UFC 281 was the sight of one of the promotion’s most shocking results in recent years, as the UFC Middleweight Champion Israel Adesanya squared off against Alex Pereira in the main event of what proved to be another unmissable event at the fabled Madison Square Garden in New York City.
Saturday, November 12th, 2022, has now become a date that will forever be lodged in UFC folklore as the Garden hosted another tremendous UFC Pay-Per View card that concluded with a stunning upset during the heavily touted main event.
Reigning and defending UFC Middleweight Champion Israel Adesanya entered the bout as a major favourite to walk out of the Octagon with his coveted championship belt according to many UFC betting odds.
Yet despite his prior successful defences of the title, and his high expectations heading into the fight, Adesanya’s dominant reign atop the Middleweight division ended abruptly when Brazilian Kickboxer, Alex Pereira, defeated Adesanya by way of KO/TKO midway through the fifth round.
The PPV saw numerous high-profile bouts including former UFC Lightweight champion Frankie Edgar’s final contest against Chris Gutierrez, Dustin Poirier’s emphatic fight of the night win over Michael Chandler and Zhang Weili reclaiming title gold after a second-round submission victory over champion Carla Esparza in the co-main event.
Yet all the attention and post-fight headlines were directed towards the shocking conclusion of the main event from which Pereira was able to gain the edge over Adesanya after what appeared to be a tightly fought encounter,r before the Brazilian gained full control and finished off the acclaimed champion during the final round, forcing referee Marc Goddard to step in after a flurry of vicious strikes.
Looking back on the fight now, it can be an interesting assignment to assess how Pereira was able to defeat and contain Adesanya’s many offensive weapons during the bout as well as what strategies Pereira’s camp may have looked to utilize in order to give their prized fighter a greater advantage when heading into the Garden for UFC 281.
Dictating the pace of fight
One of the many issues that past opponents of Israel Adesanya have faced during their encounters with the ‘Last Stylebender’, is mainly due to the Middleweight champion commanding perhaps too much respect or intimidation from his opponents, which allows Adesanya to control any bout to his preferred methodical pace.
Some of the UFC’s best Middleweight’s have struggled greatly to turn the fight towards their own momentum and have ultimately succumb to one of the many signature weapons that Adesanya can utilize from his arsenal, whether that be intended to finish off his opponent or score extra high on the judges’ scorecards.
However, Pereira’s performance at UFC 281 highlighted his incredible Octagon IQ and how quickly he can dictate the flow of any bout into his favour, which unfortunately for Adesanya, was enough for the Brazilian to claim UFC gold for the first time in his MMA career.
Whilst the first few rounds were certainly living up to the expected stance and momentum that Adesanya prefers to operate under, Pereira shook up the fight heading into the final round which greatly caught the champion off-guard and forced the referee to intervene.
Pereira can match anything in Adesanya’s offense
It is well documented about the prior history that both men shared before heading into UFC 281 given their credentials at Kickboxing ahead of the transition to the MMA landscape to sign up with the UFC.
During the fight itself, Adesanya looked to throw a plethora of unique strikes at the Brazilian that would likely have taken his opponent by surprise if not for Pereira understanding quite a fair amount of previous information as to how Adesanya approaches a fight while on offence.
Perhaps Pereira spent extra time studying tapes or sparing against more eccentric opponents whilst in camp to understand as to how to approach a fight against an adversary of Adesanya’s build and fight style. Of course, they had already fought twice and he won both times, so perhaps Pereira simply has Adesanya’s number.
(Israel Adesanya vs Alex Pereira | UFC 281 Official Highlights | Sensational Middleweight Scrap)
Whatever research or training Pereira chose to undertake during camp, it paid off in dividends as he will now be heading back to another UFC event with championship gold wrapped around his waist, at the expense of Adesanya’s previously unmatched offensive style.
What next for Pereira?
The newly crowned UFC Middleweight will now spend a period on the side-lines recovering from the fight and a few apparent torn hand ligaments that were sustained during his bout with Adesanya.
After the recovery period, a rematch versus Adesanya will most certainly be on the cards for a future UFC PPV from which the odds could swing back in the Brazilian’s favour compared to how they were presented ahead of UFC 281.
Should Pereira defeat Adesanya again, then it will be interesting to see just how his fighting style will matchup against some of the other top ranked Middleweight’s in the division, which could make for some scintillating encounters in the future.