June 14, 2024
Israel Adesanya And the Real Winners and Losers from UFC 287 | News, Scores, Highlights, Stats, and Rumors

Israel Adesanya And the Real Winners and Losers from UFC 287

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    MIAMI, FLORIDA - APRIL 08: Israel Adesanya of Nigeria reacts after knocking out Alex Pereira of Brazil in the UFC middleweight championship fight during the UFC 287 event at Kaseya Center on April 08, 2023 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Cooper Neill/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

    Cooper Neill/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

    It’d been 7,288 days since the UFC last landed in Miami.

    Chances are it won’t be that long before it returns.

    The mixed martial arts conglomerate brought its traveling Octagon to South Florida’s biggest city for the first time since April 2003 with a 12-bout show headlined by a middleweight title rematch and co-headlined by the host city’s most popular fighter.

    UFC 287 went live from the newly-named Kaseya Center with 185-pound rivals Alex Pereira and Israel Adesanya atop the bill and Jorge Masvidal meeting Gilbert Burns in the co-main, nearly 20 full years after Matt Hughes and Sean Sherk topped the marquee at UFC 42.

    The arena, which is home to the NBA’s Miami Heat, was called the American Airlines Center for the last UFC visit and had been labeled the Miami-Dade Arena as early as this week before the software/IT management company signed a 17-year naming rights deal.

    The B/R combat team was in the house, too, from the time the first strike was thrown shortly after 6:30 p.m. ET until Adesanya’s hand was raised at just before 1 a.m. Sunday. The result was a definitive list of the night’s winners and losers that we encourage you to take a look at and respond to with a thought of your own in the comments section.adea

Winner: Reversing Roles

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    MIAMI, FLORIDA - APRIL 08: Israel Adesanya of Nigeria reacts after knocking out Alex Pereira of Brazil in the UFC middleweight championship fight during the UFC 287 event at Kaseya Center on April 08, 2023 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Cooper Neill/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

    Cooper Neill/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

    The devastating KO was no surprise.

    That it came from the challenger and not the champion, however, was a shocker.

    Vanquished middleweight king and three-time Alex Pereira victim Israel Adesanya turned the tables on his powerful Brazilian rival, landing consecutive right hands that dumped Pereira to the mat like a ton of bricks. That result handed the title back to the man who’d held it with an iron hand from 2019 to 2022.

    It was a remarkable turnaround from two of the three times the two had met—twice in kickboxing and once in MMA—in fights that ended with Pereira KOs. Adesanya hadn’t won a fight inside the distance since beating Paulo Costa in 2020 and only four times in 14 fights since arriving to the UFC in 2018.

    Pereira, meanwhile, hadn’t lost by any means since coming up short in his pro debut in 2015.

    “I hope every one of you can feel this level of happiness just once in your life,” Adesanya said. “But you’ll never feel this happy if you don’t cope with something. If you stay down, you will never get that resolve. I’m blessed to be able to feel this s–t again and again and again and again and again.

    “They say revenge is sweet, and if you know me, I’ve got a sweet tooth. This is so f–king sweet.”

    Adesanya and Pereira had battled evenly through a first round in which the challenger was able to maintain position in the center of the cage but never landed any significant strikes behind some solid kicks to the legs. Pereira was never damaged, though, and began moving forward himself in the second.

    In fact, he was becoming more aggressive just as the decisive sequence began, pinning Adesanya back against the fence with a volley of punches followed by a knee to the body. It was then that Adesanya rallied, however, landing a jab before the first right hand that moved Pereira backward and then the second right that rendered him horizontal.

    One ground strike later, and the result was academic at 4:21 of the second.

    “Alex is a great champion,” Adesanya said. “He lost the belt tonight. In his story, I’m the antagonist, but tonight it’s my story. History. Beating me, he made me a better fighter, a better person. I stayed on the grind.”

Winner: Halting a Hero

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    MIAMI, FLORIDA - APRIL 08: Gilbert Burns of Brazil reacts after his decision victory over Jorge Masvidal in the UFC middleweight championship fight during the UFC 287 event at Kaseya Center on April 08, 2023 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

    Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

    There were two men in the cage for Saturday’s co-main event.

    One was a personality. The other was a fighter.

    The fighter won. And when it was over, the personality ceded the stage.

    Gilbert Burns was a more effective striker and a superior grappler for nearly every moment of 15 minutes against two-time failed-title challenger Jorge Masvidal, winning a unanimous decision that vaulted him back to title consideration while it drove the Miami hero into retirement.

