How Long Can Alex Pereira Rule The UFC Light Heavyweight Division?
At UFC 295, Alex Pereira knocked out Jiri Prochazka to claim the light heavyweight throne and become a two-division champion. The accomplishment etches Pereira’s name into combat sports history. Now, it is time to determine if his title reign will be short-lived or historically long.
Who Will Pereira Fight Next?
Determining who Pereira will fight next is the most important aspect of projecting his title reign. In this scenario, Pereira has two clear options: Israel Adesanya and Jamahal Hill.
Let’s start with Adesanya. In his octagon interview, Pereira called for a trilogy fight against Adesanya at light heavyweight. It is unclear if this will take place. Adesanya previously stated he was not interested in fighting Pereira again, but he has also claimed he would take the fight at light heavyweight. In all honesty, is hard to know if Adesanya or the UFC are interested in this bout.
As far as projecting the fight goes, it is fairly clear either fighter can win that bout. We have seen it in MMA twice and they each hold a win.
If the UFC opts to pass on the Pereira and Adesanya trilogy, former light heavyweight champion Jamahal Hill will likely get the call. The former champion relinquished the title after tearing his Achilles and was promised a title fight in his return.
A fight between Pereira and Hill is interesting; Hill is one of the few light heavyweights that would stand and trade with Pereira. That makes him one of the more appealing matchups for Pereira, though that does not mean he gets the jump on Hill. I’ll give my opinion on that in the final verdict section of this post.
The Obvious Flaw
As we project Pereira’s light heavyweight reign, it must be noted that he is a poor grappler. So far in his MMA career, he has not been seriously tested on the ground. In small sample sizes, we have seen him struggle against Prochazka, Adesanya and Jan Blachowicz in grappling exchanges.
Pereira will seriously struggle against the better grapplers in the light heavyweight division. If he gets booked against Magomed Ankalaev, Aleksandar Rakic or Nikita Krylov he will run into serious problems on the ground.
It should also be noted that Pereira is a 36-year-old who has shown suspect chin issues on occasion. In the light heavyweight division, it is hard to say he sit atop the division for a significant period without being caught with a powerful shot.
In my opinion, the verdict on Alex Pereira’s light heavyweight title reign is not optimistic. I would set his floor at zero title defense. I would pick Hill to beat him in his first defense.
In fairness, Pereira may defeat Hill and Adesanya. That would be his best-case scenario and leaves him with two title defenses. The issue is that if he beats Hill and Adesanya, he would begin to fight quality grapplers and his struggles in that realm would prevent him from adding to his title reign.
All things considered, I am expecting a short-lived title reign for the newest light heavyweight champion. That is not an attempt to discredit his accomplishments, but that is how I project his future playing out.
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