Israel Adesanya finally got the better of his arch-nemesis Alex Pereira, reclaiming the middleweight world championship in the main event of UFC 287 at the Miami-Dade Arena on Sunday morning.
The Nigerian-born fighter lost twice to Pereira in his kick-boxing career and ceded his UFC middleweight belt to the Brazilian when they met again in MMA in November last year.
But this time around ‘The Last Stylebender’ claimed a spectacular second-round knockout to get the better of ‘Poatan’ for the fourth time asking.
Both men were conservative in the first round, with Adesanya the more proactive, though Pereira enjoyed success by landing calf kicks.
That tactic seemed to be paying dividends late in the second round when Adesanya’s right leg buckled somewhat and he backed up to the fence, covering up as Pereira moved in for what he thought would be a fight-ending flurry of strikes.
Instead, Adesanya fired back with a brutal right which rocked Pereira; a second right sent him to the canvas; and a spiteful hammer fist on the ground ended the fight before the referee could intervene.
“I hope every one of you behind the screens and in the arena can feel this level of happiness just one time in your life,” said Adesanya in his post-fight interview.
“I hope all of you can feel how f*****happy I am, just one time in your life. But guess what? You’ll never feel this level of happiness if you don’t go for something in your own life... when they knock you down, when they try and s*** on you, when they talk s*** about you, and they try and put their foot on your neck.
"If you stay down, you will never get that resolve. Fortify your mind and feel that level of happiness as you rise, one time in your life.”
The co-main event brought to a close the professional career of Jorge Masvidal, an MMA legend and former ‘BMF’ championship holder, who was beaten in a unanimous decision by Gilbert Burns.
While the victor called out division champion Leon Edwards and Colby Covington, ‘Gamebred’ bid farewell to the sport in his own style:
“This is where I started my career. It's been 20-something years, 50-something fights. Sometimes your favourite basketball player ain't got that three-pointer no more. Your favourite quarterback loses that rifle,” said the 38-year-old.
He added, “I love everybody. I love this f****** sport. I'm a multi-millionaire, I didn't start from s***. I didn't have s*** when I started and I can say I'm good for life now."
The main card also featured a first-round TKO round for Rob Font over Adrian Yanez in the bantamweight division; Kevin Holland knocked out Santiago Ponzinibbio in the third round of their welterweight clash; and Christian Rodriguez outpointed Paul Rosas Jr in a catchweight (137 lb) opener.
The next UFC event is a Fight Night at the T-Mobile Centre in Kansas, Missouri, on the morning of Sunday 16 April, headlined by a featherweight fight between Max Holloway and Arnold Allen.