9. The birth of Israel 'The Wrestler' Adesanya?
UFC 281 seemed like any other Israel Adesanya fight. Sure, he was facing the only man to ever knock him out but it was clear that in the MMA octagon, Alex Pereira's lack of experience was going to be his downfall against a man who was quickly entering the G.O.A.T. conversation. That was until the 5th round.
We all know what happened next and Adesanya walks into a fight without the belt around his waist for the first time in four years yet, it is no surprise to see the challenger come in as the slight betting favorite (-135). Adesanya has much more experience in the octagon and it showed when he took Pereira down, a place where the Brazilian looked clearly out of place.
After three defeats that have all come in 'standup' fights against Pereira, with two of them coming in kickboxing prior to his KO loss last year, maybe it's time Adesanya used his full arsenal of mixed martial arts to take the title back home. It'd definitely be shocking to see Adesanya, one of the greatest kickboxers in UFC history, take the fight down to the ground but that might be his key to victory, a victory that would ensure his place as the king of the middleweights.
A loss on the other hand could spell trouble for Adesanya as he would drop to 0-4 against Pereira, making it very tricky for Adesanya to get another title shot. It might not be the exciting, back-and-forth kickboxing fight we are expecting if Adesanya takes it to the ground but it certainly seems that is his clearest path to having his hand raised.
10. Put some respect on the champion's name
Alex Pereira only has eight professional fights in his MMA career yet is already holding one of the most prestigious titles in all of combat sports, the UFC's middleweight championship. The likes of Rich Franklin, Anderson Silva, and Michael Bisping have held the 185-pound belt, however, it seems we are all too quick to dismiss Pereira as a legitimate champion.
Many fans turn to UFC 281, when Pereira looked destined to lose a unanimous decision to Adesanya before catching him perfectly with his left hook of doom that kickstarted a combination to stop the champion. The rest say he was fast-tracked to the title in a stale division and because of his history with Adesanya. A lot more will say that once an elite grappler, whether Robert Whittaker or Khamzat Chimaev, gets a hold of him, he'll be exposed for not having a well-rounded game.
My reply to all the doubters is to put some respect on Pereira's name. You can argue all you want about whether or not he deserved the title shot but you can't deny that his introduction has brought some much needed energy to the 185-pound division. It's also not like he didn't beat a single contender as he steamrolled Sean Strickland, who was on a six-fight win streak at the time, and showed against Adesanya that he can hang with the best, and eventually beat them.
Whether Pereira has a long title reign ahead of him or not is yet to be seen but we can't keep doubting his pedigree as a champion. He's shown us that when we least expect it, he can still pull off unreal results.