Michel Pereira put on one hell of a performance Saturday night at UFC Vegas 9, hitting Zelim Imadaev with a variety of flashy attacks from all angles, bouncing off the cage and dancing away from his opponent’s shots. The tale of the fight is told in the accuracy stats: Pereira landed 88 of 153 significant strike for 57% accuracy. Imadaev went 23 for 90, a 25% rate.
Beyond the stats and the showboating there was also the slaps: halfway through the fight Pereira started mixing in a steady supply of open palmed smacks upside Imadaev’s head. Lest you think “Demolidor” was just being a bully, keep in mind Imadaev started it by slapping Pereira during the weigh-ins.
“I don’t know why exactly he did this,” Pereira said through a translator at the post-fight press conference. “But I told him I would pay him back, and I did during the fight. I’m a man. You cannot slap my face. I did show my hand, I kissed my hand. I slapped to him so he can learn he’s not going to do it again. He cannot do that.”
Pereira was clearly winning the fight 30-27, if not more, but in the last minute of the fight he suplexed Imadaev and then took his back, slapping on a tight choke that resulted in the ref stopping the fight. The only problem? Imadaev never tapped. Any controversy over the call was largely erased because it didn’t exactly change the results of the fight too greatly. And as far as Pereira is concerned, the submission win would still have come seconds later.
“I didn’t feel when he tapped, but the position was very, very tight,” he said. “In that case, he would tap or he would sleep.”
After the fight, an elated Pereira took his shot at a big money fight, offering to step in and face Jorge Masvidal for the BMF belt. The UFC is currently looking to set up a Masvidal vs. Nate Diaz rematch, so we doubt that will happen. But it showed Pereira has his sights set on breaking into the top of the welterweight pack.
“I’m always doing my best when I fight the best guys, and I’m pretty sure Masvidal is one of them,” Pereira said. “And if we fight, I’m pretty sure it’s going to be huge, huge show for everybody. The fans would love it if we fight. If he doesn’t respect me, yes, I would slap him. But I just want to fight the best, and I’m sure we’d give a huge show for the fans.”
Will Pereira give up his flashy, energy depleting style as he climbs the rankings? We saw a definite improvement in discipline and conservation on Saturday night, but at his core he was still the same crazy unpredictable Michel Pereira, and that won’t change.
“Of course I want to win all my fights, I want to be the champion,” he said. “But I really care about the fans that pay a lot of money to watch the fights. And I don’t like when a fan is watching the TV and they’re like ‘Oh, this fight is boring.’ No. So because of that, I don’t care too much about the result. I put the show first.”