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Israel Adesanya loses UFC title to Brazilian rival

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New Zealand mixed martial artist Israel Adesanya has lost his UFC middleweight world title.

Israel Adesanya

Israel Adesanya.
Photo: Stephen R. Sylvanie

Adesanya has suffered a technical knockout defeat to former kickboxing rival, Brazil’s Alex Pereira, in the closing stages of their fight at UFC 281 in New York.

The champion appeared comfortably ahead on the scorecards before he was stung by a series of punches midway through the fifth and final round and the referee stepped in to stop the contest.

The loss was a first for Adesanya in the middleweight division in MMA, and just his second in 25 professional MMA bouts.

It was also his third career defeat to Pereira, who won on both occasions when they met in a pair of kickboxing bouts in 2016 and 2017.

“I feel so good, I’ve been training all my life, I worked so hard for this,” an elated Pereira said in his post-fight interview.

While the loss was a blow for Adesanya, his lengthy reign with the belt would potentially give him the option of an immediate rematch.

The New Zealander, who fights out of the world renowned City Kickboxing gym in Auckland, had been the undisputed UFC middleweight title holder for more than three years.

Meanwhile Adesanya’s City Kickboxing team-mates and fellow New Zealand fighters Dan Hooker and Carlos Ulberg both scored stoppage wins in their fights on the UFC 281 undercard.

Experienced lightweight Hooker broke a two-fight losing streak with a second round stoppage of Claudio Puelles.

Hooker sent the rising Peruvian star down with a front kick to the body, forcing the referee to bring an early end to the fight.

Ulberg racked up his third straight win in the light heavyweight division, producing a crisp left hook to knockout Romanian Nicolae Negumereanu.

The other City Kickboxing fighter in action was Brad Riddell, who suffered a first round submission loss to dangerous Brazilian Renato Moicano.

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