Last updated on .From the section Mixed Martial Arts
In mixed martial arts, anything can happen at any time.
Israel Adesanya found this out the hard way at UFC 281 as Alex Pereira defeated him in the fifth and final round with two minutes remaining of the bout.
Adesanya, 33, was ahead on all three judges scorecards before the contest was brought to a dramatic end.
He was also moments away from winning the fight after badly rocking Pereira seconds before the klaxon was sounded to signal the end of round one.
This defeat will sting Adesanya but should we be surprised that Pereira, who was an underdog going into the fight, was able to beat the New Zealander considering their previous encounters in kickboxing?
Pereira had shown us he could hurt Adesanya long before he stepped into the Octagon on Saturday night.
When he and Adesanya were both kickboxers, Pereira defeated him twice.
The first win came via decision in 2016 but one year later, Pereira brutally knocked out Adesanya - the only knockout loss Adesanya has endured during his combat sports career up until UFC 281.
The two defeats in kickboxing were something Adesanya was trying to play down in the build-up to UFC 281.
Normally jovial and witty, Adesanya carried himself in a much more serious manner during fight week - he really wanted to avenge the losses.
Adesanya joined the UFC in 2018 and became one of the biggest stars in the sport soon after.
It took 'The Last Stylebender' just 18 months to become middleweight champion, a title he successfully defended five times before he ran into Pereira.
The Brazilian debuted in the UFC in November 2021.
The 35-year-old arrived with big expectations given his kickboxing record against Adesanya.
He won his first three fights including a notable knockout against potential contender Sean Strickland. That win catapulted Pereira to a mega fight with his old foe.
We are not used to seeing Adesanya face adversity from anyone in the middleweight division.
He's been relatively comfortable in all five of his title defences.
So, when the Brazilian hurt Adesanya with a right hand during the fifth round, the sold out crowd at Madison Square Garden momentarily was stunned, with audible gasps churning around the arena.
There was a disbelief to see Adesanya in trouble and the crowd erupted once a new champion was announced.
Adesanya pleaded his innocence to the referee and believed the stoppage was too soon - something he addressed in the post-fight press conference.
"I was fine. I could see everything happening. My eyes might have rolled back a little bit, but I was lucid," he said.
With the win, Pereira becomes a UFC champion in just his eighth mixed martial arts contest.
The resilience shown by Pereira during the fight cannot be overstated.
Moments before he entered the fifth and final round, his corner informed him he needed a stoppage win, sensing he was losing the fight.
"One round for you to be a world champion. You need to knock him out. This round is yours," said Pereira's team, which included former UFC light heavyweight champion Glover Teixeira.
Pereira responded and now enters 2023 as the champion of one of the most dangerous divisions in the sport.
UFC president Dana White indicated he's open to a rematch between the two following a breathless encounter.
"You've got to respect him [Adesanya] as a champion and what he's done. I wouldn't rule an immediate rematch out," he said.
Adesanya also expressed his interest in running the fight back, as did Pereira, and a rematch between the two could be one of the biggest fights in UFC history.
Adesanya's first sentence in his post fight press conference was telling.
It's not common for fighters who lose their championship to then attend press conferences.
But Adesanya is not your common fighter. He's dignified, he's hungry to win his title back and wanted to put that on record.
Pereira, meanwhile, is a candidate for fighter of the year.
The Brazilian was unranked at the start of 2022, but ends the year as middleweight champion.