UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya's next title defense will be against one of the promotion's fastest rising stars. And a familiar face.
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Adesanya will face challenger Alex Pereira at UFC 281 on Nov. 12, the UFC announced on Friday. The event will be at Madison Square Garden in New York, making it Adesanya's second fight at the arena.
As announced on @SportsCenter, we have a 𝑴𝑨𝑺𝑺𝑰𝑽𝑬 main event set for MSG 🍎@Stylebender vs Alex Pereira is confirmed for #UFC281!— UFC (@ufc) August 5, 2022
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Adesanya, who currently holds a 23-1 MMA record, is coming off a lackluster win over challenger Jared Cannonier at UFC 276 last month. It wasn't so much that Adesanya was near defeat at any point, the fight itself was simply low on action (Adesanya at least provided entertainment with his Undertaker-inspired walkout).
Alex Pereira is a UFC rising star, and has beaten Israel Adesanya before
At the same event, Periera defeated Sean Strickland, then ranked fourth in the UFC middleweight rankings, via a wild first-round knockout. Pereira entered MMA after a legendary kickboxing career, the same sport where Adesanya got his start.
Pereira faced Adesanya twice as a kickboxer and defeated him twice, once via unanimous decision and once third-round knockout. You can imagine highlights from those fights will be frequently seen in the run-up to UFC 281.
Pereira has ascended quickly since joining the UFC, winning four straight fights in impressive fashion. Him getting a title shot this early is as much a statement of Adesanya's dominance, though, as the champion has already beaten every other fighter in the top 6 of the UFC middleweight rankings.