1. Israel Adesanya vs. Alex Pereira - UFC 287
An MMA rivalry for the history books, the fabled feud between Israel Adesanya and Alex Pereira started many years before they met in the UFC octagon.
What ended with Adesanya planting three metaphorical arrows on Pereira’s chest started 7 years ago at the Glory of Heroes 1 kickboxing event in Shenzhen, China. The Nigerian-born’s undefeated streak was broken by Pereira’s dominant onslaught, resulting in a unanimous decision win.
Their second encounter resulted in an even more brutal fate for Adesanya. The image of him laying flat on the ground after a vicious left hook knockout would go on to haunt his footsteps long after he cemented his legacy as a UFC champion.
When Pereira chased Adesanya to MMA and secure a similar victory at UFC 281, fans more or less unanimously agreed that the Brazilian had got his number. Adesanya had found his nemesis in Pereira, the one he would never end up beating.
However, Adesanya was adamant about proving everyone wrong.
In the fourth and possibly final round of their near-cinematic rivalry at UFC 289, Adesanya finally avenged his losses with a perfectly-timed right hand. More than the knockout, it is the weight of the moment that lands this finish at the top of this list that would forever be etched in the hearts and minds of MMA fans.
In the lead-up to the knockout, Adesanya fans were fearful for him as he was getting tagged by Pereira all over. Adesanya covered up his face and backed up against the cage as the then-champion landed a solid combination of jab-hook-body shot, followed by a knee. But Adesanya, as it seems, was patiently waiting for his moment.
Pereira attempted to land his signature left hand. In a split-second reaction, Adesanya landed a right punch flush on Pereira, followed by a concussion-inducing second strike behind the ears. With a third sneaky jab from underneath, Adesanya drew the ending line to the story that did not favor him for the most part, but he emerged victorious in the end.
The two have since somewhat buried the hatchet, with Alex Pereira now moving up to light heavyweight. Fans were treated to a wholesome airport encounter between the two.