Alex Pereira was brought along quickly, yes, but he cleared up any doubt about his quality as a mixed martial artist in the span of two years.
Essentially billed as the guy to end Israel Adesanya’s championship reign from the moment he made the full-time move to mixed martial arts, the two-division Glory Kickboxing champion delivered on any and all expectations. “Poatan” showed his grit, power and high skill level through various fights en route to the title, and eventually, he made good on expectations.
Before he makes his first title defense, take a look at the five fights that have made up Pereira’s journey to this point:
Pereira vs vs Thomas Powell (LFA 95)
In his first mixed martial arts fight in more than four years, Pereira put everyone on notice. By this point, Adesanya had become a dominant and iconic champion, so to the general MMA fandom, he was “the guy who knocked Adesanya out in a kickboxing match.” His transition back to MMA meant a potentially viable challenger for “The Last Stylebender,” but first, Pereira needed to show he could do in mixed martial arts what he could do in kickboxing.
He wasted no time, and it wouldn’t be long before Pereira found himself in front of his old foe once again.
Pereira vs vs Andreas Michailidis (UFC 268)
A year before he fought for the title in Madison Square Garden, Pereira made his UFC debut at UFC 268 against Andreas Michailidis.
For as much as Pereira was hailed as a future challenger to Adesanya, he still needed to prove himself as a mixed martial artist. Michailidis made sense as an early test for Pereira’s defensive grappling. After a slower first round, Pereira wasted no time in the second and landed a beautiful flying knee to steal the spotlight for the night.
Pereira vs Bruno Silva (UFC Fight Night: Santos vs Ankalaev)
Although finishes are always exciting, most contenders need to dig deep and go the distance to add a certain notch of confidence to their belt. That came in Pereira’s sophomore appearance in the Octagon when he faced his countryman Bruno Silva.
The two engaged in a back-and-forth war that pushed Pereira in all areas of his game, but “Poatan” proved his resilience on the UFC stage to secure the decision win.
Pereira vs vs Sean Strickland (UFC 276)
At this point, Adesanya was running out of contenders, and few inside the top-10 wanted to give Pereira that first crack. Sean Strickland, never one to shy from a fight, raised his hand, and Pereira made him pay dearly.
With his signature left hook, Pereira floored the veteran, and then proceeded to urge the crowd to cheer for Adesanya as the champion defended his belt in the headliner. We all wanted it, and Pereira did his part with ease in Las Vegas.
Pereira vs Israel Adesanya (UFC 281)
This is the one – the reason the mixed martial arts world has its eyes set on Miami.
The build-up to Pereira’s first MMA fight with Adesanya went predictably. People went back and watched the two kickboxing bouts that built the mythology around Pereira, and we all wondered how things would play out in the Octagon. Adesanya started sharply, rocking Pereira in the first round, but Pereira showed off his ability to recover and lock back into a hotly contested fight. After his training partner and mentor Glover Teixeira urged him to get a finish in the fifth round as he stared a decision loss in the face, Pereira delivered and flipped the division on its head to capture the undiputed title.
UFC 287: Pereira vs Adesanya 2 took place live from Kayesa Center in Miami, Florida on April 8, 2023. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses - and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass!