Middleweight king Alex Pereira has done the unthinkable, knocking Israel Adesanya out in a stunning UFC boilover.
Before the fifth round of a gruelling fight, Pereira’s team told him he needed a knockout and the Brazilian delivered spectacularly.
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Entering the fight, the news was all about how back in their kickboxing days, Pereira was the only man who had knocked the champion out — now he’s done it twice. And beaten him three times.
“Pandemonium at Madison Square Garden,” Jon Anik said in commentary.
Pereira hoped to stun Adesanya from the opening bell, running at the Kiwi with a kick, which was dodged.
Adesanya had more or less cleared out the division so the victory will now open up the middleweight division which Adesanya has dominated since he won it off Aussie Robert Whittaker back in UFC 243.
Pereira showed his intention from the start.
Adesanya landed the better of the early blows but Pereira fought back. That was until the final moments of the first round, which left the challenger wobbly following a monster right hand, followed by a big left on the buzzer.
Pereira came out strong in the second round, seemingly stunning the champ and forcing it into clinches.
In the third, Adesanya got it onto the ground for the first time in his career and it appeared to sap the energy of the Brazilian.
After a slower fourth round, Pereira had regained his energy, delivering a flurry of punches which saw Adesanya defeated at middleweight for the first time in his UFC career.
“I feel so good, I’ve been training all my life for this,” Pereira said of the win.
As soon as the fight had finished however, calls immediately began for a rematch.
Adesanya was on top of the fight until he was KO’ed, having lead 3-1 on all three cards before the final round.
MMA reporter Ben Kiely posted: “Alex Pereira just shook up the UFC middleweight division. I am very excited about the opportunities this result will bring.”
UFC fighter Charles Rosa wrote: “Wow that was insane”.
Former UFC champion Henry Cejudo tweeted: “Respect to both @stylebender and Alex Pereira. What makes MMA such a beautiful game is a fight ain’t over til it’s over! Can’t wait to see the quadrilogy!”
UFC 281 Main Card live results
Alex Pereira defeated Israel Adesanya via TKO (punches) – Round 5, 2:01 – for middleweight title
Zhang Weili defeated Carla Esparza via submission (rear-naked choke) – Round 2, 1:05 – for women’s strawweight title
Dustin Poirier defeated Michael Chandler via submission (rear-naked choke) – Round 3, 2:00
Chris Gutierrez defeated Frankie Edgar via KO (knee) — Round 1, 2:01
Dan Hooker defeated Claudio Puelles via TKO (kick to the body) — Round 2, 4:06
Renato Moicano defeated Brad Riddell via submission (rear-naked choke) – Round 1, 3:20
Ryan Spann defeated Dominick Reyes via knockout (punch) – Round 1, 1:20
Erin Blanchfield defeated Molly McCann via submission (kimura) – Round 1, 3:37
Andre Petroski defeated Wellington Turman via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
Matt Frevola defeated Ottman Azaitar via knockout (punch) – Round 1, 2:30
Karolina Kowalkiewicz defeated Silvana Gomez Juarez via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Michael Trizano defeated Seungwoo Choi via knockout (punches) – Round 1, 4:51
Montel Jackson defeated Julio Arce via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-29)
Carlos Ulberg defeated Nicolae Negumereanu via knockout (punches) – Round 1, 3:44
‘And new’: Stunning scenes as new champ crowned
Zhang Weili is the new women’s strawweight champion after a huge win over Carla Esparza to claim the title for the second time.
Weili last held the belt three years ago and she reclaimed the silverware with a second round rear-naked choke.
“Today is like a dream come true. Every day and every single night I dream of this moment,” Weili said.
Fans were quick to slam Esparza however, who for the second time was unable to defend her title.
‘Insane’: UFC floored by bloody brutality
Michael Chandler has nothing but entertaining fights with a brilliant battle against Dustin Poirier, despite having lost his third fight in his five UFC fight career.
The first round was an all-time classic with both fighters seemingly rocked during a wild slugfest.
Poirier finished the round the better, having left Chandler a bloodied mess as his nose poured blood.
After a Chandler dominated second round, despite an accusation of an illegal fishhook, Poirier flipped the script and claimed a rear-naked choke submission in the third.
Legend annihilated in ‘devastating’ swan song
Frankie Edgar’s final fight has ended in the most brutal of ways after he was KO’ed by a brutal knee from Chris Gutierrez in the first round.
In his 30th and final UFC fight, fans were hoping the former UFC lightweight champion would go out with one more win but Gutierrez had different plans, jumping up and landing the knee flush on the chin and leaving Edgar out on his back.
Daniel Cormier said: “There are no fairytales in fighting and a vast majority of our heroes go out like that, on their backs. That’s the way it works in fighting and it absolutely sucks.”
It was a bittersweet moment for Gutierrez, who appeared upset the fight had ended like that.
Edgar spoke after the fight and had plenty of love from the fans.
