5 reasons why Israel Adesanya lost to Alex Pereira

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Israel Adesanya's TKO loss to Alex Pereira at UFC 281

At UFC 281, UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya crossed swords with the most recent challenger to his divisional throne, Alex 'Poatan' Pereira. The Brazilian phenom is a former two-division Glory kickboxing titleholder with two wins against 'The Last Stylebender' in their former sport.

Their matchup this past Saturday was their third bout in combat sports and the Nigerian's chance at exacting his vengeance. During the leadup to the fight, Israel Adesanya exhibited supreme confidence. Unfortunately, the City Kickboxing export was unsuccessful.

He lost yet again to his longtime rival, and in a manner similar to his second Kickboxing loss against 'Poatan'.

Despite the seemingly sudden nature of the former middleweight champion's defeat, there were several reasons why he lost the bout. This list details five of the most prominent ones.


#5. Israel Adesanya's footwork was neutralized

The former middleweight titleholder possesses slick defensive footwork. He moves linearly and laterally with purpose. Whenever he's in open space, he maintains a bladed, almost sideways stance with his feet kept wide. This enables him to move forward and backward very quickly, darting in and out.

If he's pressured towards the fence, Israel Adesanya typically flattens out his stance in order to circle and shuffle from side to side. He fakes a shuffle to the right or left, hoping his foe commits to punching from one side so he can circle out of the other one. Unfortunately, this line of defensive footwork has its drawbacks.

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The Nigerian's focus on protecting his chin means that his lower body is always the last body part to exit range every time he moves. Alex Pereira repeatedly used his combinations to pressure 'The Last Stylebender' against the cage, only to then target his trailing and exposed legs with low kicks.

The accumulated damage from 'Poatan's low kicks caused Adesanya to slow down tremendously and ultimately set the stage for his TKO loss after his perineal nerve was damaged.


#4. Israel Adesanya's reliance on his length and height

At middleweight, the former 185lbs kingpin is among the tallest and longest fighters. His reach and height are virtually unmatched, and his physical dimensions will hold up even at the light heavyweight division. These physical advantages make up an enormous part of Israel Adesanya's defense.

Like Jon Jones, he uses the post-and-retreat tactic. The former kickboxer extends his lead arm out as a barrier while raising his rear hand to his chin as he leans his upper body away from his foes and skips away. While this is effective against shorter foes who aren't long enough to reach him, it wasn't so against 'Poatan'.

As the only middleweight to match Israel Adesanya in both height and reach, Alex Pereira was long enough for his punches to still connect with the Nigerian's chin even after he tried to post and retreat. This led to 'The Last Stylebender' being tagged more than he usually is.


#3. Alex Pereira forced him to make adjustments

Although Joe Rogan and Daniel Cormier gave significant credence to the number of times Alex Pereira reacted to his foe's feints, Israel Adesanya found himself in an unfamiliar position during the bout. The former middleweight champion is often the one who dictates the pace of his bouts.

His constant feinting has caused many of his opponents to get into a purely reactive state. Furthermore, his superior height and reach often enable him to control the range at which the bout will take place. Thus, his foes are rarely in a position to dictate any striking engagements with him.

For this reason, Adesanya is unused to not being in complete control. Against 'Poatan', the former kickboxer was forced to make adjustments. For example, the Brazilian phenom is a specialist at landing hooks. Knowing that his foe would be on the lookout to land his deadly left hook gave Adesanya something to worry about.

One sequence in the bout involved Pereira setting up Adesanya. Once Adesanya took the bait and started to lean away from what he thought was a left hook, 'Poatan' instead landed a head kick that stunned his foe who started retreating.


#2. Alex Pereira made his own adjustments

Most of Israel Adesanya's opponents don't make key adjustments against him to deal with the many threats he poses. Instead, they simply react more and more to whatever he does.

Alex Pereira, however, refused to do as the likes of Jared Cannonier, Robert Whittaker, and Marvin Vettori did before him. He made adjustments during the bout and prevented 'The Last Stylebender' from getting the same reads in every kickboxing exchange.

After the threat of his foe's low kicks dawned on him, the former 185lbs kingpin tried to counter with an intercepting jab over the top. While the Nigerian's counter was initially successful, 'Poatan' resorted to faking a low kick before chambering his leg higher for a stinging head kick.

Additionally, Adesanya was clinching with his foe every time Pereira backed him up to the fence. It was initially effective and allowed him to smother his foe's offense. However, the former Glory double-champion eventually adjusted to it.

When Adesanya reaches out with both hands to clinch, he leaves a gap through which 'Poatan' can throw a straight right. Pereira used that to rock his foe en route to the TKO sequence. When Adesanya reached out again, Pereira stepped across him, slipping on the outside of his foe's extended arm before landing a thunderous left hook.


#1. Israel Adesanya stopped wrestling

At UFC 281, fans witnessed Israel Adesanya engage in offensive wrestling for the first time in his MMA career. Prior to last Saturday's bout, the former kickboxer had only ever used his wrestling in a defensive manner to stop his opponents from pursuing takedowns.

Against Alex Pereira, 'The Last Stylebender' secured takedowns and proved to be the superior grappler every time the fight got to the mat. Even with Glover Teixeira in his corner, 'Poatan' committed mistakes like not fighting for wrist control. He was simply trying to stand up instead of using positional grappling.

The extended wrestling and grappling sequences proved exhausting for the former Glory great. Yet, Adesanya made the curious decision to stop wrestling him altogether in the fifth round of their bout. This allowed his foe to recuperate and have enough energy to pursue the TKO in the final round.

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Edited by Virat Deswal