Israel Adesanya’s UFC 281 KO Loss Also Knocked Out A Leader Of African-Born UFC Champions

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Israel, “The Last Stylebender” Adesanya, took on Alex Pereira last night at UFC 281 and wanted severely to avenge his two kickboxing losses to the Brazilian. Not only would that not be, but Pereira would repeat the knockout he achieved over Adesanya in 2017, setting up a fifth-round onslaught with a left hook.

The UFC went from having three African champions to only one in Francis Ngannou.

In only eight mixed martial arts fights, with four in the UFC, the man known as “Poatan,” which ‘Po’ in his native language stands for hand, and ‘Atan’ means stone-like, is now the UFC middleweight champion of the world.

“I said, ‘Do I have to knock him out?'” Pereira said of his corner conversation during the fight with his coach and former UFC light heavyweight champion, Glover Teixeira. “Glover said, ‘You do have to knock him out.’ I said, ‘OK, let’s do it.'”

It was a dramatic turn of events that showcased the resilience of Pereira, who was losing the fight on the cards at that point. The three judges scoring the event live from Madison Square Garden all had Adesanya ahead 39-37 going into the fifth round, with Adesanya only losing the second round. The history of their second kickboxing match veritably mimicked itself, with Adesanya dominant in the first two stanzas before being knocked out in the last round, only this time, instead of the third, it was the fifth round.

“It’s another great story for him, but it’s not over,” Adesanya said. “This is still war. F**king crazy, isn’t it? Similar to the last time; same story.”

For Adesanya, the fight was to remain the torchbearer of the African movement within the UFC system and mixed martial arts. In 2019, Adesanya and Kamaru “The Nigerian Nightmare” Usman became African-born UFC champions; both Nigerian. In two years, they would be joined by Francis “The Predator” Ngannou, a native of Cameroon.

Usman lost his title in August to Jamaican-born Brit Leon “Rocky” Edwards at UFC 278. Adesanya was on a roll, looking to supplant former champion Anderson Silva’s middleweight greatness with his legacy. He’d won three fights straight and was undefeated in the division, having his only career loss with a title shot against Jan Blachowicz. Adesanya had five successful middleweight title defenses and was fresh off a unanimous decision win over Jared Cannonier at UFC 276 in July.

In 2022, Adesanya and Usman lost their titles in the fifth round as they were about to win their fights.

Now Adesanya looks to avenge the loss and start a new chapter as a former champion looking for athletic redemption. UFC president Dana White didn’t rule out giving him an immediate rematch, and Adesanya said he is expecting one.

“(Adesanya) wanted this fight,” White said during the post-fight news conference. “A lot of people talk publicly, and it’s a whole different story behind the scenes. That guy is an absolute stud. He always wants to stay active.

“In a fight that most guys would stall, ‘Give me more time. Give me this, that,’ he dove right into this fight. His only loss was when he tried to move up in weight to 205. You’ve got to respect him as champ and what he’s done. I wouldn’t rule [an immediate rematch] out. He’s been a great champion for us. He likes to fight all the time. He doesn’t say no. He’ll fight anybody. Those are fun guys to have. And he’s a good person.”

Rhett Butler is a Boxing Writer Association of America Journalist, Play-By-Play Commentator, Combat Sports Insider, and Former Mixed Martial Arts and Boxing Promoter. The New York City native honed his skills at various news outlets including but not limited to: TIME Magazine, Money Magazine, CNN's Wolf Blitzer Reports, and more. RhettĀ hosts the PRITTY Left Hook podcast, a polarizing combat sports insider's take featuring the world's biggest names.