Rising middleweight star and newly-crowned division king Alex Pereira defeated longtime champion Israel “The Last Stylebender” Adesanya in a shocking TKO in the fifth round of an explosive battle at UFC 281 between the two former kickboxing rivals.
“The fifth round, I was up,” Stylebender told Megan Olivi in an ESPN interview after the fight. “He hurt my peroneal nerve, so that’s why my footwork wasn’t as sharp as I wanted it to be, so I was trying to find ways to get off the fence, but my feet – my left foot – kept on dragging. And that’s why I tripped that one time as well – it was really annoying, but it is what it is. I’m still here. I’m not leaving.”
The two kickboxers also spent an unusual amount of time grappling, with both finishing takedowns on each other in different rounds. “He took me down at one point, at the end of the round, but then I took him down in the third round, and drained his enthusiasm.” Adesanya explained to Olivi. “But I’ll give him one thing: he knows how to recover.”
Stylebender is interested in a rematch with Pereira, but also told ESPN that he’d need to confer with his coaches and management before setting anything in stone.
UFC 281’s main card was an explosive ordeal, showcasing finishes in all five of its fights: three by knockout, and two by submission. China’s Zhang Weili reclaimed her spot at the top of the women’s strawweight division, when she secured a rear naked choke off what appeared to be a modified crucifix against wrestling specialist and now-former champ Carla Esparza.
Former interim lightweight champ Dustin Poirier also had a very good night, recovering from an early bloodbath of a boxing exchange with Michael Chandler to lock in a rear naked choke to finish the former Bellator champ in Round 3. Chris Guttierez, meanwhile, continued his win streak by knocking out Franke Edgar with a vicious knee two minutes into Round 1. Finally, New Zealand’s City Kickboxing star Dan Hooker recovered from consecutive losses in his previous fights to defeat rising kneebar king Claudio Puelles with a body kick TKO in Round 2.
Full Main Card Results
Alex Pereira def. Israel Adesanya (TKO, Round 5)
Zhang Weili def. Carla Esparza (Submission, Round 2)
Dustin Poirier def. Michael Chandler (Submission, Round 3)
Chris Guttierez def. Frankie Edgar (KO, Round 1)
Dan Hooker def. Claudio Puelles (TKO, Round 2)