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Side Quest: Alex Pereira

World-renowned kickboxer Alex Pereira has already had an electrifying career in mixed martial arts.  In just his third fight with the promotion, he knocked out top middleweight contender Sean Strickland to earn a title shot. Then, he captured a UFC championship in spectacular fashion against his rival and the reigning champ, Israel Adesanya.  Adesanya, however, showed his own championship grit in their rematch, in which he knocked Pereira out cold.  

From the moment he entered the UFC, Pereira’s history with Adesanya defined his career trajectory.  The promotion undoubtedly hoped to build a fight between the two elite kickboxers.  Pereira was a fresh challenge for Adesanya, and even had a knockout victory over “Stylebender.”  The UFC fast-tracked Pereira to the title, and matched him up against other strikers along the way.  Now, having seemingly concluded the Adesanya rivalry for the time being, Pereira has a new adventure ahead of him.  

Image – MMA Mania

Despite his recent loss, Pereira made a relatively quick turnaround.  He faced former light heavyweight champion Jan Blachowicz in the co-main event of UFC 291.  Despite Pereira’s immense success in MMA, many experts favored Jan.  Pereira had yet to face someone with Jan’s grappling prowess.  Indeed, Adesanya managed to take him down and control him in their first fight.  In turn, Jan had taken down and outgrappled Adesanya in Israel’s own stint at light heavyweight.  Furthermore, Jan himself has high level striking and knockout power.  With Alex coming back so soon after suffering a vicious knockout, the fight proved very dangerous.  Nevertheless, the potential reward was clear.  A win would immediately cement his spot as a title challenger.  It would also mark a win against the only other man to defeat Adesanya in mixed martial arts.  

The fight took place at elevation in Salt Lake City, which ultimately played a role in the outcome.  In round one, Jan quickly took Alex down and threatened the rear naked choke.  He controlled the back for the majority of the round, forcing Alex to defend.  Jan tried to replicate his success in round two, but Alex defended the takedowns and started to land heavy strikes.  Jan began to visibly fatigue, and Alex finished the round in dominant fashion.  To his credit, Jan rallied in the third round, but Alex continued to use his jab and low kicks effectively.  Blachowicz scored a late takedown at the end of the fight, which left the scorecards as anyone’s guess.  In the end, the judges scored the fight for Alex in a split-decision.  

Alex answered several questions in his light heavyweight debut.  While grappling will never be his strong suit, he showed great composure and improved submission defense.  He also stayed more defensively responsible on the feet.  Although he had Jan backed up, he did not leave himself open for the counter as he did against Adesanya.   Now, Alex has likely set himself up for a fight with the lineal champion, Jiri Prochazka.  Pereira has a great chance to win, as Jiri is also a striker and has shown to be hittable.  If he continues his current trajectory, Pereira will become a truly distinguished MMA champion in his own right. 

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