UFC 287: Alex Pereira vs. Israel Adesanya 2 main event preview – Will the rivalry conclude?

Get all the bare essentials in anticipation of the the rematch for the middleweight title between Alex Pereira and Israel Adesanya at UFC 287.

By: Dayne Fox | 6 months ago
UFC 287: Alex Pereira vs. Israel Adesanya 2 main event preview – Will the rivalry conclude?
November 13, 2022, NEW YORK, NEW YORK, USA: Belt dispute between Nigerian fighter Israel Adesanya red and Brazilian Alex Pereira Poatan blue during UFC 281 at Madson Square Garden in New York, United States this Saturday, 12. NEW YORK USA - ZUMAc233 0193861396st Copyright: xVanessaxCarvalhox

While I’ve been anticipating the rematch between Alex Pereira and Israel Adesanya quite a bit – or the fourth contest, depending on your perspective – it feels like the hype around the contest hasn’t matched the level of their first contest. I can’t recall much promotion of UFC 287. Perhaps that has something to do with the UFC clustering so many PPV’s in such a short span, but shouldn’t the rematch between a former long-reigning champion and the man who dethroned him be a bigger deal? 

Regardless of the hype around the contest, it’s hard to believe it won’t be another competitive bout. The first MMA contest saw Adesanya coasting to victory before Pereira scored a fifth round stoppage. In the process, he maintained his undefeated record against Adesanya, extending to the time when both were professional kickboxers. It’s no sure thing one or the other will emerge victorious, but let’s dig into all the bare essentials for what makes this such an intriguing contest. 

For the early prelims preview, click here. For the ESPN prelims, click here. For the main card preview, click here. For an audio preview, click here.

UFC 287 Main Event

Alex Pereira vs. Israel Adesanya, Middleweight 

Where to begin? How about with the obvious. The first meeting between the two in the kickboxing circle was a controversial decision. Pereira was awarded the decision, but not without controversy. Most – myself included – have declared they believe Adesanya won that fight. The second contest wasn’t controversial, but that’s only because Pereira secured a KO. Of course, he was losing up to that point… much like he was in their first UFC contest. 

We’ve seen enough of both men in the cage to know Adesanya is the superior point fighter. He would have to be in order to be the favorite over Pereira despite having lost all three of their previous contests. In other words, Adesanya has been in control a greater portion of their fights than Pereira has been. The more experienced competitor in MMA, Adesanya has a greater knowledge of the intricate details of the sport. The way the first four rounds of their most recent contest played out stamped that idea into our minds. Despite that, Pereira won the fight. 

Everyone talks about how big Adesanya is for the division. To be fair, it’s probably more accurate to say that he’s tall for the division. After all, Adesanya was several pounds under the weight limit when he challenged Jan Blachowicz for the light heavyweight title. Pereira is not only tall for the division – he’s just as tall as Adesanya – he’s big too. It’s a wonder he makes the 185-pound limit. Those extra pounds translate to extra power too. And while Pereira may not be the technical marvel Adesanya is, he’s technical enough that he stands more than a puncher’s chance of winning. 

For one, it isn’t like Pereira was spending the entirety of the contest looking for a big shot. Sure, he randomly would throw something with major heat, but he spent more of the contest working over the legs and body of Adesanya. Late in the contest, Adesanya’s movement was compromised, thanks to the efforts of Pereira throughout the contest. That’s what allowed Pereira to catch Adesanya late. Well, that and Adesanya wasn’t able to stay out of his range in the same way he has been able to against shorter opposition. 

There’s another potential reason for why Adesanya slowed down more than he typically does. Adesanya’s fight with Pereira was his 14th UFC contest. It was also the first fight in which he successfully completed a takedown. It’s understandable. Adesanya has always definitively had the edge in the striking while being at the disadvantage in the grappling. His fight with Pereira was the first time that the definitive edge for him was on the mat. It made sense for him to take the fight to the mat, right? 

While I would say it was overall a smart move, it may have also contributed towards Adesanya’s fade down the stretch. Different muscles are used in wrestling and grappling than in striking and Adesanya doesn’t have the muscle memory of those who make greater use of wrestling and grappling. There’s no doubt in my mind Adesanya would deny that was an issue, but would anyone expect anything otherwise from an elite fighter? I’d say the wrestling would be worth it, but it’s possible Adesanya avoids it for that reason. 

Motivation is a mystery in this contest too. Given Pereira already has three wins over Adesanya, is he going to have the focus to win for a fourth time? It’s easy to see him taking the eye off the ball. Then again, after losing three times, could Adesanya end up falling into desperation? Both situations are entirely plausible. Hell, both situations could arise and cancel one another out. Is there any insight to which situation is most likely to play out? 

I don’t see much change in Pereira heading into this fight from his previous approach. He’s got the same scowling brand of confidence he has always portrayed. Adesanya is talking about the hardest camp he’s ever had. There’s none of the cockiness that became his trademark. No talk about creating moments as opposed to winning fights. He just wants to win. Maybe a more focused approach is good for him. Maybe it isn’t. The only way to find out for sure is to have them step in the cage once again. 

I can’t deny the third contest between Leon Edwards and Kamaru Usman isn’t in my mind. The situations between that contest and this one are very similar. Usman entered the contest outspoken, having defeated several opponents multiple times during a lengthy reign… much like Adesanya. Both lost in round five when it looked like they were on their way to victory. And Usman was largely quiet heading into the contest…. I can’t imagine it helps Adesanya’s confidence when his friend came up short in his quest to regain his belt less than a month ago. 

It isn’t just because Adesanya appears to be pressing from the indications I’m getting. It’s that Pereira is still growing as an MMA fighter. Sure, he’s older than Adesanya. But he also has just eight MMA fights under his belt. Not UFC fights; MMA fights. Even at his advanced age, Pereira still has a lot of room for growth. Adesanya’s edge on the mat is probably smaller than it was in their last contest… if it still exists. Aside from technique, Adesanya is coming up short on his typical advantages. Thus, I expect Pereira to retain. Pereira via TKO of RD4 

Share this story

About the author
Dayne Fox
Dayne Fox

Dayne Fox is a contributing writer and analyst for Bloody Elbow. He has been writing about combat sports since 2013 and a member of Bloody Elbow since 2016. Dayne primarily contributes opinion pieces and event coverage. Dayne’s specialties are putting together the preview articles for all the UFC events and post-fight analysis. Outside of writing on combat sports, Dayne works in the purchasing department of a construction company, formerly working as an analyst. He is also a proud husband and father. In what spare time he can find, he enjoys strategy games and is a movie enthusiast. He is based in Utah.

More from the author

Bloody Elbow Podcast
Related Stories