UFC 281 results, highlights: Alex Pereira rallies to stun, knockout Israel Adesanya and claim title

Alex Pereira is the only person to knock out Israel Adesanya – and he's done it twice.

Pereira scored a come-from-behind victory against Adesanya at UFC 281 on Saturday night to become the new UFC middleweight champion inside Madison Square Garden. 

The fight will be a bitter pill for Adesanya to swallow. Similar to their two kickboxing fights, Adesanya was winning the contest until he wasn't. Adesanya nearly added to UFC 281's seven first-round stoppages with a one-two that had Pereira in all sorts of trouble. Adesanya's devastating shot came in the final second of Round 1, but he did not have the time necessary to capitalize. Pereira's corner was panicked in their efforts to get their fighter's head straight.

Pereira bounced back well in Round 2. It was a competitive, if unspectacular, round that likely went in the challenger's favor. Adesanya scored the first takedown of his 14-fight UFC career in Round 3 and decisively controlled Pereira for the remainder of the round. Adesanya fatigued Pereira with pressure, ground-and-pound and a pretty axe-kick at the end of Round 3.

Pereira was noticeably labored in Round 4 and his output was severely limited. Adesanya was defensively sound, picking away at his opponent in a round that was clearly his. Pereira's corner implored him to find the finish in Round 5, aware that Adesanya likely had a 3-1 lead on the judges' scorecards. The UFC broadcast confirmed post-fight that Adesanya was up on all three judges' scorecards heading into the final frame. 

Pereira answered the call, blitzed Adesanya and rocked him with heavy shots against the fence. Adesanya desperately bobbed and weaved but ate uppercuts and other big shots until the referee intervened.

Adesanya immediately protested the stoppage by referee Marc Goddard, but the now former champion was content with the result when speaking with the media after the fact.

"I'm grateful," Adesanya said. "What a life, what a moment. F---ing crazy, isn't it? Similar to the last time, same story. It's crazy. I was fine. First thing I said to [coach Eugene Bareman] or the ref, I was fine because I was still lucid. I was in there, but s--- happens.

"No, I talked to my coaches [about the stoppage] and I trust them. But I was fine, I could see everything. My eyes might have rolled back a little bit, but I was lucid."

Pereira thanked his teammates for the victory and told UFC commentator Joe Rogan through a translator that he had been working just as hard in camp as he had in this fight. Former UFC light heavyweight champion Glover Teixeira, Pereira's primary training partner, told the commentators later of a conversation he had with Pereira between the fourth and fifth rounds.

"'Do I have to knock him out?'" Pereira asked Teixeira. "You better knock him out," Teixeira replied.

Pereira (7-1) captured the UFC middleweight championship in just his fourth UFC fight. Adesanya (23-2) managed five title defenses as middleweight champion and held the undisputed crown since October 2019.

Can't get enough boxing and MMA? Get the latest in the world of combat sports from two of the best in the business. Subscribe to Morning Kombat with Luke Thomas and Brian Campbell for the best analysis and in-depth news, including instant analysis of UFC 281 at the conclusion of the PPV event below.

Elsewhere on the card, Zhang Weili regained her crown as women's strawweight champion with a second-round submission of Carla Esparza. Weili dominated the grappling exchanges before locking up the rear-naked choke. Weili, Esparza and Rose Namajunas have now traded the belt among themselves in the last three fights. And Dustin Poirier and Michael Chandler delivered an action-classic before Poirier secured the late submission.

CBS Sports was be with you the entire way on Saturday bringing you all the results and highlights from the UFC 281 below.

UFC 281 card and results

  • Alex Pereira def. Israel Adesanya (c) via fifth-round TKO (punches)
  • Weili Zhang def. Carla Esparza (c) via second-round submission (rear-naked choke)
  • Dustin Poirier def. Michael Chandler via third-round submission (rear-naked choke)
  • Chris Gutierrez def. Frankie Edgar via first-round knockout (knee)
  • Dan Hooker def. Claudio Puelles via second-round knockout (body kick)
  • Renato Moicano def. Brad Riddell via first-round submission (rear naked choke)
  • Ryan Spann def. Dominick Reyes via first-round knockout (punch)
  • Erin Blanchfield  def. Molly McCann via first-round submission (kimura)
  • Andre Petroski def. Wellington Turman via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
  • Matt Frevola def. Ottman Azaitar via first-round knockout (punch)
  • Karolina Kowalkiewicz def. Silvana Gomez Juarez via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
  • Michael Trizano def. Choi Seung-woo via first-round TKO (punches)
  • Montel Jackson def. Julio Arce via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
  • Carlos Ulberg def. Nicolae Negumereanu via first-round TKO (punches)
Live updates
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Adesanya vs. Pereira -- Round 5: Adesanya opens the round trying to clinch and hold as the champion knows he's likely up on the scorecards, but Pereira continues to pour forward. Pereira lands a pair of hooks that knocks Adesanya off his feet. Pereira continues to follow up with massive punches as Adesanya holds on for dear life. A final set of hooks and the referee waves it off! Alex Pereira wins the middleweight title with a fifth-round knockout!

