Israel Adesanya's reign as the middleweight champion of the Ultimate Fighting Championship came to an end as Alex Pereira stopped him through technical knockout in the fifth round. This likely set up a rematch at a later date.
The middleweight champion Adesanya attempted to make his sixth title defence in the main event at Madison Square Garden, but he was defeated by old kickboxing foe Pereira in the fifth round.
In the early rounds, "The Last Stylebender" did an excellent job of using a combination of wrestling and hitting to exhaust knockout artist Pereira's.
Going into the final round, Adesanya appeared to be winning by unanimous decision, but with three minutes left, Pereira struck him with a powerful burst of punches to end the fight.
Adesanya won every round barring the second, according to the three judges who were present at the fight's cageside, who all gave the identical scores.
It is Adesanya's third defeat to Pereira, who has previously defeated him twice in kickboxing, with the former champion also being brutally knocked out in their 2017 rematch.
"A lot of emotions went through my head, so many years of hard work and dedication, now here I am as the champion of the world," Pereira said. "I tried to pace myself but going into the last round my corner kept it real with me and told me I needed to knock him out. Adesanya was taking some pretty heavy hits and the referee is there to keep him safe, so I think the stoppage was correct."
Pereira had only three UFC fights prior to the fight, and many fans believed he was being rushed into a title shot because of his past history with Adesanya.
“F****ng crazy end. Similar to the last time. Same story. It’s crazy,” Adesanya said after the fight. “He’s durable and he recovers well. Even in the fifth round, I knew he was going to come strong because he was down. Same thing as last time again. It’s another great story for him, but it’s not over.