Alex Pereira beats Israel’s Adesanya with TKO for UFC title

NEW YORK — Alex Pereira has the number Israel Adesanya in kickboxing. He also has it in mixed martial arts.

Pereira was the only one to knock down Adesanya, stopping him again via TKO at 2:1 of the fifth and final round during Saturday night’s UFC 281 main event at Madison Square Garden. With the victory, Pereira won the UFC middleweight title in her fourth fight with the promotion. Adesanya has been the champion since 2019.

Adesanya kept winning the fight until the final episode, when Pereira slammed into the cage with a barrage of punches and kicks. Referee Mark Goddard stepped in to stop it after a string of left uppercuts and right hands.

Adesanya led 39-37 on the scorecards of all three judges heading into the fifth round.

The pair have fought twice in kickboxing before, with Pereira winning both times, most recently knocking out Adesanya in 2017.

Coming in, ESPN had Adesanya at No. 1. 2 on its pound-for-pound list of the best MMA fighters. At middleweight, Adesanya ranks first. 1, Pereira ranked first. 7.

Pereira (7-1) won the title by knocking out Sean Strickland in the first round at UFC 276 in July. The Brazilian slugger has six KO/TKOs in seven professional MMA victories and a 4-0 record in the UFC. Pereira, 35, is a former Glory Taekwondo middleweight and light heavyweight champion.

Adesanya (23-2) has won three straight and is undefeated at middleweight entering the bout. Before that, his only career loss was in last year’s light heavyweight title fight with Jan Blajovic. The Nigerian-born New Zealand resident defended his middleweight title after winning the belt over Robert Whittaker in October 2019. Adesanya, 33, won by unanimous decision over Jared Cannonier at UFC 276 in July.

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