In a violent sport outlined by the antics of a ton of outlandish weirdos, Alex Pereira’s demeanor stands out. The Brazilian fighter maintains an aura of eerie calm always, whether or not he’s knocking out former Nazis, enduring cringy banter, or celebrating a giant win. He appears genuinely unshakeable. A Pereira smile is noteworthy. The opposite factor that stands out about Pereira, in fact, is his vicious left hook, the punch he used to knock out Israel Adesanya on Saturday at UFC 281 and change into probably the most sudden champion on the roster.
Pereira grew up very poor in Brazil, which pressured him to go work in an auto store at age 12, the place he began ingesting and developed extreme alcoholism as a teen. His life rotated as soon as he began kickboxing, which introduced him monetary stability, worldwide acclaim, but additionally a connection to his roots, as his fitness center was principally populated by different fighters with indigenous heritage. His nickname, Po Atan, roughly interprets to Stone Hand in his native Tupi language.
After 40 kickboxing fights, Pereira acquired into MMA, becoming a member of the UFC in Nov. 2021. He gained the middleweight title in solely his eighth skilled MMA combat, and he did so towards a battle-tested opponent who had gained seven fights for the middleweight belt, along with 16 different ones. Israel Adesanya was the longest-reigning males’s champion within the UFC, and he stepped into the octagon towards Pereira with an ideal 23-0 file towards middleweight opposition. Pereira had solely spent a bit over three rounds within the UFC octagon earlier than his title shot, and none of his earlier opponents have been wherever close to pretty much as good as Adesanya.
All of this may level to UFC 281’s primary occasion being a horrible mismatch, however for the historical past between Pereira and Adesanya. The 2 males have been elite kickboxers on the identical time, and Pereira beat Adesanya twice. The Brazilian gained a detailed (maybe even doubtful) determination in 2016, then one 12 months later, ended Adesanya’s kickboxing profession with a knockout. Till this previous Saturday, that was the one time Adesanya had ever been completed in any fight sport, throughout 104 skilled fights, holding a 98-4 file towards everybody apart from Pereira and an 0-2 file towards the Brazilian. Naturally, Pereira’s 2017 knockout was additionally with the left hook.
Their conflict at UFC 281 adopted the identical narrative arc as their second kickboxing match. Adesanya was cruising to a call after spending 4 rounds touchdown pictures, sometimes wobbling Pereira, and usually wanting comfy profitable alternate after alternate together with his opponent. All three judges had Adesanya forward, 39-37, after the fourth spherical. Heading into the fifth spherical, Pereira’s coaches have been blunt with him: No end, no win.
“I mentioned, ‘Do I have to knock him out?’” Pereira said through an interpreter. “Glover said, ‘You do have to knock him out.’ I mentioned, ‘OK, let’s do it.’”
Any fifth-round knockout is definitionally spectacular, particularly when somebody as inexperienced as Pereira KOs somebody as skilled as Adesanya. His title-winning second was an all-timer, and all that’s left is for Adesanya to show to skilled boxing, win a title, then watch as Pereira dutifully follows him to his new sport to say his title with a left-hook knockout.