In any sport, rehashing past results can provide a misguided track record. As we approach 2023, what happened in 2016 and 2017 matters little. You have to adapt to growth, change, not to mention a different sport, format and arena. Pereira is one of those natural Brazilian strikers, as pure as they are. And when he concentrates, he can do damage to anyone. But to simply dismiss the more damning prospects of his title challenge would be a mistake. With his last kickboxing match a year ago, he is still a kickboxer. With 7 MMA fights in 7 years, it’s not something he’s seen fit to really pursue until recently.
While it could be argued that Adesanya’s style makes it less of an issue to have a legitimate MMA background, that doesn’t mean it isn’t an issue. While Pereira has moonlighted as an MMA fighter with one foot still in kickboxing, Adesanya has put up a big book that already places him among the greatest of all time at 185lbs in the UFC. Turning down one dangerous challenger after another, he completely gained over 185 pounds, conquering a combination of different styles and techniques and generally in a dominant fashion.
To rely completely on the striking forces of Pereira, that of lifting the blinders. Even if you think Adesanya isn’t a complete MMA package that can bring things that can confuse Pereira stylistically, his MMA savvy has to count for something. And while he hasn’t always been able to sort out various aspects of his game against fighters who know those areas better, this could be a chance where we see more of Adesanya than his shrewd moves and striking.
I would be a little worried about Pereira’s career progression. The 35-year-old lost his last kickboxing fight, winning a split decision in his previous bout. And while a knockout over Sean Strickland is nice, his highlights have diminished over the years, and you wonder if he might not have seen his first veil a bit at this point. After a decade at kickboxing’s highest level and all his other fights over the years, he’s never really made a lot of money, and this is his last chance to do something really big that could offer his family eternal security.
I think the last 6-7 years have given way to a sharper and more defensively responsible Adesanya. Fully aware that attackers like Pereira can turn off his lights, he now fights accordingly, more aware and focused in his movements. Having withstood formidable attackers during his tenure in the UFC, he has mastered the art of evasion and used his head to put down those with massive power in their fists and legs. While you can say having done it before will give Pereira the confidence and push to win the fight of his life, don’t poop the angle of revenge that a proud champion like Adesanya will feel when he steps into the fight. octagon for this fight. I’m going with Israel Adesanya in this one.
My choice to win: I bet Israel Adesanya at -175 betting odds. The playing field changed dramatically from 6-7 years ago when these two got tangled up in a kickboxing ring. In an octagon at Madison Square Garden in a different sport he now dominates, a vengeful Adesanya should be able to turn his sharpness, speed and accuracy into another successful title defense.