NEW YORK – Alex Pereira had Israel Adesanya’s jersey number in kickboxing. He also has it in MMA.
Pereira, the only man to knock out Adesanya, stopped him by TKO in the main event of UFC 281 at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night, with 2 minutes and 1 second in the fifth and final round. The win gave Pereira the UFC middleweight title in his fourth fight in the promotion. Adesanya is his champion since 2019.
Adesanya won the fight until the final sequence, with Pereira firing a barrage of punches with Adesanya hitting the cage. Referee Mark Goddard stepped in and stopped it after his left hook and his right hand flew back and forth.
Adesanya advanced to the fifth round with a scorecard of 39-37 from all three judges.
The two have fought in kickboxing twice, with Pereira winning both times, most recently by Adesanya’s knockout in 2017.
Coming in, ESPN ranked Adesanya second on their pound-for-pound list of the best MMA fighters. At middleweight, Adesanya ranked first and Pereira ranked seventh.
Pereira (7-1) earned his title shot by knocking out Sean Strickland in the first round of UFC 276 in July. The Brazilian slugger has 6 of his KO/TKOs in his 7 career wins in MMA, and he’s 4-0 in the UFC. Pereira, 35, is a former Glory He is a kickboxing middleweight and light heavyweight champion.
Adesanya (23-2) has won three in a row and is undefeated at middleweight going into this fight. His only career loss to date was last year’s light heavyweight title fight against Jan Blachovic. The Nigerian-born New Zealand resident has made five successful middleweight title defenses after winning the belt in October 2019 over Robert Whittaker.