Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Middleweight rivals Alex Pereira and Israel Adesanya will clash once again TONIGHT (Sat., April 8, 2023) at UFC 287 inside Miami-Dade Arena in Miami, Florida.
Pereira quite literally took everything Adesanya was working for, motherf—ker. After achieving his own greatness in the kickboxing realm, he chased “Stylebender” across sport lines and used his history with the former champion to line up a fairly quick shot at the belt. Then, he delivered, stopping Adesanya in the fifth round of a highly competitive fight (watch highlights). It’s important to remember, however, that Pereira’s quick rise through the 185-pound division was only possible because Adesanya beat every other contender. Prior to his UFC 281 loss, Adesanya was really carving out his legacy to compete with Anderson Silva as an all-time great Middleweight, but now he’s got some work to do.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
Key Wins: Israel Adesanya (UFC 281), Sean Strickland (UFC 276), Bruno Silva (UFC Vegas 50), Andres Michalidis (UFC 268)
Key Losses: None
Keys to Victory: Pereira is a tremendous power puncher, but he’s more than a simple brawler. “Poatan” herds opponents into his shots expertly, feinting and giving different looks to draw out reactions then capitalize viciously. He’s also a very strong kicker, and his ability to check kicks played a major part in his success.
In the first fight, Pereira’s strategy worked, which makes it trickier to point out necessary adjustment. Even so, two come to mind. First and foremost, Pereira has to be wary about willingly grappling/hanging out in the clinch for too long. He was too willing to stay close to Adesanya and get all tangled up, which favors the more experienced grappler and cuts time off the clock.
In addition, I felt like Pereira was struggling to let his right hand go for much of the first fight. Time and time again, he’d walk Adesanya to the fence and then attack almost entirely with his shotgun of a jab or infamous left hook. Those are great weapons, but as soon as he let a couple rights go in the fifth, the finishing sequence began.
Obviously, that’s a hard punch to land against Adesanya, but a few more right hands in the earlier goings — potentially to the chest? — should pay off.
Key Wins: Robert Whittaker (UFC 271, UFC 243), Jared Cannonier (UFC 276), Marvin Vettori (UFC 263, UFC on FOX 29), Paulo Costa (UFC 253), Yoel Romero (UFC 248), Kelvin Gastelum (UFC 236, Derek Brunson (UFC 230), Anderson Silva (UFC 234)
Key Losses: Alex Pereira (UFC 281), Jan Blachowicz (UFC 259)
Keys to Victory: Adesanya is a tremendous kickboxer. He’s one of the best in UFC history at managing distance, punishing his opponents from the edge of his long range then landing the kill shot if they try to advance any further.
Despite coming up short last time out, Adesanya did a lot of things well. He won long portions of the fight, and he did so with a mix of skills. His clinch work and top position won rounds, and he landed plenty of damaging shots on the feet. All of that is positive, and mixing it up will continue to be necessary in this rematch.
In terms of big picture strategy, two things stand out. Namely, Adesanya probably has to get a bit more aggressive. Getting walked down by Pereira for five rounds without slipping up once is proving a fairly impossible challenge, so it’s necessary for Adesanya to stand his ground more often and force the Brazilian back himself on occasion.
A bit of pressure will also help his wrestling game.
At some point, Pereira probably hurts Adesanya again. When that happens, I’d like to see Adesanya use the rest of his MMA skill. He doesn’t have to circle and roll along the fence like a kickboxer! Adesanya can dive for a takedown, and even in the likely event that he doesn’t get it, jamming Pereira up in the clinch or even in closed guard is far from a bad idea. He’s nowhere near as experienced a finisher in such situations, and if Adesanya can survive a bad spot or two, he probably wins the decision.
The future of Middleweight is on the line.
Pereira has made it fairly clear he doesn’t intend to stick around at 185-pounds forever. If he defeats Adesanya again, his path may be clear to jump to Light Heavyweight and challenge either Jiri Prochazka or Jamahal Hill for the belt. If not, there are excellent challengers like Robert Whittaker available for him at Middleweight who are very different threats and match ups for “Poatan.” Ultimately, a win here definitively ends the Pereira vs. Adesanya saga.
“Stylebender” is fighting to keep this series alive. Surely, a victory sets up an instant MMA trilogy. Perhaps just as important as winning back the belt is the simple idea of getting one back on Pereira, who’s acted like a cursed shadow on Adesanya’s combat sports career and legacy. For the first time in a while, Adesanya really has something to prove here, and it remains to be seen how that affects his performance.
At UFC 287, Alex Pereira and Israel Adesanya will battle in the main event. Which man leaves the cage as champion?
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 287 fight card right here, starting with the early ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard on ESPN/ESPN+ at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+ PPV.
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