UFC 276: Israel Adesanya sets up Alex Pereira rematch with decision win over Jared Cannonier
- Adesanya defends middleweight title with a tactical unanimous decision victory in Las Vegas main event
- Next title shot will most likely go to Brazilian kickboxer Alex Pereira, who knocked out Sean Strickland earlier on the main card
Israel Adesanya is still the UFC middleweight champion – but now faces a looming showdown against his great nemesis, Alex Pereira
The Nigerian-born New Zealander returned to the Octagon in the main event of the stacked UFC 276 card on Saturday night in Las Vegas, Nevada, taking on American knockout artist Jared Cannonier.
It was not the most dazzling performance of his career, but the champion ultimately defended his title with a workmanlike unanimous decision.
Watching cage-side was Brazilian knockout artist Pereira – who remains the only man to knock “The Last Stylebender” out, in their Glory Kickboxing days, and who flattened No 4-ranked Sean Strickland earlier in the evening at T-Mobile Arena.
“They had an excellent game plan,” Adesanya said in his post-fight interview with commentator Joe Rogan, tipping his hat to Cannonier and his team. “It was really hard to get my follow-ups going.”
Adesanya (23-1) had his best success with his light-speed jab and his leg kicks, and masterfully controlled the range of the fight to avoid the challenger’s power shots.
Cannonier (15-6) had some success, most notably in the third round, but simply could not find the champion in the cage and failed to implement his wrestling has a backup plan.
Pereira will be hoping he can replicate his kickboxing success over Adesanya, after a first-round knockout win over American Strickland – the product of a left hook that commentator Joe Rogan called “perfect”.
“We had a strong strategy,” the 34-year-old said in his post-fight interview with Rogan, noting that he used leg kicks and body shots to set up his fight-ending punch.
Pereira (6-1) holds two kickboxing wins over Adesanya – a decision as well as that devastating knockout.
After Adesanya defended his title against Cannonier in the UFC 276 main event, all signs now point to a third fight between the pair in the Octagon.
It is an opportunity Pereira feels he has earned.
“Many people talk about my two wins over Adesanya,” he said. “Today I just defeated the No 4 in the rankings so I know I earned it.”
And Adesanya, for his part, seems ready to give the Brazilian the opportunity.
“The first time I told you it was an error,” he said. “Next time I put you on skates, you’re going to get frozen like Elsa.”