We’re mere weeks away from one of the biggest UFC events of the year: UFC 287 in Miami, Florida. The big pay-per-view fight card, being held at the Miami-Dade Arena, is headlined by some massive fights.
Raul Rosas Jr., the up-and-coming 18-year-old from Clovis, New Mexico, will be taking on Christian Rodriquez in a bantamweight bout to begin the main card of the evening. Followed by that is Kevin Holland against Santiago Ponzinibbio in a welterweight matchup. The third fight of the card is Rob Font vs. Adrian Yanez in a bantamweight bout. The penultimate fight is Gilbert Burns vs. Miami-native Jorge Masvidal.
But the biggest fight of the evening, by far, is the main event. Brazilian kickboxer Alex Pereira is set to defend his belt against the man he took it from last November Israel Adesanya. The battle for the UFC Middleweight Championship is one of the biggest rematches in UFC history and could shock the world just like the first outing.
Israel Adesanya previously held the middleweight belt for over three years. During his reign, he tore through the best the division had to offer while defending his belt in impressive fashion. However, “The Last Stylebender” was often criticized by fans for his somewhat boring approach to fighting.
Adesanya’s style is very conservative. Though he possesses high-level kickboxing ability, he wins fights by keeping his opponents at a distance while dealing enough damage to lower their confidence. This fighting style does not translate to the most spectacular television; however, it earned Adesanya a dominant reign in the middleweight division.
Alex Pereira entered his bout for the middleweight belt against Adesanya in November as a true threat to his reign. In 2016, in a kickboxing league called GLORY, “Poatan” knocked out Adesanya cold, who struggled to immediately regain consciousness. This resulted in Adesanya requiring an oxygen mask. It was the only time he’s ever been truly devastated by an opponent in his career.
In last November’s title bout, the threat of Pereira’s power was clear. Adesanya wanted to play his normal game even more so because he couldn’t allow Pereira to become a threat up close.
This approach was largely effective until the fifth and final round. Pereira began the championship round with incredible aggressiveness. He immediately put the pressure on Adesanya, forcing the champ to do nothing except defend his ruthless striking. Eventually Pereira was able to break through Adesanya’s guard and deliver heavily-damaging strikes to the head, resulting in a stoppage and Pereira with the middleweight crown.
Some believe it was an early stoppage, as Adesanya wasn’t completely unconscious and still standing. There’s a legitimate argument to be made here, as someone with the resume of Adesanya should have earned the right to stay in the fight in those moments.
Nonetheless, Alex Pereira is the champion. But Izzy wants the belt back, and he may be more aggressive in his approach than ever before.