    Two judges had it a 30-27 shutout for Burns, who arrived as the UFC’s fifth-ranked welterweight, six spots up on No. 11 Masvidal, who’d already lost three straight fights since his last victory in 2019.

    Burns immediately called for the winner of a planned bout between champion Leon Edwards and No. 2 contender Colby Covington, which is expected later this year. He lost by TKO to Kamaru Usman in his own previous title bid two years ago at UFC 251.

    “I’m not taking no other fight,” he said, “just a title fight.”

    As for Masvidal, who was out-landed in terms of significant strikes in two of three rounds and taken down four times for a combined 5 minutes and 41 seconds of control time, he said goodbye at the same venue at which he’d attended UFC 42 as an 18-year-old fan exactly 20 years ago this month.

    “It’s been a long 20 years,” he said. “Sometimes your favorite guys just don’t have it anymore. But I’m a multi-millionaire, and now I’m set for life. I didn’t have s–t when I started.”

Winner: Turning Heel

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    MIAMI, FLORIDA - APRIL 08: Kevin Holland prepares to face Santiago Ponzinibbio of Argentina in a welterweight fight during the UFC 287 event at Kaseya Center on April 08, 2023 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

    Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

    Talk about your spontaneous heel turns.

    Kevin Holland was drinking in the adoration of a capacity crowd in Miami following a dramatic one-shot third-round KO of Santiago Ponzinibbio when he decided he’d go trolling for a high-profile next foe.

    And who could be higher profile, just miles from South Beach, than Jorge Masvidal?

    “There’s no badder mother f–ker than me,” he said, referencing the Miami-based hero’s famed BMF defeat of Nate Diaz a few years ago. “See you soon.”

    It was a powerful verbal blow for the Texas-based welterweight after he’d spent 13-plus minutes landing physical blows on Ponzinibbio, who had constant difficulty limiting Holland’s movement and eluding the strikes he’d deliver from angles that could accurately be labeled as inventive.

    Holland scored a unique first-round knockdown with a backhand strike with his right hand after Ponzinibbio had blocked a kick attempt and was holding Holland’s right leg at his waist. He continued to find success in the second and landed a particularly solid right elbow to counter a Ponzinibbio charge.

    The end came just past the midway point of the third when Holland landed a right hand that drove Ponzinibbio backward and spun him, then leaped in with a left hook that dumped the Argentine veteran face-first to the floor. One more hard ground strike with the right hand prompted an intervention from referee Dan Miragliotta at 3:16.

    It was Holland’s first win since he submitted Tim Means last June and just his third in eight fights—alongside four losses and a no-contest—since his memorable five-win run amid the pandemic in 2020.

Loser: Riding the Hype Train

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    MIAMI, FLORIDA - APRIL 08: Christian Rodriguez (R) punches Raul Rosas Jr. in their bantamweight bout at Kaseya Center on April 08, 2023 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)

    Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

    Well, that wasn’t supposed to happen.

    Teenage sensation Raul Rosas Jr. arrived to the Octagon with the sort of generational hype reserved for the upper tier of UFC performers, including discussions about whether he’d progress fast enough to become the youngest champion in the company’s history.

    Let’s just say Christian Rodriguez wasn’t buying it.

    The 25-year-old Milwaukee-based bantamweight looked like a typical squash opponent across a first round in which Rosas chased a finish with several tries for a rear-naked choke, but when the horn sounded and the fight had not been waved off, the landscape changed.

    Rodriguez began the second round with consistent aggression and landed the more telling strikes throughout the session, then walked through what appeared to be desperation attempts by Rosas at the start of the third to land a meaningful shot with a jumping knee and a spinning elbow.

    The older man got the fight to the floor and chased finishes of his own for the balance of the final round and was rewarded by the judges with a trio of 29-28 scores.

    It was the first loss for Rosas after he’d scored six finishes in seven wins, including a first-rounder against Jay Perrin in his official UFC debut in December.

    “He’s really good. He brings it,” said Rodriguez, now 9-1 as a pro and 2-1 in the UFC.

    “But this feels good.”

Winner: Getting Back to Business

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    MIAMI, FLORIDA - APRIL 08: (R-L) Kelvin Gastelum punches Chris Curtis in a middleweight fight during the UFC 287 event at Kaseya Center on April 08, 2023 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

    Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

    It was the night’s best fight.

