Aljamain Sterling Says Israel Adesanya Should Have Grappled With Alex Pereira More: ‘It Could Have Changed That Outcome’

Sterling recaps everything that went down in the UFC 281 headliner and what's to come.

Sterling 281
(via @funkmastermma, @ufc - Instagram)

Aljamain Sterling thinks a more grappling-heavy approach from Israel Adesanya could have seen him beat Alex Pereira.

The longtime rivals would meet once again at UFC 281, where Pereira picked up a three-peat over Adesanya, earning the UFC Middleweight title in the process. While it looked like the UFC Champion was going to cruise to a decision win, the power of ‘Poatan’ would prove to be too much as Adesanya was stopped with strikes in the fifth and final round.

Sterling Recaps Adesanya vs. Pereira

Sterling says ‘The Last Stylebender’ was shutting out Pereira on the scorecards before the knockout, who nearly finished Pereira in the second round. But of course, that’d all be washed away in the last minutes of the fight. 

“Israel Adesanya was pitching just about as close to a shutout as you can get in a title match…” Sterling said on his YouTube channel. “I don’t know how Pereira did it. He managed to get to a title shot relatively quick. I think Adesanya and his past might have helped speed up that trajectory a bit, but all the same, Alex Pereira can fight. The other part about that is he’s tough and he’s durable. As we saw in that first round, when he got clipped. Adesanya looked like he was gonna get him out of there at the bell and maybe drop ’em at the bell and maybe the fight would’ve been waved off right there. Saved by the bell… This one, he stumbles him, he rocked him pretty cleanly, caught him with a nasty left hook while going backwards. And I was like, ‘okay, this next round, this fight should be over’. But it wasn’t.

“[Pereira] gathered himself, regained his composure relatively well, but he didn’t really do anything of significance in my personal opinion in those next few rounds, other than keeping the pressure on Izzy. But, Izzy did a good job of using his footwork. That’s what he’s known to do. He’s known to crash and cause the collision. When guys come forward, he steps back and then he crashes them. This time throughout the fight, Pereira was trying to do that to him. Izzy finds himself on the cage multiple times, but manages to get out relatively unscathed for the most part, landing beautiful leg kicks. Obviously I was drinking during the fight guys, but I can’t recall too many things that Alex Pereira was doing well until the end of the fight where he finished it and that’s all that matters. All that other sh*t, it doesn’t matter. The fight was over. He finished the fight, he did what he needed to do to win. It’s that danger factor, you know, that we talked about is the ultimate equalizer in power. When someone possesses that type of power, it is special, man. Izzy did everything that he could possibly do.”

‘If I’m Izzy, I’m Tying This Man Up’

There’s no doubt Adesanya tried his best in his fight against Pereira. However, Sterling being the wrestler he is, believes the champion should have tried to grapple Pereira more in the last round. Doing so, could have prevented the KO altogether. 

“The only thing that I had much criticism about was the grappling and not utilizing that more,” Sterling said of Adesanya. I felt like when he did try to grapple, I did feel like when it is he did try to grapple. He wasn’t too comfortable or confident in that position where he had the leg up. He had the high crotch and he didn’t really know what to do with the that position. But when Izzy did get him down, he beat him up pretty good. I just feel in that third, fifth round where you get to a point where you’re dominating, if you do tie him up more, you take away the chances for him to knock you out. I think it makes sense for this situation.

“Like my fifth round with Petr Yan, I knew he needed a knockout to win the fight. That’s, that’s what I knew. I’m like, if they scored this correctly, I know this man needs a knockout to win this fight… So, I’m thinking the more I make this guy grapple, the less opportunities he has to land a knockout shot to end the fight immediately. So that’s the way I’m looking at it. So I’m thinking if Izzy is smart, I’m not saying if he’s smart, I’m thinking if I’m Izzy, I’m tying this man up, taking away his old faithful lefty and not giving him any opportunity to land that hail mary blow and get me outta there. So he does what he does, He entertains, he’s striking, striking, striking, but then gets caught in that fifth round with about two minutes left on the clock.

Sterling added onto his constructive criticism of Adesanya’s approach against Pereira.

“It’s just one of those things, man… I think in that fight there was probably eight sequences where Izzy was on the cage evading or trying to play like juke master and get outta there. It’s just one of those things where you got a guy who hits that hard and he’s tying you up and looking for that big left hook, which he puts everybody down with. Look at the Strickland fight, look at all these other guys. It’s like he’s not the fastest striker, but when he connects it’s dangerous and respect where, respect where it is due. I thought Izzy was gonna run away with this relatively easy. It looked like he was. But then again, I always said in this type of a matchup, it’s so dangerous. 

“Izzy, if he was able to tie him up, it could have changed that outcome of the fight. Could’ve, we don’t know.”

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