Is Alex Pereira the ‘bogeyman’ for Israel Adesanya? Jon Jones and Marvin Vettori are among fighters who believe the new champion is his old nemesis’ ‘kryptonite’, with the perfect style to win a FOURTH showdown between the pair at UFC 287
- Israel Adesanya’s reign as UFC champion was ended by Alex Pereira last year
- Pereira had already beaten him twice in kickboxing before moving to MMA
- A number of former fighters believe that he just has the perfect style to win
Israel Adesanya must be sick of the sight of Alex Pereira by now – the man many are calling his ‘bogeyman’ and ‘kryptonite’.
The former UFC middleweight champion ruled the roost so supremely in his division with five successive title defences before crossing paths with his old nemesis last year.
Pereira arrived holding two wins over Adesanya in the kickboxing ring, including one heavy knockout, but many still thought he’d been fast-tracked for a shot at the champ, purely because it fit a tidy narrative.
In the fifth round of their November bout, he dispatched those doubts and Adesanya in bulldozing fashion to take his belt.
For four rounds, Adesanya had been the better fighter. He was razor sharp, slick and everything he’s proven to be since signing with the UFC.
Alex Pereira dethroned Israel Adesanya to win the UFC middleweight championship last year
Adesanya (pictured) will have his chance at revenge when he faces ‘Poatan’ at UFC 287
Adesanya was knocked out cold (pictured) by Pereira in their second kickboxing contest
But he couldn’t get over the line. Marc Goddard intervened late on with Pereira throwing a flurry of shots and nothing coming back in return.
The old adage, ‘styles make fights’, applies not only to the quality of the contest as a spectacle, but might also explain why Adesanya struggles so much against ‘Poatan’.
A number of current UFC stars think for all of the Kiwi’s brilliance, Pereira simply has his number.
Jon Jones recently tweeted: ‘I believe Pereira’s going to win again. There’s some athletes that just have other athlete’s number.
‘He works hard and I’m rooting for him. I believe he’s going to do it again.’
Fellow middleweight Chris Curtis went even further, telling Helen Yee: ‘I actually feel bad for Izzy like “Bro, you have your own personal boogeyman”.
‘Like, how many times can you do everything right. He was winning the fight, I though it would’ve been four rounds to one…he was like two minutes from defending his title, and Pereira does it again. Like you got your own personal f*****g boogeyman. That is miserable.’
He then joked: ‘[If] you can’t beat him in one-on-one combat, we gotta do a gladiator thing and like stab him or poison him before the fight… If one dude kept pounding me down my entire career and I’m gonna come find you at home,’ he pointed out. ‘I’m settling this with knives I don’t care.’
Marvin Vettori, who lost twice to Adesanya, agreed: ‘He’ll beat Izzy again. It’s just, I don’t know, I feel like he had a mission on beating him.’
Marvin Vettori (pictured) thinks Pereira has Adesanya’s number and would win in a rematch
Adesanya was forced back onto the cage as Pereira unleashed a flurry of brutal strikes
There’s also the possibility that motivation for Adesanya has never been higher.
He will know full well that his legacy will be dented if he loses for a fourth time to the same man across two different disciplines of combat.
But could that help or hinder him in Miami? Robert Whittaker pondered the very same question and thinks the UFC 287 headliner will come down to how Adesanya’s mentality has been impacted.
‘If we look at the fight just from a mental perspective, I believe Adesanya had a better chance last fight’, the Australian told Michael Bisping on his podcast.
‘But in saying that, maybe now that the worst has happened again, it frees him up for the next one. You see where it can swing both ways really easily.
‘It can either swing one way where it frees him up: the worst has happened, whatever, he gets in there mentally free.
‘Or, he’s worried about it happening again with the small gloves because it has happened.’
Robert Whittaker is unsure about how the mentality of Adesanya will change for the rematch
Some believe that the Brazilian fighter simply has the best style to beat his old rival
Pereira is still relatively inexperienced in MMA and is yet to be tested by an elite level wrestler.
But in Adesanya he knows the fight is likely to stay essentially as a kickboxing contest. The man himself completely buys into the theory that he just has the style to beat his opponent.
He revealed he had a ‘bogeyman’ of his own back in his amateur days.
‘I’m going to say something that I’ve never told anyone,’ Pereira told Sportskeeda. I have 28 fights in amateur. I won 25 of them by knockout. I lost three fights. Three times to the same guy. In amateur, three fights. I don’t understand why. But now I do. The styles don’t match.
‘The guy has stopped fighting,’ he added. ‘If I fought him again today, I think I’d lose again. Even though he’s done fighting, if I fought him, I would lose.
‘If I fought him 10 times, I’ll lose. Adesanya needs to get that, the same way Whittaker did. He just doesn’t accept it.’
In their first fight, the striking stats for both men were relatively similar.
Adesanya landed 89 percent of his strikes from distance, ahead of Pereira’s 83 percent, while the Brazilian was more effective in close range.
They both mixed up targets, moving from head to body to legs and kept things unpredictable.
Adesanya may only make small tweaks to his game for the rematch in Miami, Florida
The key difference-maker was Pereira’s power and Adesanya’s need to be cautious. He was out-pointing the Brazilian but never comfortable.
That natural concussive weight in the strikes makes him so dangerous and a couple of grazing rights before one short, thudding left spelled the beginning of the end last time.
He’ll be even more confident with it this time and possibly more aggressive from the outset. Eugene Bareman, Adesanya’s coach, has insisted they don’t need to ‘reinvent the wheel’ and will just make minor tweaks.
Given Adesanya’s superiority for most of the fight last year, that makes sense. But the nagging doubts will remain and only vanish if he can beat his ‘bogeyman’ on Saturday night.
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