    And no one was happier about it than Kelvin Gastelum.

    The former failed challenger for an interim middleweight title hadn’t fought in 20 months and hadn’t won in 26, but he looked like he’d not spent a moment away while pounding out a comprehensively violent unanimous decision over fellow contender Chris Curtis.

    Curtis arrived as the division’s 14th-ranked contender, a spot up on Gastelum at 15.

    Gastelum was 16-3 as a pro before losing to Israel Adesanya in his bid for 185-pound gold in April 2019. He’d not been the same since, losing four of his ensuing five fights before the prolonged absence following a decision loss to Jared Cannonier atop a Fight Night show in August 2021.

    But he was fluid, fast and effective against Curtis—not to mention tough—celebrating his victory with a chat with Joe Rogan as blood still leaked from a cut over his right eye.

    Rogan said he looked like “a world beater out there,” and Gastelum lapped it up, giving the standing crowd a few primal screams amid a tale detailing his dedication while away.

    “I had to have a radical change in me,” he said. “I didn’t just spend a year and a half away vacationing. I struggled every day to be here.”

Loser: Minor-League Pedigree

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    MIAMI, FLORIDA - APRIL 08: (L-R) Joe Pyfer punches Gerald Meerschaert in a middleweight fight during the UFC 287 event at Kaseya Center on April 08, 2023 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

    Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

    There’s something to be said for championship-level experience.

    But it’s not always something good.

    Eight of the 14 preliminary fighters on Saturday’s show had at least one title fight with a promotion outside of Octagonal auspices, but one of the half-dozen without an appearance atop a marquee turned in the performance that’ll be among the night’s most recalled.

    Philadelphia middleweight Joe Pyfer not only hadn’t had a title fight before he arrived in Miami, but he’d also been on the short end of a first-round KO in his initial spotlight turn on Dana White’s Contender Series in 2020 before ultimately reaching the UFC last summer.

    Go ahead and ask Gerald Meerschaert, an ex-Resurrection Fighting Alliance champion and veteran of 17 UFC fights, if any of that mattered.

    Not only was the 35-year-old Meerschaert unable to make his resume matter against a comparative upstart opponent, but he was also only barely conscious by the time his encounter with Pyfer—which lasted barely more than three full minutes—was over.

    Pyfer began the decisive sequence with a right hand that dropped his foe and followed up with enough ground work to force referee Marc Goddard’s hand at 3:15.

    From there, the 26-year-old, nicknamed “Bodybagz,” won over the crowd with a speech that nimbly blended genuine emotion, spine-tingling motivation and an unapologetic claim on a performance bonus.

    Elsewhere, late-notice sub Trey Ogden, another alum of three non-UFC title fights, lost a unanimous decision to Ignacio Bahamondes at a catchweight in the final early prelim bout. Michelle Waterson-Gomez, who split a pair of title fights in the Invicta promotion, dropped a split nod to Luana Pinheiro in a strawweight bout.

    Only Loopy Godinez, who won Legacy Fighting Alliance and BTC Fight Promotions belts, was successful in Miami with a split decision over comparative newbie Cynthia Calvillo.

    The other four with title-fight chops—strawweights Jaqueline Amorim and Sam Hughes and middleweights Chris Curtis and Kelvin Gastelum—were matched against one another.

Winner: Prelim Chalk

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    MIAMI, FLORIDA - APRIL 08: Ignacio Bahamondes (R) of Chile kicks Trey Ogden in their catchweight bout during UFC 287 at Kaseya Center on April 08, 2023 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)

    Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

    Ignacio Bahamondes is a difficult puzzle to solve.

    Though just 160 pounds, the Chilean stands every bit of 6’3″ and approaches foes with a full complement of kicks and punches delivered via impossibly long arms and legs from perpetually switching right- and left-handed stances.

    So, if things go as he plans, a foe is either left semi-conscious by one or more strikes or so preoccupied with playing defense that they’re beaten by superior offensive output.

    It’s no wonder, then, that Bahamondes was the biggest betting favorite on the non-pay-per-view portion of the show, going off at -365 according to DraftKings and paying off his backers with a unanimous decision over short-notice journeyman foe Trey Ogden.

    It wasn’t exactly carnage, so the crowd wasn’t always super pumped, but Joe Rogan was impressed enough to label him “one of the best prospects” in the lightweight division.

