Alex Pereira is coming for middleweight king Israel Adesanya after his latest KO
Former GLORY two-weight champion Alex Pereira entered the UFC with a rich striking pedigree and showed exactly why on Saturday night in Las Vegas as the Brazilian ended Sean Strickland's night early to set up a world title showdown with middleweight king Israel Adesanya.
Pereira - who owns two wins against Adesanya in their kickboxing days - was handed the sternest test of mixed martial arts career against the brash Strickland, a fighter whose aggression in the cage is often matched by his bizarre statements outside of it, but passed the test with flying colors when he sent Strickland tumbling to the mat with a quick left hook midway through the first round.
It was the same punch which had knocked Adesanya unconscious when they last fought in 2017 but it didn't quite put Strickland's lights out - but that was soon to change when the Brazilian landed a couple of follow-up shots on the ground.
"I don't care whatever he says in the pre-fight interviews, I don't take nothing personal," Pereira said after the fight. "I want to thank him for fighting me. We had a strong strategy. Took some time in there for the knockout.
"Many people talk about my two wins over Israel Adesanya but say they're in kickboxing," Pereira added. "I just beat the No. 4 [fighter] in the rankings so I know I earned that [title shot]. Let's cheer for Adesanya tonight."
Adesanya did his part in the main event, but it was a largely lackluster showing from the reigning middleweight champion, as he employed a safe game plan to outpoint Jared Cannonier over five rounds in defence of his 185lbs title.
But while the fight didn't exactly set pulses racing, the prospect of a titled fight between two of the sport's best strikers (and with history between them to boot) is a tantalizing prospect.
"Look we know who's next," Adesanya said after his win. "Trust me, the first time I told you, it was an error on my part spamming the right hand and that was in kickboxing.
"It's easy to knockout, what's the hillbilly's name [Strickland] because he was parrying the jabs but like I said at the press conference, the next time I put you on skates, you're going to get frozen like Elsa."
But before that fight goes down, some of the top names in MMA were keen to note their praise for Pereira online.
"This guy must have sledgehammers for fists! That was INSANE!!" wrote UFC bantamweight champion Aljamain Sterling.
"Dang, Strickland was looking solid then [boom]. Ridiculous power from Pereira," added Ben Askren, while Henry Cejudo summed the fight up with: "If you get too close to fire, you will get burned."