UFC 281: Adesanya vs. Pereira Preview, Predictions, and Best Bets

On Saturday, November 12, live from Madison Square Garden in New York City, the undefeated UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya will defend his crown against a familiar foe in Alex Pereira.

Thirteen fights have been scheduled for the UFC 281 preliminary and main event cards, and following the success of UFC 280 in Abu Dhabi, it’ll be a tough act to follow.

The confirmed fights for UFC 281 are as follows:

  • Israel Adesanya vs. Alex Pereira (Middleweight Main Event Championship Bout)
  • Carla Esparza vs. Zhang Weili (Women’s Strawweight Championship Co-Main Event Bout)
  • Dustin Poirier vs. Michael Chandler (Lightweight Bout)
  • Dan Hooker vs. Claudio Puelles (Lightweight Bout)
  • Frankie Edgar vs. Chris Gutierrez (Bantamweight Bout)

UFC 281 Preliminary Card

  • Erin Blanchfield vs. Molly McCann (Women’s Flyweight Bout)
  • Dominick Reyes vs. Ryan Spann (Light Heavyweight Bout)
  • Mike Trizano vs. Seung Woo Choi (Featherweight Bout)
  • Brad Riddell vs. Renato Moicano (Lightweight Bout)
  • Karolina Kowalkiewicz vs. Silvana Gomez Juarez (Women’s Strawweight Bout)
  • Ottman Azaitar vs. Matt Frevola (Lightweight Bout)
  • Carlos Ulberg vs. Nicolae Negumereanu (Light Heavyweight Bout)
  • Andre Petroski vs. Wellington Turman (Middleweight Bout)
  • Julio Arce vs. Montel Jackson (Bantamweight Bout)

UFC 281 Main Event Preview & History

The UFC 281 line-up is stacked with talent, but the attention has flocked around the main event of the evening.

The Nigerian-New Zealander has sat atop the 185lb division since defeating former champion Rob Whittaker in 2019. Boasting a 23-1-0 professional MMA record, Israel “The Last Stylebender” Adesanya made one of the fasted rises to UFC superstardom upon his arrival to the promotion. One year and eight months following his debut, Adesanya defeated all six of his opponents to earn his title opportunity. However, one man has earned a championship opportunity even faster, Adesanya’s UFC 281 opponent, Alex Pereira.

Pereira, 35, burst onto the scene in November 2021 with a flying knee knockout over Andreas Michailidis. And in 2022, thus far, the Brazilian knockout artist has recorded another two victories, most notably knockout out a top contender in Sean Strickland. The latter propelled Pereira’s ranking, and after a mere three UFC fights and just 13 months in the company, a shot at gold has been presented.

That said, the history between Adesanya and Pereira has undoubtedly assisted the UFC in gifting Pereira a title opportunity so early into his tenure. Both men are former professional kickboxers where; they’ve previously fought one another on two occasions, and it’s Pereira who won both contests. In 2016, Pereira received a nod from the judges in a closely fought battle, but their rematch in 2017 saw the Brazilian knock Adesanya into unconsciousness. Pereira is the only combat sports athlete to stop Adesanya via KO/TKO.

Adesanya, however, is the more accomplished MMA fighter and while Pereira still carries the same power that stopped “Stylebender”, a fight in the octagon under MMA rules is a different world compared to kickboxing. The middleweight champion owns significantly more MMA experience than his kickboxing foe and is deservingly seen as the likely winner of this fight.

UFC 281 Odds & Prediction

Sportsbooks opened Adesanya as the -200 betting favorite, but the money on Pereira has shifted that price to -165 at most bookmakers, with the comeback on the Brazilian sitting around +140. Caesars New York sportsbooks should expect late money on Adesanya, and the current price is expected to plummet back into the -200 range, strictly based on the experience and know-how of the MMA community, who’ll undoubtedly side with precision and skill over knockout power.

The game plan for Pereira needs to involve consistent pressure and counter-striking, but as we can gauge from Adesanya’s past fights, he’s an expert in distance management and movement. We can expect the champ to remain cautious and pick his shots from the outside while avoiding close encounters with the knockout power that previously left him seeing stars.

I suggest sports bettors remain cautious because it only takes one punch during a 25-minute bout, one punch that can end it all. Adesanya will need to perfect his shot selection while avoiding the left hook of Pereira like the plague. I envision constant forward-moving pressure from Pereira because a technical striking battle in the octagon favors his opponent. If anybody can handle pressure, It’s Adesanya and his precise counter-striking ability while moving backward.

The world will be tuned in to see if Pereira can replicate his knockout of Adesanya on the grandest stage of them all, Madison Square Garden in New York. However, we predict the experienced sharpshooter will defend his middleweight belt and exact revenge.

UFC 281 Prediction: Adesanya to win by decision

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