    “[Ogden] was fast,” said Bahamondes, who improved to 14-4 overall and 3-1 in the UFC since a winning appearance on Dana White’s Contender Series in 2020. “I was waiting for him to mess up, and he never messed up.”

Loser: Turning 40

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    MIAMI, FLORIDA - APRIL 08: (R-L) Steve Garcia punches Shayilan Nuerdanbieke of China in a featherweight fight during the UFC 287 event at Kaseya Center on April 08, 2023 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

    Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

    Shayilan Nuerdanbieke knows how to win fights.

    The 28-year-old had packed 49 fights into a pro career that began in 2016, and he’d won 39 of them, putting himself within sniffing distance of rarified 40-Win Club air.

    And after the first half of the first round against Steve Garcia, it seemed he’d get there.

    But that’s when Garcia decided to make his own statement.

    The New Mexico-based bantamweight, a product of the famed Jackson-Wink MMA stable, endured a series of punishing shots before rallying to rattle his Chinese foe in return as the initial five minutes ended. It turns out he didn’t need much more time for them to matter.

    Garcia sent Nuerdanbieke reeling with shots to the head, then delivered a devastating kick to the body, followed by a left hook to the liver that left him curled on the floor and ended matters after 36 seconds of Round 2.

    It was his 11th KO and 14th win as a pro and third win in five UFC fights since a win on Dana White’s Contender Series in 2019.

    When Joe Rogan asked how he’d made it through, Garcia was direct.

    “We train every single day,” he said, “for moments just like this.”

Winner: Early Staying Power

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    MIAMI, FLORIDA - APRIL 08: (L-R) Jaqueline Amorim of Brazil works for a submission against Sam Hughes in a strawweight fight during the UFC 287 event at Kaseya Center on April 08, 2023 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

    Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

    She may or may not become a UFC champion, but Sam Hughes knows how to work a room.

    Even a three-quarters empty one.

    The 30-year-old Texas-based strawweight was on the right end of a unanimous decision over previously unbeaten Jaqueline Amorim in the first prelim bout at a still-cavernous Kaseya Center, and she earned every bit of the post-fight acclaim she got.

    Hughes survived several choke attempts in a perilous first round against Amorim, who’d submitted five of six opponents entering her UFC debut. Amorim seemed moments away from a seventh straight win and drew an “it’s over” comment from Joe Rogan on the broadcast, but Hughes fought hands well enough to hear the horn.

    After the one-minute break, she took over against a clearly compromised Amorim, who launched several ineffective takedown attempts as Hughes came forward with strikes in the final two rounds but never got her foe back into a compromising position.

    Rogan labeled Hughes a “cardio machine” when the two chatted after the fight, and he took a celebratory picture with her after Hughes credited her training team for an increased focus on mat work during camp.

    She improved to 8-5 as a pro and 3-4 in seven Octagonal appearances.

    She’d gone three rounds five times and into a fourth round once, in a Legacy Fighting Alliance title fight loss to Vanessa Demopoulos in 2020.

    Amorim, meanwhile, had never gone a full five minutes in any of her victories.

    “My wrestling defense was significantly improved in this camp,” Hughes said, “and I think that translated.”

Full Card Results

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    MIAMI, FLORIDA - APRIL 08: Loopy Godinez (L) of Mexico exchanges strikes with Cynthia Calvillo in their strawweight bout during UFC 287 at Kaseya Center on April 08, 2023 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)

    Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

    Main Card

    Israel Adesanya def. Alex Pereira by KO (punches), 4:21, Round 2

    Gilbert Burns def. Jorge Masvidal by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)

    Rob Font def. Adrian Yanez by TKO (punches), 2:57, Round 1

    Kevin Holland def. Santiago Ponzinibbio by KO (punch), 3:16, Round 3

    Christian Rodriguez def. Raul Rosas Jr. by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)

    Preliminary Card

    Kelvin Gastelum def. Chris Curtis by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)

    Luana Pinheiro def. Michelle Waterson-Gomez by split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)

    Joe Pyfer def. Gerald Meerschaert by TKO (punches), 3:15, Round 1

    Loopy Godinez def. Cynthia Calvillo by split decision (29-28, 28-29, 30-27)

    Ignacio Bahamondes def. Trey Ogden by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)

    Steve Garcia def. Shayilan Nuerdanbieke by KO (punch), 0:36, Round 2

    Sam Hughes def. Jaqueline Amorim by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)