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UFC 281 should be a major teaching moment for Alex Pereira

Expect to see an improved version of Alex Pereira in his first UFC middleweight title defense

Alex Pereira defeated Israel Adesanya to win the UFC middleweight title at UFC 281
Alex Pereira defeated Israel Adesanya to win the UFC middleweight title at UFC 281
Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC

Alex Pereira looked terrific in defeating Israel Adesanya by knockout in the main event of UFC 281. However, if the new UFC middleweight champion and his team expect the 35-year-old to have a lengthy run atop the division, there are a few things they could focus on ahead of Pereira’s first title defense.

One of the first things Pereira and company need to do is keep an eye on the fighter’s weight. In August, Pereira posted a photo of him weighing in at nearly 233 pounds. That’s heavy for a middleweight, even one as large as the 6-foot-4-inch Pereira. Yes, Pereira made weight for UFC 281, checking in at 184.6 pounds with less than five minutes to spare in the weigh in period, but I’m sure Pereira wasn’t the only one sweating that late weigh-in.

If Pereira and his team monitor his weight outside of camp and prevent him from blowing up, that’ll be one less thing they have to worry about during camp. With the concern of a massive weight cut off the table, Pereira, his coaches and training partners can concentrate on the things he needs to work on as a mixed-martial artist — and avoid the worry of the champ losing his belt on the scale.

Next is the discussion of training, preparation and improvements. Pereira needs to get better at takedown defense and returning to his feet after his foe lands a takedown. Adesanya is not known for his wrestling, but he scored the first takedown of his UFC career against Pereira and then racked up 3:47 of control time in that round.

Pereira fought off three of Adesanya’s takedown attempts, which is noteworthy. Still, a fighter who can close ground, avoid the strikes of Pereira and rack up a significant number of takedown attempts has a path to victory over Pereira. Two fighters who come to mind are Robert Whittaker, who had 17 combined takedown attempts between his recent fights with Adesanya and Gastelum and Marvin Vettori, who put up a combined 31 takedown attempts in his outing with Kevin Holland and his rematch against Adesanya.

I expect Glover Teixeira, who is no slouch in the takedown department — he ranks sixth all-time in the UFC light heavyweight division with 34 takedowns and fourth in control time at 1:15:07 — will have Pereira putting in more than his fair share of takedown and standup drills when the newly crowned champ gets back in the gym.

One item that Pereira’s next opponent(s) have to worry about is the knowledge he gained while inside the octagon at Madison Square Garden. Pereira’s relatively low striking output during the first four rounds at UFC 281 could have had a lot to do with his unfamiliarity with a five-round MMA fight. He picked up that knowledge and did so against one of the top fighters the division has ever seen. With that, expect a more aggressive version of Pereira when he defends his UFC crown.

Pereira’s knowledge of everything that goes into striking in combat sports is immense. That his first bout against an elite MMA competitor was a five-round scrap against an opponent as skilled as Adesanya is mind-boggling. With a coach like Teixeira, who knows how hard it is to get to the top of the UFC mountain — and stay there — I expect to see a better version of Pereira the next time he steps into the octagon.