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UFC 281: Can Israel Adesanya beat Alex Pereira this time around?

Israel Adesanya vs Alex Pereira

Israel Adesanya (23-1), the undisputed UFC middleweight champion of the world, looks to retain his belt against former rival and now UFC star Alex Periera (6-1).  

Madison Square Garden, which has hosted historical fights like Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier and Conor McGregor vs. Eddie Alvarez, welcomes both these men on Saturday, Nov. 12, for UFC 281. 

For “The Last Stylebender” and the 35-year-old nicknamed “Poatan,” this Saturday will be the third time both men stand across from each other in hand-to-hand combat.  

In their first bout, despite being outstruck, Pereira landed the more damaging shots in the judge’s eyes, earning the controversial win. Adesanya has gone on record several times calling out his peers for not watching the first fight between the two: 

“Who’s actually seen the whole fight? Hands up… That’s one, two, three people, four, five. In a room full of how many? Exactly, you’re journalists, do your f*cking job,” Adesanya said at

Adesanya said at UFC 276 media day

 “I f*cked this guy up in the first fight. Not crazy, but the judges gave it to him. Second fight, I had him on skates, and I made a [bad] judgment call, an error on my part,” Adesanya added.  

What happened the second time around?

The “error” Adesanya is referring to is in his second matchup versus the two-time Glory Kickboxing world champion. Adesanya stepped into Pereira’s backyard in the rematch and fought him in Brazil.  

In the opening rounds, the 33-year-old superstar came out aggressive and pressured Pereira against the ropes – almost getting a stoppage in the second round.  

Unfortunately, Pereira weathered the storm and delivered a devastating left hook – leaving Adesanya unconscious in the middle of the ring. Pereira has been the only man to knockout “Izzy,” proving this matchup will be one you cannot miss.  

Transitioning into the UFC

That loss was Adesanya’s last kickboxing match. He would transition into mixed martial arts – later making his UFC debut in 2018. He proved his skillset was well suited for MMA, taking him only five fights in the organization before touching gold. 

During Adesanya’s quick rise to stardom, people talked about the chances of him possibly facing Pereira in a different sport: 

“After my UFC debut, he put a contract up [acting] like he’s coming to the UFC. I’m like, ‘alright, make your way up,’ I’ll f***k [Alex] up, 100 percent,”

Adesanya told The Joe Rogan Experience in 2019. 

Three years later, Adesanya can now avenge both losses in “The World’s Most Famous Arena.” 

Pereira signs with the UFC

Since joining the UFC in 2021, Pereira has been on a three-fight win streak. His most recent victory came by first-round knockout over Sean Strickland (25-4), the No. 4 ranked middleweight at the time.  

Since knocking off Strickland, Pereira is the only man Adesanya hasn’t cleared out in the middleweight division. Both men feel noticeably confident heading into this matchup. For Pereira, it is something he feels he can do for the third time. 

Pereira begins trash talk

“I will do my work and job like I would if I was fighting anyone else. I just focus on fighting for the title. …. I don’t know how [Adesanya] would possibly be over that [knockout]. It’s still in [Adesanya’s] mind,” Pereira said at UFC 281 media day

The trash talk didn’t just start for Pereira – he has been very vocal on social media, constantly poking fun at Adesanya for his training methods. 

How has Adesanya responded to his foe?

Meanwhile, the middleweight Champion has paid no attention to Pereira’s online antics.  

“You see Pereira. He’s been doing it all week, [actually] weeks he has been trying to [poke at me]. He has bragging rights; he can talk s**t. Let him talk s**t; I’m not going to react. But I will respond, and I will respond violently,”

Adesanya told Morning Kombat

Adesanya believes he’s the sole reason Pereira is given this opportunity. “We’re on a level where he is only here because of me. There’s no reason he should be here,” Adesanya said.  

“He [Pereira] is blessed. He’s building his career off [of] my back. So, I want to send him back… This [fight] will be the best [title defense] yet,”

Adesanya added

How to watch

Whichever side you favor heading into Saturday night, we can expect fireworks. Many questions will be answered, will Adesanya finally gain revenge? Or will Pereira prove he is the “boogeyman” of the division? 

UFC 281 is live from “The Garden” in New York City this Saturday. The card is also available on ESPN+ (6 p.m. ET Prelims | 10 p.m. ET Main Card ESPN+ PPV).