The UFC returned to Madison Square Garden with UFC 281, a massive pay-per-view event topped by a trio of highly anticipated fights. In its recent edition, The Thrill and the Agony gave us a behind-the-scenes look at the aftermath of Israel Adesanya vs. Alex Pereira, Carla Esparza vs. Zhang Weili, and Dustin Poirier vs. Michael Chandler.
Poirier and Chandler delivered what was expected: a ‘Fight of the Night’ outing. Following three rounds of nonstop action, the ‘Diamond’ submitted ‘Iron’ Mike by rear-naked choke. Despite the win, Poirier was still miffed at Chandler, who he confronted for his ‘dirty’ tactics such as fish hooking and blowing his nose on him. Cooler heads prevailed, and the pair shared a brief, yet respectful moment in the Octagon.
“Respect, man. You’re a warrior,” Poirier told Chandler. “You’ve done a lot of great s—t in your career. I was scared to fight you. Coming from a…a healthy scared. I was scared to fight you bro. But without fear, there’s no bravery man. Let’s rock.”
Zhang Weili dethroned Carla Esparza to become a two-time UFC strawweight champion. ‘Magnum’ subbed the ‘Cookie Monster,’ who had her reign end six months after it began.
“Hello, Chinese friends,” said Weili. “The belt is back. We will bring the belt back to China. Let’s go!”
In our headliner, Alex Pereira stunned the world with a fifth-round TKO of Israel Adesanya to claim the UFC middleweight championship. It was the third win for Pereira over Adesanya, who he defeated twice in kickboxing several years ago.
Given their history, ‘Po Atan’ and the ‘Last Stylebender’ expressed mutual respect (and disdain?) for one another.
“You don’t like me, I don’t like you, but respect,” Adesanya told Pereira. “All respect.”
The full episode of The Thrill and the Agony is available to watch on UFC Fight Pass.