MIAMI (AP) — Israel Adesanya wanted a quick rematch after a November loss to Alex Pereira stripped him of the 185-pound championship belt he’d held since 2019.
Five months later in UFC 287 in Miami early Sunday, Adesanya dropped the middleweight champion Pereira with two right hands, then raised his fists in triumph as he took back his middleweight championship belt and cemented his legacy as one of the greatest fighters in the sport’s history.
“I hope every one of you behind the screen or in this arena can feel this level of happiness just one time in your life,” Adesanya said. “But guess what, you’ll never feel this level of happiness if you don’t go for something.”
Pereira (7-2) landed a knee that pushed Adesanya (24-2) into the cage in the second round. Adesanya came off the cage with two right hooks and a right hammer fist, followed by ground and pound to end the fight at 4:21.
The 35-year-old Pereira had never lost to Adesanya. Before he scored a TKO win for the welterweight belt in UFC 281 in November, Pereira defeated Adesanya twice in kick boxing.
Adesanya, born in Nigeria but raised in New Zealand, entered the UFC in 2018 and won the middleweight belt a year later when he beat then-champion Robert Whittaker in a stunning knockout.
He successfully defended his title five times as he became one of the sport’s main draws. He was in unfamiliar territory Saturday as the challenger.
“They say revenge is sweet,” Adesanya said. “And if you know me, I’ve got a sweet tooth.”
Fighting in his hometown as the UFC returned to Miami for the first time in 20 years, Jorge Masvidal (35-17) lost a unanimous decision to fifth-ranked welterweight contender Gilbert Burns (22-5).
Burns hurt Masvidal with a series of head shots, and Masvidal appeared winded as the fight went on. Afterward, Burns paid respect to the veteran Masvidal.
“We’re here because of this guy, 52 pro fights,” Burns said to the crowd, which chanted “Let’s go Jorge” throughout. “Give it up for your guy.”
Masvidal, who turns 39 in November, entered the match on a three-fight losing streak having lost back-to-back title challenges to Kamaru Usman and a unanimous decision to longtime rival Colby Covington.
Masvidal appeared to retire from the sport after the loss.
“It’s been a long 20 years, 50-something fights,” said Masvidal, who entered the UFC in 2013. “Sometimes your favorite basketball player doesn’t have that three-pointer no more. Your favorite quarterback loses that rifle. And I don’t feel the same when I get in here.”
Veteran Rob Font (20-6) snapped Adrian Yanez’s (16-3) nine-fight winning streak with a knockout at 2:57 in the first round. They traded shots early before Font landed a powerful right hook that dropped Yanez. Font, who returned to pay-per-view for the first time in five years, finished the fight with ground and pound.
“It’s been a while since I got a finish,” Font said. “I needed this finish for myself. I needed it for my team. I needed it for my family.”
Kevin Holland (23-9) face planted Santiago Ponzinibbio (30-7) with a huge left hand at 3:16 of the final round of their welterweight bout, then jumped over the cage to talk to UFC president Dana White and former U.S. president Donald Trump, who were in a sold out crowd that featured Usman, Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald, Odell Beckham Jr., Mike Tyson and more.
Ponzinibbio nailed a series of kicks to Holland’s legs throughout the fight. Holland was visibly in pain by the third round before a powerful left hook sent Ponzinibbio face-first into the mat.
Christian Rodriguez (9-1) handed 18-year-old Raul Rosas Jr. (7-1), the UFC’s youngest fighter, his first career loss with a unanimous decision win in the bantamweight main-card opener. In weigh-ins, Rodriguez was 137 pounds, one pound over the bantamweight limit, and he apologized immediately after the fight.
“First thing’s first, I want to apologize for being a pound overweight to the UFC and to Raul’s team,” Rodriguez said. ___
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