UFC 287: 'Revenge is sweet' for Adesanya after reclaiming title with brutal KO of Pereira

Nigerian-born New Zealander stops Brazilian champion in the second round at Kaseya Center in Miami

MIAMI, FLORIDA - APRIL 08: Israel Adesanya of Nigeria celebrates after knocking out Alex Pereira of Brazil in round 2 to reclaim the middleweight title during UFC 287 at Kaseya Center on April 08, 2023 in Miami, Florida.    Carmen Mandato / Getty Images / AFP (Photo by Carmen Mandato  /  GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA  /  Getty Images via AFP)
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Israel Adesanya reclaimed the UFC's middleweight title with a sensational stoppage of long-time foe Alex Pereira in the headline bout at UFC 287.

Adesanya lost his title to Pereira last November in what was the Nigerian-born New Zealander's first defeat in the UFC in 12 middleweight fights. It was Adesanya's third straight defeat to the Brazilian across all disciplines, having twice lost to Pereira during their kickboxing days.

Five months later at UFC 287 in Miami early Sunday, Adesanya dropped the champion Pereira with two right hands, then raised his fists in triumph as he took back his belt and cemented his legacy as one of the greatest fighters in the sport’s history.

“I hope every one of you behind the screen or in this arena can feel this level of happiness just one time in your life,” Adesanya said. “But guess what, you’ll never feel this level of happiness if you don’t go for something.”

Pereira (7-2) landed a knee that pushed Adesanya (24-2) into the cage in the second round. Adesanya came off the cage with two right hooks and a right hammer fist, followed by ground and pound to end the fight at 4:21.

The 35-year-old Pereira had never lost to Adesanya. Before he scored a TKO win for the welterweight belt in UFC 281 in November, Pereira defeated Adesanya twice in kick boxing.

Adesanya, born in Nigeria but raised in New Zealand, entered the UFC in 2018 and won the middleweight belt a year later when he beat then-champion Robert Whittaker in a stunning knockout.

He successfully defended his title five times as he became one of the sport’s main draws. He was in unfamiliar territory Saturday as the challenger.

“They say revenge is sweet,” Adesanya said. “And if you know me, I’ve got a sweet tooth.”

Masvidal hints at retirement

Fighting in his hometown as the UFC returned to Miami for the first time in 20 years, Jorge Masvidal (35-17) lost a unanimous decision to fifth-ranked welterweight contender Gilbert Burns (22-5).

Burns hurt Masvidal with a series of head shots, and Masvidal appeared winded as the fight went on. Afterward, Burns paid respect to the veteran Masvidal.

“We’re here because of this guy, 52 pro fights,” Burns said to the crowd, which chanted “Let’s go Jorge” throughout. “Give it up for your guy.”

Masvidal, who turns 39 in November, entered the match on a three-fight losing streak having lost back-to-back title challenges to Kamaru Usman and a unanimous decision to longtime rival Colby Covington.

Masvidal appeared to retire from the sport after the loss.

“It’s been a long 20 years, 50-something fights,” said Masvidal, who entered the UFC in 2013. “Sometimes your favourite basketball player doesn’t have that three-pointer no more. Your favourite quarterback loses that rifle. And I don’t feel the same when I get in here.”

Updated: April 09, 2023, 6:10 AM