UFC 287 Fight Card – Alex Pereira vs. Israel Adesanya 2: Five Biggest Stories to Watch in Miami

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Depending on how closely you’ve followed the careers of UFC middleweight king Alex Pereira and former champion Israel Adesanya, Saturday’s UFC 287 main event in Miami is either an instant MMA rematch or the fourth fight entirely between the two in combat sports.

Pereira (7-1), who has a pair of previous kickboxing wins over Adesanya (23-2), scored a major upset of “The Last Stylebender” in November when he stopped Adesanya in Round 5 to capture the UFC’s 185-pounder. a champion The pair of middleweights will face off again inside the Miami-Dade Arena at the top of a well-balanced fight card that features hometown hero Jorge Masvidal against Gilbert Burns in the co-main event.

Let’s take a closer look at the biggest stories coming in this weekend as the UFC returns to South Florida.

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1. There was nothing lucky about Alex Pereira’s UFC 281 win over Israel Adesanya

Now, would Pereira likely have been stopped if Round 1 of their first MMA meeting had been an extra 10 seconds longer? The appearance seemed very possible as Adesanya was visibly hurting himself before the buzzer with a combination of clean shots. That is the very thin line at the elite level between winning and losing. But even though Adesanya’s shocking loss came just months after former pound-for-pound king Kamaru Usman also surrendered his UFC title in Round 5 of his rematch with Leon Edwards, nothing stupid about how Pereira finally got hold of Adesanya. And with Pereira’s detailed history of doing just that – not only beating Adesanya but rallying from behind to do so by striking – it feels pretty clear that getting Adesanya has become a pattern for “Poatan”. Yes, it’s a style matchup that only increases Pereira’s danger on the feet because Adesanya isn’t much of a grappler and couldn’t expose the weaker parts of the Brazilian slugger’s game on the ground. Pereira has shown time and time again, however, that he only has the Adesanya number. Despite being down on the scorecards late in their first UFC meeting, Pereira never lost focus, never quit and rarely stopped being attacking him by gathering Adesanya and not allowing him to be comfortable. For what Pereira lacks in real MMA experience, he has made up for it thus far with violence and continuing to play to his strengths as a seasoned fighter who seems to be uniquely crafted for the role. so sad

2. Pereira’s UFC takeover was no surprise

Can we stop and examine how unlikely Pereira’s very path to a UFC title, in just his eighth pro MMA fight and fourth walk to the Octagon, has turned out to be ? Despite a decorated kickboxing career, Pereira’s MMA experience remains limited — at best — as we speak today. He turned pro in 2015, lost via third round submission and fought two more times – both TKO wins – in 2016 before taking four more years off while focusing on the his first love. Even though he defeated Adesanya in 2016 and 2017 under the Glory of Heroes kickboxing banner, his full-time move to MMA ultimately lacked the sensation of Adesanya’s debut in 2018 UFC and a meteoric two-year journey to the middleweight title. Pereira, who became a two-division champion with Glory just as Adesanya was becoming a household name in the UFC, finally moved back on a full-time level to MMA in 2020 with LFA. He only had four professional fights when he stepped into the Octagon for the first time in November 2021 and sent a trio of wins to a meeting with Adesanya that was scrapped due to their history. Now, four months shy of his 36th birthday, he is a UFC champion. He was an integral part of Pereira’s rise by becoming an apprentice to Glover Teixeira and moving to the UFC lightweight king’s gym in Connecticut. But let’s not be like the speed and the improbability of how quickly Pereira moved to the game in the memory of even Brock Lesnar.

3. What would a second straight defeat mean to Adesanya’s legacy?

It’s an interesting question that not many people talk about because so much of the narrative going into Saturday surrounds Adesanya’s path to salvation. At 33 and 14 fights deep into his incredible UFC career, there’s no questioning whether Adesanya has established himself as both historically relevant and one of the top pound-for-pound fighters -pound in this era and among the best middleweights in the history of the sport. Victories over Anderson Silva, Marvin Vettori (twice), Derek Brunson, Kelvin Gastelum, Robert Whittaker (twice), Yoel Romero, Paulo Costa and Jared Cannonier speak for themselves. But as Usman just found out, back-to-back losses to the same fighter have a way of quickly exceeding the upper limits of what we thought was possible for the legacy of a once-great service. that they have come so close to gaining status as a great time. Putting too much emphasis on one or two fights is a spur-of-the-moment reaction to how a fighter will be remembered that often balances itself out over time. Nobody says it’s fair to judge so harshly in a sport that is often flawed by its obsession with any fighter being only as good as their last performance. But few can deny how close Adesanya recently came to outright MMA immortality when he booked Paulo Costa in 2020 before discussing a future that could be a three-division UFC champion. Adesanya, then embroiled in a social media feud with Jon Jones, was even the betting favorite when he moved up to 205 pounds to challenge defending champion Jan Blachowicz the following year. That was two years ago, and to Adesanya’s credit, he bounced back from the decision to Blachowicz by defending his middleweight title three more times. But if he loses again to Pereira, the narrative could quickly shift towards the idea that Adesanya was once a super hero who couldn’t reach the top flight because of heated competitor in the same category that regularly had his no.

4. Jorge Masvidal enters his last chance to cut the welterweight line

Remember that time in 2019 when Masvidal came out of nowhere to serve a 16 month layoff, score three highlight reel stoppages and surprisingly claim both the fighter of the year award and the title The UFC’s mythical “BMF”? How about the following three years when Masvidal fought just once in a calendar year, including twice for the title against Usman, only to drop a trio of one-sided losses on pay-per-view? At 38, Masvidal still packs a puncher’s punch and a huge following as a street icon and antihero. He will also fight in his hometown of Miami as an underweight against veteran Gilbert Burns. Even though UFC president Dana White has already said that Colby Covington will take the next shot at Edwards’ 170-pound title, we have to wonder if Masvidal could cut the line – especially given how angry the UFC fans believe Covington was picked ahead of Belal. Muhammad — should he pull the trigger against Burns. Remember, Masvidal’s catchphrase of “three pieces and a soda” went viral in 2019 after Darren Till attacked Edwards backstage in London. Now that Edwards is the champion, Masvidal appears to have one last shot at fighting for gold. It’s not a very good look, though, mainly because of Burns’ ferocious skills and control. Whatever lightning in a bottle Masvidal was caught three years ago, the jury is still out on whether he still has any of that left. The bigger truth is that age seems to have caught up with Masvidal, who is just 7-8 inside the Octagon since 2014.

5. Clear the way for the UFC’s teenage bantamweight sensation

The UFC has never been shy about rushing a young prospect with a seemingly bright future straight into high-level contention to run the hot hand as far as it will go. It’s far from an exact science – Sage Northcutt and Paige VanZant, anyone? – but the surface often rises to the top, even if a fighter’s lack of experience often stunts their long-term growth by losing tough early fights. Look no further than current middleweights Khamzat Chimaev and Bo Nickal to see how much fun it can be for fans to enter each matchup unsure of whether the next big thing is really ready But so far, bantamweight Raul Rosas Jr. has been looking like he belongs. Rosas was only 17 when he won a UFC contract in 2022 on Dana White’s “Contender Series” and won his UFC debut in December via first-round submission. The 18-year-old Rosas will take on 8-1 Christian Rodriguez, a 25-year-old who split his pair of Octagon appearances in 2022. This should give fans and punters an updated picture of where Rosas stands and how clear. he may have a future.

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