Israel Adesanya sought a quick rematch after losing to Alex Pereira in November cost him the 185-pound championship crown that he had held since 2019.
Five months later, early on Sunday at UFC 287 in Miami, Adesanya used two right hands to knock out middleweight champion Pereira. He then raised his hands in celebration as he reclaimed the title and solidified his place among the sport’s all-time greats.
I hope that every person in this room or behind the screen can experience this level of joy just once in their lives, Adesanya said. However, if you don’t try, you’ll never experience this level of happiness.
In the second round, Pereira (7-2) delivered a knee that forced Adesanya (24-2) into the cage. At 4:21, Adesanya finished the fight by coming off the cage with two right hooks, a right hammer fist, and ground and pound.
Adesanya was a match that 35-year-old Pereira had never lost. Before defeating Adesanya twice in kickboxing to win the welterweight title at UFC 281 in November, Pereira had won two kickboxing matches.
Adesanya, who was raised in New Zealand but was born in Nigeria, joined the UFC in 2018 and won the middleweight championship in 2019 by stunningly knocking out Robert Whittaker.
He was able to successfully defend his title five times as he rose to prominence in the sport. As the challenger on Saturday, he was in uncharted territory.
Retaliation is supposedly sweet, Adesanya said. “And if you know me, you know I love sweets.”