Israel Adesanya vs. Alex Pereira: Keys to victory for both fighters at UFC 281

3 min read
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Alex Pereira holds two kickboxing victories over Israel Adesanya. The first came by unanimous decision in April 2016 before the Brazilian brutally knocked out Adesanya with an explosive left hook from hell at Glory of Heroes 7 in March 2017. The fight served as Adesanya’s final pro kickboxing bout.

Since then, “The Last Stylebender” has established himself as one of the greatest middleweight champions in UFC history. On Saturday night, Adesanya will get his opportunity at payback when he puts his title on the line against Pereira — this time as the headlining fight of UFC 281 at Madison Square Garden in New York City.

With the stakes at a fever pitch, DAZN lists the keys to victory for both the champ and his familiar, rugged challenger.

Alex Pereira’s keys to victory

Check Adesanya's kicks

Israel Adesanya has become a master at launching and landing stinging leg kicks that flatten his opponents wheels. Just ask Paulo Costa. These shots are so debilitating that they open up Adesanya’s offensive toolkit up top, so that the champion can skillfully pick apart his opponents with precise striking.

Pereira’s kickboxing experience alone should go long ways to check these kicks and ensure that they don’t impede his forward movement in any way. Doing this will give Pereira his best chance at staying upright as he likes and landing a fight-changing heavy-handed shot.

Take a few shots to land one explosive, timed blow

There’s no secret that Pereira possesses massive power in his hands, especially that explosive left hook. The Brazilian caught Sean Strickland slipping when he snuck in a riveting left hook on the chin in between the American’s lapse of a guard to drop him with a thud en route to a first-round knockout in July. The shot was eerily similar to how he blasted Adesanya more than five years ago with the same vaunted weapon.

If Pereira senses that Adesanya is game to exchange fire in close quarters, he might opt to absorb a few precise shots in traffic in order to land the erasing blow on the other end. Adesanya is as skilled and accurate a striker as mixed martial arts fans have ever seen. However, Pereira has shown a penchant for being calculated with his power and timing as well. One more aptly-timed left hook could crown a new middleweight champion of the world.

Don't be overwhelmed by the moment

Fighting Adesanya in China and Sao Paulo, Brazil roughly a year apart were big stages but not quite as grand as headlining UFC 281 live on pay-per-view and at Madison Square Garden in the world’s capital.

The spotlight will be on Pereira now more than ever and he can’t afford to let nerves rattle him in any way or a more seasoned Adesanya will carve him up. "Poatan" must stay composed.

Israel Adesanya’s keys to victory 

Launch leg kicks early

What can Adesanya do to erode away at Pereira’s realm-altering power? Well, those leg kicks will help. Over the course of Adesanya building his impressive portfolio of title defenses, he has shown a growing knack of launching and landing his leg kicks at slicing angles.

These concerned efforts have kept his opponents honest on the feet, where Adesanya’s Octagon IQ often takes over thereafter with enough of a diverse spread of strikes to bank rounds or end fights, period. But for this title defense, Adesanya’s adept offense should begin by rifling leg kicks.

Rely on expert distance management

Israel Adesanya establishes and maintains distance superbly. That created distance allows “The Last Stylebender” to sit back, compute and pick his opponents apart with leg kicks and a plethora of pinpoint-precision punches.

The champ would be wise to keep his distance against Pereira’s power. Adesanya throws and lands a snap jab from his bent elbows shrewdly and with plenty of pop. It could be just the tool to keep an encroaching Pereira at bay.

Don't get goaded into a slugfest

You stand too upright with Alex Pereira and you could get eviscerated into mist. It happened to Strickland four months ago. Hell, it happened to Adesanya five years back.

Adesanya’s Octagon IQ and ability to download information in real time has grown tenfold since then. But allowing his ego to overshadow his thinker for even a second could be just the lapse and devil in the details needed for Pereira to disintegrate him.

Therefore, Adesanya shouldn’t be goaded into a slugfest and trading fire with the Brazilian. Adesanya must be the practitioner he is. It’s a far more pragmatic approach to keeping the title wrapped around his waist.

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