Alex Pereira has become the new UFC middleweight champion, claiming a fifth-round TKO win over Nigerian-born Israel Adesanya in the main event at the iconic Madison Square Garden in New York on Sunday morning.
The Last Stylebender had mounted five successful defences since unifying the middleweight title more than three years ago, but he was simply blitzed by Pereira – who had notably beaten Adesanya twice in their kick-boxing careers – in the fifth round to see his reign come to an end.
Pereira appeared to end the first round stronger with some body shots in a clinch on the fence, but Adesanya rocked the challenger with a right hand to the ear, followed by a devastating left hook which landed just after the buzzer sounded.
Pereira recovered well and took the second round thanks to some outstanding jabs, an impressive head-kick and a takedown seconds before the end, while the third was dominated by Adesanya, who scored his first career takedown, controlled his opponent’s right wrist and enjoyed significant control time in top position.
The fourth was more evenly matched, with Pereira recovering from looking visibly tired to land some fine blows, and the Brazilian carried that momentum into the final round and just short of two minutes in landed a huge left hook that wobbled Adesanya and opened up the defences for a home to continue raining blows before the fight was called to a halt by the referee.
“It was written,” said Pereira in his post-fight interview with commentator Joe Rogan. He added, “It was a very hard fight, but like Glover [Teixeira] said, I’ve been fighting every day of my life.”
In the co-main event, Zhang Weili reclaimed the women’s strawweight championship with a submission win over Carla Esparza. The pair exchanged fairly evenly in the opening round, while the second lasted just over a minute: Esparza shot for a takedown and managed to get Weili off her feet, with the challenger lying at the bottom after a scramble before laying in a modified arm-trapping rear-naked choke.
The main card also featured wins for Dan Hooker over Claudio Puelles in the lightweight division and Chris Gutierrez over Frankie Edgar in the bantamweight division, while Dustin Poirier put himself back on track to possibly become a lightweight championship contender again with a submission win over Michael Chandler.
The next UFC event is a Fight Night at the APEX Facility in Las Vegas on the morning of Sunday 20 November, headlined by a heavyweight clash between Derrick Lewis and Sergey Spivak.