Israel Adesanya finally beat long-time rival Alex Pereira with a stunning knockout at UFC 287 to regain his middleweight title.
Pereira had his opponent up against the cage and seemingly in trouble late in the second round after a series of kicks to Adesanya’s vulnerable lead leg, and began to unload with a series of body punches and a knee to the head.
But Adesanya absorbed the blows before countering with a right hook from nowhere which shook Pereira, and then delivered a right-left combination to send the Brazilian crashing to the canvas, and he followed up with hammer fists to end the fight.
Adesanya suffered a controversial points loss to Pereira in their first fight, a kickboxing match, and in the rematch the New Zealander was leading but was knocked out. In November, in their first MMA clash, again Adesanya was ahead but he was beaten in the final round.
Here, on his fourth attempt, he finally got his win over Pereira, and in stunning fashion.
The knockout blow had similarities with a moment in their last fight when Adesanya shook Pereira with a second remaining in the first round and landed an extra punch on the buzzer. The consensus was that one more punch – one more second – would have been enough for Adesanya to get the win, and here he had time to deliver it.
Speaking in the octagon after his victory, Adesanya said he “played possum” to draw Pereira in before unleashing that devastating right hook. “Thank you for the defeats,” Adesanya said. “You made me a better fighter. Alex Pereira will always be a champion, but tonight is my night. It’s my story. History.”
Commentating on BT Sport in the Kaseya Center in Miami, Joe Rogan described the knockout as “one of the greatest KOs I’ve seen in my life”.
In the co-main event, hometown fighter Jorge Masvidal lost against Gilbert Burns on points before announcing his retirement from MMA.
Former US president Donald Trump was among those in attendance at UFC 287, sitting in the front row next to Mike Tyson and UFC president Dana White.