Nigeria’s Israel Adesanya has lost his middleweight title to Alex Pereira in the main event of Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) 281 at the Madison Square Garden in New York.
Adesanya had been winning the fight until the final sequence, with Pereira firing a barrage of punches with Adesanya hurt against the cage.
The 33-year-old Nigerian was seeking revenge after losing two fights to the Brazilian in kickboxing back in 2016 and 2017.
Referee Marc Goddard stepped in to stop it after a flurry of left hooks and right hands.
Adesanya was up 39-37 on all three judges’ scorecards heading into the fifth round.
Pereira becomes middleweight champion in only his eighth professional MMA bout.
Adesanya’s loss snapped his 12-fight winning streak at middleweight, only one shy of Anderson Silva’s division record.
In his post-fight interview, the Brazilian expressed his delight at the victory.
He said, “I feel so good, I’ve been training all my life, I worked so hard for this.”
Behind on the judges’ scorecards, Pereira unleashed a stunning combination of strikes in the final round to dethrone Adesanya had held the title for about three and half years in only his eighth professional Mixed Martial Arts bout.
It has been a brutal year for Nigeria in the UFC with Kamara Usman also losing his Welterweight title in August while also leading on the scorecards.
The result ends Adesanya’s title reign at six defences that will likely set up a rematch sometime soon.