Alex Pereira an MMA unicorn after UFC 281 win vs. Israel Adesanya

Alex Pereira an MMA unicorn after UFC 281 win vs. Israel Adesanya

Again in 1993, Final Preventing Championship pitted 16 males of various martial arts disciplines towards each other to resolve which model — and which martial artist — reigned supreme.

That evening, Brazilian jiu-jitsu and Royce Gracie emerged as forces within the martial arts world.

Through the years, one self-discipline or one other would have its day within the solar. Slowly, the kinds and practitioners adjusted to 1 one other, till they appeared much less like specializations and specialists.

You would possibly even say the martial arts … blended. And increasingly more of those fighters, over time, got here into the game with a mode finest described as abbreviated MMA, with proficiency in a bunch of fight situations. Specialists had been a dying breed — particularly in the event that they weren’t achieved wrestlers.

Don’t inform Alex Pereira he’s a specialist; he doesn’t see himself that approach. However the former world champion kickboxer simply added world champion blended martial artist to his bevy of distinctions, solely eight fights into his run on this new sport. That’s fairly uncommon in trendy MMA.

“I’m positively an MMA fighter,” Pereira, by an interpreter, informed reporters hours after claiming the UFC middleweight title Saturday evening, making the excellence that he’s not merely a kickboxer who’s competing on this sport. “I’ve been coaching quite a lot of MMA. I’ve received the weapons of an MMA fighter. I’m in love with the sport, and I like coaching MMA.”

Pereira capped his meteoric rise with an emphatic TKO victory over his previous kickboxing rival Israel Adesanya, the now-former holder of the belt, within the wee hours of Sunday morning — 29 years and about 60 minutes after UFC turned a factor — in entrance of 20,845 at Madison Sq. Backyard within the headliner of the breathtaking UFC 281 struggle evening.

Alex Pereira will get his hand raised after defeating Israel Adesanya for the middleweight title throughout UFC 281 at Madison Sq. Backyard on Nov. 12, 2022.Zuffa LLC by way of Getty Photos

Give the brand new champ his flowers: Pereira confirmed in New York — the scene of his UFC debut 12 months in the past — that he’s received a number of non-striking methods up his sleeve. He punctuated spherical two — the one stanza he received on the judges’ scorecards earlier than the final-round end — with a takedown. This, after every week of each males denying they’d be the one to convey it to the ground, in need of a knockdown.

“That was a part of the unique plan, to take him down and shock him, like a shock issue,” Pereira stated, “and make him confused with the wrestling within the different rounds.”

Pereira later discovered his approach out of a foul state of affairs on the mat within the third after Adesanya – who dwarfs his rivals’ logged time within the cage and had arrived within the UFC 11-0 in MMA. Clearly, “specialist” comes with caveats, and never simply because he says so.

“I believe what it exhibits is what unimaginable athletes they each are,” UFC president Dana White informed reporters in regards to the thought of specialists like Pereira reaching the head of his promotion. “To be that dominant in kickboxing and that good, after which come over right here, study every part else, and then you definitely two find yourself dealing with one another once more over right here; fairly loopy.”

However Pereira received the job performed the one approach anybody really anticipated him to: stopping Adesanya along with his heavy-hitting kickboxing arsenal. Adesanya informed reporters the calf kicks added up, paying dividends by the ultimate body as his footwork fell aside. Pereira tagged his foe with a brief proper hook, killer intuition took over, and “Poatan” stored Adesanya on wobbly legs till the referee had seen sufficient. Don’t purchase any “early stoppage” narratives; this struggle was over, or simply about to be approach worse.

Alex Pereira (r.) kicks Israel Adesanya throughout their UFC 281 struggle at Madison Sq. Backyard on Nov. 12, 2022.Getty Photos

Pereira is a unicorn. It takes a particular set of circumstances for an athlete who’s competed simply 4 occasions in MMA — solely one in all them occurring within the final six years — to march into the premier proving floor in blended martial arts and attain the apex inside a 12 months, inside 4 extra fights. All events — the UFC, Pereira, and Adesanya — overtly acknowledge Pereira’s path to the highest was paved by their rivalry in kickboxing, the truth that Adesanya’s dominance had cleared out all different credible challengers, and Pereira beating the one different man who made sense subsequent for the erstwhile champion.

As rapidly as he arrived at this level earlier than the eyes of the lots, Pereira professed how a lot his kickboxing coaching — in relative obscurity, in comparison with the extra mainstream UFC — was setting the stage for his second within the highlight.

“Every little thing I received was to get up to now proper right here,” Pereira stated. “It was quick, and on the similar time, it was not as a result of it’s [been] 14 years that I’m on this sport [combat sports]. Every little thing I conquered in kickboxing and every part else was to work on my purpose to get right here right now.”

Will Pereira should show himself towards Adesanya once more? Straight away? He simply would possibly. Once more, Adesanya had lapped the division. He was additionally up 39-37 on all three scorecards earlier than Pereira’s nook gassed the challenger as much as pursue the end and keep away from the playing cards. Adesanya is also probably the most bankable star within the division by a large margin. Shock! {Dollars} make sense within the struggle sport.

Let’s say that occurs. If the Brazilian passes the Izzy Check for the fourth time, finest imagine Pereira’s second title protection and first (presumably) towards a contemporary opponent will possess a extra well-rounded sport than Adesanya, who has at all times received because of his superlative hanging arsenal and skill to maintain the struggle the place he likes it.

Future fights might check the brand new champion’s blended martial arts mettle — and he’ll check their chins hanging acumen proper again. However, at the very least for now, Pereira is a throwback champion 29 years within the making — or as a lot of 1 as we’ll get today.

About Muji Sakawari

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