UFC 276: Alex Pereira chance to earn title shot against old rival Israel Adesanya
There is a crystal clear story that the UFC is trying to accelerate with the inclusion of Alex Pereira on the big stage this Saturday.
The Brazilian, who is best known for beating Israel Adesanya twice during their kickboxing days, will appear on the main map below his old opponent.
In the showpiece, Adesanya takes on Jared Cannonier, but Dana White and Co know the power that an emphatic victory for Pereira could have on the same night.
Alex Pereira (left) could face Israel Adesanya for the UFC Middleweight title if they both win
The Kiwi is undefeated in middleweight and has looked supreme as the champion.
He is expected to sidestep Cannonier, as he has with all newcomers, so Pereira will inevitably be pushed as the next logical threat as he continues his upward trajectory.
It won’t be an easy task in the biggest challenge of his UFC career to date against Sean Strickland. The American is a durable fighter who racks up a six-fight win streak and has the wrestling capacity to cause real trouble.
Pereira is a terrifyingly gifted striker, but still raw in terms of the struggling aspects of MMA.
The UFC will be fully aware of his shortcomings, so he will likely put him with Adesanya before they come to light and dampen the hype.
Each Adesanya win builds the mystique of Pereira, who ended a 12-fight winning streak of Stylebender in 2016 with a unanimous decision win.
The story already exists and the UFC is capitalizing on it this weekend in Las Vegas
The rematch was even more emphatic. He knocked Adesanya cold with a left hook and the Nigerian-born star needed oxygen to regain his senses.
Replays of that KO will no doubt be looped by the UFC to promote a rematch between the pair.
Pereira claimed the feat of the night on his UFC debut with a stunning jumping knee that caught Adesanya’s attention.
“We need something new,” he said. “Especially after you’ve played through the division again. Well done Pereira, that was fun.
“One thing that strikes me is that everyone is always holding on to that victory they have over me like it’s the end. I hope he does well. I hope he does well through the ranks. In the next four fights I hope to see him.
Adesanya has to get through his fight with Jared Cannonier to keep his belt
Pereira (right) won in his UFC debut with a jumping knee from Andreas Michailidis
“They’ll show you the knockout, but they won’t show you what happened before the finish. I hurt him, but I only throw (hands) because I was infiltrated by other people’s thoughts.
“But that was when I was younger. Not anymore. It’s different now. What does’nt kill you makes you stronger.’
Pereira then defeated Bruno Silva in his second appearance to start the Strickland showdown.
It represents a significant step up in the class for the 34-year-old, but his training partner and recently dethroned former light-heavyweight champion Glover Teixiera has no doubts about his skills.
“I couldn’t be happier as a coach as a training partner who has been telling people that this man is no joke,” he said previously. “He still has a lot to learn, but he’s learning things quickly.
Pereira is one of the best fighters former UFC champion Glover Teixeira (left) has trained with
Sean Strickland (left) becomes the toughest challenge in Pereira’s UFC career so far
“He’ll get it soon. I’m talking about you get a common man and whatever, that man is going to learn it in six months – [Pereira will] learn in a week. You show him a move and he just does it.
“That guy is scary, you know. He’s scary with those four ounces of gloves,” said the 42-year-old. “Very strong, very powerful and very committed.
Teixeira continued: ‘He’s incredible, man, the way he’s learned things. This is his first fight in the UFC [UFC 268], probably there are little nerves, little bit of everything. But he will undoubtedly be one of the main contenders very soon.
“This man is very knowledgeable and he is one of the best fighters I have ever trained with.”
Pereira knows the value of his history with Adesanya and is not shy about discussing a new fight with his old opponent.
Adesanya defeated Robert Whittaker in their rematch at UFC 271 earlier this year
He says the champion hopes he slips so there’s an easy escape from the horns in the octagon.
Pereira told Trocacao França: ‘Look, I’ll tell you this – it’s harder for me to get to him than to beat him. He knows that. He knows how I beat him. He fought me twice. He won’t admit how difficult I am.
“He’s not afraid to fight me. He wants me to slip tomorrow so he can say, “Is this the guy you want me to fight with? Are you crazy? Get back to the end of the line.” He will run away from me.
“Anyone who loves to argue will say, ‘I want this man, I want to prove that I’m better than him,'” Pereira continued.
He’s fooling his fan base. People should pressure him. The least he could do was say, ‘F***, I’ll show my fans that I’m the best and that’s why they follow me’, but that’s not what he does. He’s terrified.’
Pereira Believes Adesanya Secretly Hopes He Loses To Sean Strickland
Adesanya seems to accept that a win for both men on Saturday night at UFC 276 will see them meet again.
The 32-year-old said this week: “This isn’t kickboxing, this is mixed martial arts.
“These aren’t big cushion gloves, these are four ounce deadly weapons that I can’t wait to drive through his face after going through Jared Cannonier.”
The UFC has cleverly put together a compelling story. All that’s left is for both men to sort things out in Las Vegas.