year-old Pereira had never lost to Adesanya, 33. Before he scored a TKO win for the welterweight belt in UFC 281 in November, Pereira had defeated Adesanya twice in kickboxing.
Adesanya, born in Nigeria and raised in New Zealand, entered the UFC in 2018 and won the middleweight belt a year later when he beat then-champion Robert Whittaker in a stunning knockout.
He successfully defended his title five times as he became one of the sport’s main draws. He was in unfamiliar territory on Saturday as the challenger.
“They say revenge is sweet,” Adesanya said. “And if you know me, I’ve got a sweet tooth.”
“I played possum a bit. … That last [punch] had everything. That last hammer fist was from the gods,” Adesanya said.
Jorge Masvidal calls time on career
In the co-main event, Jorge Masvidal (35-17) lost a unanimous decision to fifth-ranked welterweight contender Gilbert Burns (22-5) despite fighting in his hometown of Miami for the first time in 20 years.
Burns hurt Masvidal with a series of head shots, and Masvidal appeared winded as the fight went on. Afterwards, Burns paid respect to the veteran Masvidal.
“We’re here because of this guy, 52 pro fights,” Burns said to the crowd, which chanted, “Let’s go, Jorge” throughout the fight. “Give it up for your guy.”
Masvidal, 38, entered the match on a three-fight losing streak, having lost back-to-back title challenges to Kamaru Usman and a unanimous decision to longtime rival Colby Covington.
Masvidal appeared to retire from the sport after the loss.
“It’s been a long 20 years, 50-something fights,” said Masvidal, who entered the UFC in 2013. “Sometimes, your favourite basketball player doesn’t have that three-pointer no more. Your favourite quarterback loses that rifle. And I don’t feel the same when I get in here.”
Veteran Rob Font (20-6) snapped Adrian Yanez’s (16-3) nine-fight winning streak with a knockout at 2:57 in the first round. They traded shots early before Font landed a powerful right hook that dropped Yanez. Font, who returned to pay-per-view for the first time in five years, finished the fight with ground and pound.
“It’s been a while since I got a finish,” Font said. “I needed this finish for myself. I needed it for my team. I needed it for my family.”