Alex Pereira blew the middleweight division wide open with his stunning, fifth-round technical knockout victory over Israel Adesanya in the UFC 281 pay-per-view (PPV) main event last weekend in New York City, capturing the 185-pound strap and returning “The Last Stylebender” to the pool of thirsty title contenders.
Adesanya is now ranked No. 1 in his class, one spot above longtime rival Robert Whittaker. The promotion seems to be leaning toward a Pereira rematch; but if not, “The Reaper” would like to get his hands on the Brazilian bomber, assuming he can get past hulking middleweight Paulo Costa at UFC 284 in Perth.
“As I said before, I’m not planning past Costa, but I can say that I think Pereira’s a better matchup for me than Israel,” Whittaker said during the UFC 284 press conference (watch the video replay here). “Just because of the way he stands and the way he likes to push forward. The way he likes to fight I feel gives me a better edge, but in saying that, did you see the size of the fella? I’m like, why is nobody mentioning that? Dude’s just a giant. He’s an absolute giant. I’m just thinking, like, who let this guy in? But still, I think I can take him.”
Actually Mr. Whittaker, everyone is mentioning that.
Whittaker (24-6) lost his middleweight title to Adesanya in the UFC 243 main event then failed to recapture the crown when they ran it back at UFC 271. Outside of those two performances, “The Reaper” has been perfect at middleweight, racking up a stellar 12-0 record with four knockouts.
Adesanya told reporters at the UFC 281 post-fight press conference (watch it here) that he needed to focus on some health issues that have plagued him in recent months, so a return date for the former champ has yet to be established. That means a win over Costa could put Whittaker in a good spot in terms of scoring the next middleweight title shot.