November 13, 2022, 5:58 AM
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November 13, 2022, 6:00 AM
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November 13, 2022, 5:58 AM
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November 13, 2022, 5:57 AM
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Adesanya vs. Pereira -- Round 4: Pereira musters little offense as the round expires and Adesanya continues to dictate the pace. Pereira likely needs a finish in the final round here to become champion. 10-9 Adesanya, (39-37 Adesanya)

November 13, 2022, 5:53 AM
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Adesanya vs. Pereira -- Round 4: Pereira has completely stalled out here with no real action from him. Adesanya is just picking him apart from distance and Pereira has no counter offense to throw. He may be running on fumes at this point. Adesanya takes him into the cage and Pereira isn't offering much resistance.

November 13, 2022, 5:51 AM
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Adesanya vs. Pereira -- Round 3:  Nice scrambling between the two behemoths as Adesanya looks to stay in control on top. Pereira lands one nice elbow from the bottom, but Adesanya is in control here from full guard. He works to his feet and invites Pereira to try and get up. Adesanya throws an axekick from the top as the bell sounds that lands decently. 10-9 Adesanya, (29-28 Adesanya)

November 13, 2022, 5:47 AM
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Adesanya vs. Pereira -- Round 3: Adesanya now takes control in the round with a big takedown, he's working to take Pereira's back and raining down some punches that are partially blocked. He stays in position, however, and keeps Pereira pinned against the fence. He's making Pereira carry all his weight. 

November 13, 2022, 5:44 AM
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Adesanya vs. Pereira -- Round 2: Pereira lands well and puts Adesanya back on his heels once more, but Adesanya lands a strong counter right that gets Pereira's attention. Adesanya pushes him into the cage to grapple before they break off and Pereira lands a solid head kick. Pereira scores the takedown just before the bell. 10-9 Pereira, 19-19 overall

November 13, 2022, 5:40 AM
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Adesanya vs. Pereira -- Round 2: Adesanya tries to keep the pressure on after knowing the damage he did in the final moments, but Pereira defends well and keeps the pressure on Adesanya. He lands a solid left hand that sends Adesanya's head flying back. 

November 13, 2022, 5:37 AM
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November 13, 2022, 5:35 AM
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Adesanya vs. Pereira -- Round 1: For all the talk of making this a mixed martial arts fight from Adesanya this week, the first round was decidedly all kickboxing. No takedown attempts or clinch exchanges, just trading at distance with punches and kicks until the last 30 seconds as Pereira entered against the cage. And just as the first round ends, Adesanya lands a pair of massive hooks that visibly rock Pereira! He's on wobbly legs back in his corner. 10-9 Adesanya

November 13, 2022, 5:34 AM
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Adesanya vs. Pereira -- Round 1: Adesanya lands a nice counter straight that knocks Pereira off balance momentarily. He recovers well and continues to push forward and control the pace of the fight as Adesanya counters on the outside.

November 13, 2022, 5:32 AM
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Adesanya vs. Pereira -- Round 1: Pereira opens with a jumping knee that misses the mark. Adesanya goes to work with the low calf kick that Pereira is yet to check. Pereira seems content to let it go and head hunt early. 

November 13, 2022, 5:30 AM
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And now, it's time for the main event! Middleweight champion Israel Adesanya puts the title on the line against Alex Pereira at Madison Square Garden. The story has been told all week long about how Pereira beat Adesanya twice in kickboxing, but as the champ has said ... this is mixed martial arts. How will the contrasting styles play out this time, especially with Pereira only fighting for the sixth time under this rule set. It's about to get real interesting, folks. Buckle up!

November 13, 2022, 5:23 AM
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