Seriously, with the number of finishes at Saturday’s UFC 295, it kind of felt like everyone was just playing UFC 5 on easy (if so, solid marketing tactic). Jared Gordon got to finally erase the bad taste his fights against Paddy Pimblett and Bobby Green left in viewers’ mouths. Diego Lopes is starting to become someone other than just the guy who looks like that dude from Blink 182. Jessica Andrade beat Mackenzie Dern like she owes someone money, which she does.
And congrats are in order for Tom Aspinall, who proved he deserved the hype by coming in on less than 3 weeks notice and defeating Sergei Pavlovich by first round knockout (denying him of his destiny) to become the interim UFC Heavyweight Champion. The finish was exciting and it’s refreshing to see a new, young face atop the land of the giants.
We really needed that after Jailton Almeida’s win last week against Derrick Lewis left us all feeling violated.
It’s just unfortunate that we probably won’t get to see Aspinall in The Octagon again until after UFC gets Jon Jones and Stipe Miocic rebooked, but at least we know who is going to get elevated to full champion once Jones and Miocic either do or don’t do the deed and then ride off into retirement because neither one of them is interested in risking their legacies against a hungry lion capable of mauling either one of them, so there’s that.
While Tom will hopefully get his true moment in the sun, Saturday night was about the triumph of the man with the “hands of stone.” Alex Pereira faced the returning Jiří Procházka to determine a new UFC Light Heavyweight Championship, a belt that is surprising anyone still wants considering how snakebitten it has been over the last year.
Alex Pereira knew the risks at 205
It was actually almost one year ago when the light heavyweight division turned into the land of confusion. That was when Procházka, in preparation for a title defense against the man he won the belt from, Glover Teixeira, suffered a shoulder injury in training.
The injury was severe enough that, in spite of all the expletives and hyperbole Dana White threw at it, Jiří could not compete. That led him to make the decision to, either under his “samurai code” or UFC’s pressure, vacate the championship to allow the division to move on…
…which it did, sort of. After failing to produce a new champion in the UFC 182 draw between Jan Błachowicz and Magomed Ankalaev, two men who are having very bad 2023s, UFC got some traction when Jamahal Hill defeated Teixeira at UFC 183 to become the new (new) champion. That lasted until July when Hill ruptured his Achilles tendon during a UFC-branded charity basketball game.
At least the Los Angeles Clippers don’t have to worry about Jamahal not being able to perform, unlike some people…
And that’s how Alex Pereira entered into the picture. Almost two years ago, Pereira made his UFC debut. Exactly one year ago, he became UFC Middleweight Champion after stopping Israel Adesanya at UFC 281. He then lost the immediate rematch at UFC 287 before deciding to move up to light heavyweight. It was a move that proved extremely timely as, two weeks after Jamahal’s injury was announced, Pereira competed at UFC 291, winning a split decision against Błachowicz. That put him directly in line to face the returning Procházka to crown a new (new) NEW champion.
As bumpy of a road as it may have been to get us here, we got here and honestly, the matchup made a lot of sense. If Procházka was going to have to fight to win back the championship he never lost, who better to do it against than the student of the man he originally won the championship from, right? The universe always seems to find a way to make sense out of nonsense.
Glory comes to the former Glory champion
The fight itself was quite competitive to boot. The first round saw Procházka take one too many leg kicks before taking Pereira down and controlling him to end the round. The second round saw both men open up with their punches, exchanging wildly. That was until Alex Pereira dropped Procházka with a left hook. Some follow up elbows saw Procházka fall to the canvas, prompting the referee to stop the fight.
The fight was probably called too soon but what happened happened and now we have a new Champ Champ and he managed to do it in only 7 UFC fights, which is insane.
I mean, Conor McGregor could only win one championship after 7 UFC fights. What a slacker, right?
Aside from the loss in April, Alex Pereira is having quite the year. He found a path to quickly take over middleweight and now he’s done the same in a second division, very similarly to the path he took to becoming a 2 division kickboxing champion in Glory, an organization that just recently inducted Pereira into their Hall of Fame.
Of course, he was able to hold those titles simultaneously, which isn’t something he could replicate in the UFC, so point McGregor.
Still, it’s incredible that, while most fighters spend their entire careers chasing greatness, Pereira has been able to ensnare it twice within a span of just two years. That’s either an indication of how great the man is or an indictment of how depleted and vulnerable the two MMA weight classes he competes in truly are right now. Things may be dire but at least one man’s family will be happy.
One champion to rule…whatever’s left
So then the question moves on from “Is Alex Pereira good enough to be champion?” to “Is Alex Pereira good enough to be THE champion?” In a division that’s been nothing but unstable since Jon Jones walked away from it, can Alex Pereira be the glue to finally hold everything together again?
It’s hard to say but it’s possible. His first defense will most likely be against Hill. That fight makes sense as a way to tie up all the loose ends from the last year and get the 205 Multiverse back on the same timeline again.
If Alex Pereira wins that, then the future for him may be whatever he wants it to be. Maybe he’ll be able to convince Adesanya to go 4 out of 5 or he’ll offer Anthony Smith some pity. For all we know, the man is going to be crowned UFC Heavyweight Champion a year from now. It’s hard to doubt someone that is so good at seizing opportunities and finding paths to victory, whatever that victory may be. Whether it’s winning championships or putting with his girlfriend, the man gets things done. Alex Pereira starts them and he finishes them.
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