UFC 281: Alex Pereira Dethrones Israel Adesanya As Middleweight Champion
(Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)
— Updated on 30 January 2023

UFC 281: Alex Pereira Dethrones Israel Adesanya As Middleweight Champion

— Updated on 30 January 2023
Garry Lu
Garry Lu

What can we say about UFC 281 except: What. A. Bloody. Card.

Under any other circumstance, the individual bouts between Dustin Poirier and Michael Chandler, Zhang Weili and Carla Esparza alone would’ve warranted their own headlines. But the fact that we were gifted both on a silver platter as a mere appetiser to the epic clash between old rivals in reigning middleweight champion Israel Adesanya and fast-rising phenom Alex Pereira speaks volumes about the exciting era of MMA we’re currently enjoying/taking for granted.

As we’d noted earlier this past week, it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to characterise the main event as something ripped directly from a Hollywood screenplay. In Adesanya, you have a kickboxing specialist who had successfully defended his belt on five separate occasions since winning the unified title from Australia’s Robert Whittaker in 2019.

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In Pereira, you have the only person who has ever defeated Adesanya twice throughout the latter’s entire professional career, knocking the New Zealander out cold with a savage left hook during their Glory of Heroes days in addition to securing a unanimous decision victory. Now, “Poatan” (meaning: “Hands of Stone”) was hungry for thirds.

“In Brazil, we have a saying: he who loses does not forget.”

Round 1 was fairly even on the exchanges sans the closing seconds. Adesanya managed to rock Pereira with a flurry of punches, sneaking what could’ve very well been the championship decider right on the buzzer a la the former’s first encounter with Whittaker at UFC 243. Had he been afforded the luxury of just a few more seconds, this would’ve been a very different tale.

After recovering on the stool, Pereira came out of the gates swinging. A combination of superior octagon control, nasty body shots, clinch dominance, as well as a rather janky last-minute single-leg takedown secured him the round. Though he wasn’t out of the woods yet. Far from it.

UFC 281 Results: Alex Pereira Becomes New Middleweight King
(Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

Rounds 3 & 4 showcased the gulf in MMA experience between Pereira and the champion, a veteran of eight title fights and 25 bouts in total. Adesanya dictated the pace with superior grappling and surgical strikes. To the point where everyone including the commentary panel of Jon Anik, Joe Rogan, and Daniel Cormier was convinced it was a done deal; that The Last Stylebender would retain his strap.

The magic of this sport is that it only takes a moment – the right moment – for the tides to completely turn (just ask Kamaru Usman). And in the fifth and final round, history repeated itself.

Through sheer willpower and the knowledge he’d pulled it off once before, Alex Pereira emptied the tank for a clutch finish against the incumbent, ascending to the UFC middleweight throne at New York City’s Madison Square Garden in the process. Hollywood stuff.

As far as sequences go, those closing 20 seconds wherein he played the role of headhunter were nothing short of masterful (see: above).

(Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

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Alex Pereira solidifies his status as UFC Middleweight Champion after an extremely brief four-fight stint within the organisation (and eight MMA fights in total). Near unprecedented.

God we love this sport.

Side note: safe to say, wish.com Ryan Hall Claudio Puelles won’t be on the roster for long if Uncle Dana – and anyone with eyes – has something to say about it.

Side note II: another 100% score for BH’s card prediction series Octagon Oracle.

UFC 281 Results (Main Card)

  • Alex Pereira defeats Israel Adesanya (C) by TKO (Punches) – 2:01 | Round 5
  • Zhang Weili defeats Carla Esparza (C) by Submission (Rear-Naked Choke) – 1:05 | Round 2
  • Dustin Poirier defeats Michael Chandler by Submission (Rear-Naked Choke) – 2:00 | Round 3
  • Chris Gutierez defeats Frankie Edgar by KO (Knee) – 2:01 | Round 1
  • Dan Hooker defeats Claudio Puelles by TKO (Body Kick) – 4:06 | Round 2

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Garry Lu
After stretching his legs with companies such as The Motley Fool and the odd marketing agency, Garry joined Boss Hunting in 2019 as a fully-fledged Content Specialist. In 2021, he was promoted to News Editor. Garry proudly retains a blue belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, black bruises from Muay Thai, as well as a black belt in all things pop culture. Drop him a line at [email protected]


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