UFC 281: Adesanya vs. Pereira Preview & Best Bets

A UFC Middleweight Championship bout headlines UFC 281 as No. 4 Alex Pereira challenges title holder Israel Adesanya.

  • Date: Saturday, November 12, 2022 | Time: 10:00 p.m. ET
  • Venue: Madison Square Garden – New York City, New York | TV: PPV

What’s Tougher, Diamond, or Iron?

Former interim UFC Lightweight Champion and two-time runner-up to the undisputed title, Dustin Poirier, will try to get back in the win column against Michael Chandler. Poirier is 7-2 over his last nine bouts, losing to the champion each time (Khabib Nurmagomedov, Charles Oliveira).

His seven wins consisted of former UFC Champions Anthony Pettis, Eddie Alvarez, Max Holloway, and Conor McGregor (x2), plus Dan Hooker and former WSOF Champion Justin Gaethje. In Chandler, Poirier can add another former champion (Bellator Lightweight) to his hit list.

Chandler is fresh off knocking out perennial contender Tony Ferguson. However, before that, Chandler dropped two in a row to Oliveira and Gaethje. He has significant power, knocking out four of his past six opponents. Still, Chandler is an all-or-nothing fighter; 11 of his 23 wins have come by knockout, with four of his seven losses on the receiving end of a knockout.

Regarding output, they’re very similar fighters, landing 5.61 and 5.17 significant strikes and absorbing 4.28 and 4.87 per minute. They win by knockout 54 and 48 percent of the time, by submission 21 and 30 percent, and by decision 25 and 22 percent. Chandler has a slightly higher knockdown average at 0.79 to Poirier’s 0.67.

We could compare all of their stats, but it’s marginal. The only significant differences are Poirier has a better chin, only being knocked out twice in 36 fights, to Chandler’s four in 30 bouts, and Chandler is a much better wrestler. Still, both prefer to do their damage with their hands.

Poirier should have a slight edge on the feet, and Chandler’s chin might not hold up, considering the wars he’s been through. However, this fight is probably closer to a coin flip than how the books have it. 

The safest bet might be for the fight to end by knockout at -160. If we had to take a side, Chandler outright at +176 has value, and a win by knockout at +380 is tempting.

Bringing a Magnum to a Cookie Monster Fight

The UFC Women’s Strawweight Championship is on the line when Carla Esparza defends her title against No. 2 Zhang Weili. The challenger will have a three-inch height advantage, but they have an identical reach.

There’s no question what the strengths of these fighters are, with Zhang having a clear edge in striking and Esparza being the better wrestler. Zhang has won six of her eight UFC fights, losing only to former champion Rose Namajunas. Meanwhile, Esparza has won six straight, but three were by split decision and one by majority decision.

Zhang is the more well-rounded of the two and is a significant favorite at -400. Esparza will only throw enough strikes to set up her takedowns, but Zhang has a 60 percent takedown defense rate, which will be the key to winning this fight.

The champion averages 3.25 takedowns per 15 minutes but has very limited striking. Zhang lands 3.58 more significant strikes but absorbs 1.67 more per minute (which shouldn’t be a factor in this fight). There’s no way to take Zhang outright at -400, but at +195, she’s a solid bet to win a decision.

UFC Middleweight Championship Main Event

  • Israel Adesanya vs. Alex Pereira
  • Odds to Win: Adesanya -210 | Pereira +162
  • How Will Fight End: KO/TKO +110 | Submission +1100 | Decision -125
  • Will the fight go the distance? Yes -112 | No -110

Israel Adesanya has run through the UFC’s middleweight division, his only loss being to Jan Blachowicz when he challenged for the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship. Alex Pereira has won five in a row (3-0 in the UFC) after losing his MMA debut.

Real talk, it’s too early for Pereira to receive a title shot. For all intents and purposes, this fight happens for two reasons, and only for those reasons. Pereira beat Adesanya twice in two kickboxing bouts, one in 2016 (by decision) and one in 2017 (by knockout).

However, in MMA, this fight makes little sense. Adesanya is on the cusp of being named among the greatest of all time, while Pereira has had three UFC fights.

The champion has enjoyed a size advantage in previous middleweight bouts, but against Pereira, that won’t be an advantage, giving up an inch in reach. Blachowicz’s size was one of the things Adesanya had trouble with, so it could come into play in this fight.

Neither fighter attempts takedowns, and they both have good takedown defense, so grappling will likely not be a factor. On the feet, Pereira has a nasty left hook and lands 2.36 more significant strikes per minute than Adesanya but absorbs 0.69 more.

Going through their previous kickboxing bouts, Adesanya looked to have a clear speed advantage, which Pereira’s size should amplify in MMA. Adesanya was landing cleaner in most of their exchanges, but Pereira threw with more conviction.

Also, Adesanya forced a standing eight count of Pereira before being knocked out. Despite possessing a power advantage, it took two fights for Pereira to land that knockout blow on Adesanya, and the champion should come into this with more respect for the challenger’s left hand.

From an MMA standpoint, and considering their previous kickboxing bouts, the line shouldn’t be this close. Take Adesanya outright at -210.

UFC 281: Adesanya vs. