Reigning defending UFC Middleweight champion Israel Adesanya (23-1) will put his title on the line this Saturday night, Nov. 12, when he faces old kickboxing foe Alex Pereira (6-1) in the UFC 281 main event at Madison Square Garden.
The two middleweights have faced each other twice previously under the Glory of Heroes Kickboxing banner. Adesanya lost both of those previous matchups. He dropped a unanimous decision to Pereira in 2016. Then in their most recent matchup in 2017, Pereira knocked Adesanya unconscious in the third round.
Check it out below:
Following the loss, Adesanya left kickboxing and made the full-time transition into mixed martial arts where he picked up two regional titles and found himself signed to the UFC the following year.
Adesanya took the UFC by storm and won the middleweight championship by knocking out Robert Whittaker at UFC 243 in Oct. 2019. He has gone on to remain unbeaten at middleweight in the Octagon and has five successful title defenses. Adesanya even took a crack at the light heavyweight title last year but dropped the decision to Jan Blachowicz.
Pereira continued his kickboxing career up until last year when he was signed to the UFC. The 35-year-old Brazilian went on to win three straight fights (two by knockout) inside the Octagon. He most recently stopped Sean Strickland in the first round at UFC 276 in July.
So what happens now?
Kickboxing of course is a completely different sport and Pereira is monumentally less experienced in mixed martial arts than UFC champion Adesanya. However, every fight starts on the feet and Izzy has to enter the Octagon this time knowing his opponent knocked him out just a few years ago.
Izzy had an amazing overall kickboxing record at 75-5 while Periera’s record was 33-7. Even though Izzy’s kickboxing record appears quite a bit more impressive than Periera’s, sometimes an opponent just has your number and he’s shown to have Izzy’s number twice already.
But MMA is a different beast than kickboxing and we just haven’t seen enough out of Pereira yet to know how much the extra martial disciplines of MMA will factor into this fight. Neither fighter has won a match by submission so it will be interesting to see how much, if any, grappling plays a role in the outcome.
Oddsmakers and sports books currently have Israel Adesanya a slight favorite for the UFC 281 middleweight championship at -210, while Alex Pereira is a bit of an underdog at +162 (via FanDuel). Pereira is still so young in his MMA career it’s remarkable he’s even getting a title shot. However, the biggest battle Adesanya may face here is his own past demons.