Madison Square Garden has been very kind to Alex Pereira, and he’s been very kind to New York fans who love violence.
The former two-division champion kickboxer, in the space of barely two years, won a UFC title in a second weight class on Saturday in the UFC 295 main event, finishing former champ Jiri Prochazka by second-round knockout to claim the vacant light heavyweight crown.
The win comes two years and five days after his UFC debut at the Garden and barely a year after winning the middleweight title in the same building.
Each fight ended via knockout.
Pereira (8-2, seven finishes) is the fastest UFC fighter ever to become a two-division champion from the time of his debut, shattering Conor McGregor’s previous record of 3 ½ years.
The opening round was competitive, with Pereira doing big damage early with leg kicks, particularly to Prochazka’s calf.
But Prochazka took advantage of a fruitless Pereira standing guillotine attack to get a takedown, though he was limited in what he was able to land over the final two minutes.
Prochazka came out more aggressive in the second round, with his more unorthodox striking attack putting Pereira on his back foot. But Pereira connected with a straight left hand that dropped Prochazka.
Pereira looked to follow with strikes to his vulnerable foe, but the referee called off the action at the 4:08 mark in what some in the arena voiced criticism of it being a potential early stoppage.
Prochazka (29-4-1, 28 finishes), returning from a major shoulder injury that threw the 205-pound division into chaos for 11 months after he relinquished the belt, shot down the idea of the fight being halted too early.
“I think it was right,” Prochazka said. “I was out. But I will never stop.”
Pereira is slated to next face Jamahal Hill, who won the vacated title from Pereira’s coach in January but also gave it up after a ruptured Achilles in July.
England has its first (interim) UFC heavyweight champion.
With barely two weeks to prepare after the event’s original headlining fight fell apart, Tom Aspinall made the most of the late-notice opportunity by knocking out Sergei Pavlovich at 1:09 of the first round during the co-main event.
“It’s been a crazy 2 ¹/₂ weeks,” Aspinall said in the octagon after the victory. “If you ever have a chance to do something, and you’re scared to do it, you should absolutely f—ing do it.”
Few expect the fight to go past the first few rounds. As it turned out, it barely escaped the first few minutes before Aspinall left his mark.
Aspinall (14-3, 14 finishes) opened his attack with heavy leg kicks, then avoided the worst of Pavlovich’s first salvo.
Within moments, Aspinall uncorked a heavy right hook to Pavlovich’s left temple, crumpling the massive Russian to the canvas before adding some barely necessary ground strikes to prompt the referee to wave it off.
“To be honest, I was struggling with the distance a little bit,” Aspinall recalled of the brief bout with Pavlovich (18-2, 15 finishes). “His arms are really long. … We got there in the end.”
Running on adrenaline, Aspinall, who dedicated the win to his father, flopped to the canvas to soak in the moment. He is 17 months removed from a devastating knee injury that tore or damaged several ligaments.
Four months after stopping Marcin Tybura in London 73 seconds, he ended the Russian’s interim title hopes four seconds faster.
“I really believed in myself, and I worked hard over the years,” said Aspinall, who at 30 told The Post earlier this week he believes will be a part of a golden age for heavyweight MMA.
Aspinall ostensibly awaits the winner of what was to be Saturday’s original headliner, champion Jon Jones against former champ Stipe Miocic.
However, there’s belief in the sport that once Jones is healthy and faces Miocic next year, both men could retire after the fight.
In that case, Aspinall would be expected to have the interim distinction removed.