“I love this sport man, I didn’t want to go out like that,” he said. “This sport’s a b***h man. I have my family here, that’s all that matters.”
The crowd chanted his name as he left the octagon in a fitting send off for the champion.
Kiwi kick flips fight on its head
New Zealand’s Dan Hooker had lost four of his last five fights in the UFC heading into UFC 281 but has returned to the winner’s circle in style.
Fighting Claudio Puelles, the Peruvian went for it, getting Hooker in what looked to be a decisive leg lock.
But Hooker bounced back finishing the round on his feet, before landing a brutal body kick on Puelles, leaving the Peruvian barely able to stand and seeing the referee wave off the fight.
‘That is crazy’: Star put to sleep in ‘decapitation’
Ryan Spann has sent shockwaves across the UFC light heavyweight division with a sickening knockout win over Dominick Reyes.
Spann earned his “Superman” nickname on Sunday when he put the former light heavyweight title challenger to sleep.
The KO came out of nowhere with a simple left jab absolutely rocking Reyes in the first round.
The power of Spann’s jab left UFC legend Daniel Cormier lost for words.
“That dude’s got some power man,” he said on ESPN.
“The danger level is so high. That was nasty. This is crazy. Every time he hit Reyes he hurt him. Bryan Spann is a real problem.”
Joe Rogan said: “Oh my goodness. The quickness of that left hook. It was so clean. That is crazy. My goodness he just put him away.”
American sports reporter Brian Campbell described the strike as a “decapitation”.
Spann is ineligible for the $50,000 bonus for performance of the night because he failed to make weight for the fight.
Spann now has 15 first-round finishes and appears to be heading to the top end of the rankings.
‘Unbelievable’: Rogan shook by fiery KO
There have been fireworks on the preliminary undercard in an explosive start to UFC 281.
The New York crowd witnessed three knockouts before the main undercard had even kicked off, headlined by a savage left hand strike by Matt Frevola.
Frevola’s strike wiped out Ottman Azaitar in the first round of their fight.
The “Steam roller” then called out Paddy Pimblett and called for them to throwdown in London.
Frevola did everything he could to earn a bigger fight in his win over Azaitar.
“Unbelievable. That guy does not know what happened. He’s got up and he said, ‘What just happened’”.
Earlier Carlos Ulberg opened the card by knocking out Nicolae Negumereanu.
The Kiwi fighter’s left hand dropped his opponent and he finished it off with a few shots on the ground to claim the Round 1 TKO victory.
“Oh my goodness,” exclaimed Daniel Cormier in commentary, who said the Kiwi has “never looked better” while ESPN commentator Jon Anik described it as a “flawless” performance.
Michael trizano also scored a first round knockout win over Seungwoo Choi.
Aussie officially gets his wish for ‘super fight’
The UFC has announced Alexander Volkanovski will fight Islam Makhachev in a blockbuster showdown to be held in Perth at UFC 284 on February 12.
The Aussie has been campaigning for an opportunity to move up to the lightweight division and fight for Makhachev’s belt.
Makhachev and his coach, UFC legend Khabib Nurmagomedov, called out Volkanovski following the Russian’s win over Charles Oliveira at UFC 280 and the pair shook hands in the octagon, verbally agreeing to fight each other for the lightweight belt.
A fight between Makhachev and Volkanovski is a mouth-watering prospect and victory would ensure the Australian not only attains rare double champ status, but goes down as one of the best fighters the UFC has ever seen.
“I think it’s good for him to cement his name as one of the best,” said New Zealand UFC fighter Brad Riddell about Volkanovski’s move this week.
“Obviously he’s the best featherweight and one of the best featherweights there’ll ever be, and if he can become the ‘champ champ’, only (Conor) McGregor did that from that division.
“He’s going to do something, which is everybody’s goal in this sport, to be unique and do things other people can’t do or struggle to do.”
Riddell is fighting Renato Moicano on the UFC 281 undercard.
Spicy history between Adesanya and Pereira
Pereira has made no secret he has ben gunning for Adesanya ever since the champion fired a shot at him more than two years ago.
Pereira’s history of twice defeating Adesanya in kick-boxing makes the fight personal for Adesanya. It is also very personal for Pereira.
Adesanya said in an interview in 2000: “I’ve never ever watched any of his fights, ever.
“At the end of the day, no one knows who the f*** he is, and he’s going to be that guy when I’m world champion and when I’m a legend, he’s going to be at some pub talking s*** about ‘I beat that guy one time.’”
Adesanya said recently this fight is about his “legacy”.
“Without me, he wouldn’t be here,” he said.
“Without me, he would’ve been exposed a long time ago. I cleared the way.
“I cleared the division, so there was not really anyone else to fight. I cleared the way for him to get to the top.
“It’s personal. This is about me and my legacy.
“This is about rewriting history even though it is history and I never chased this.
“This is about me rewriting a new path in history and just showing people what I can really do, because, again, ya’ll must have forgot.”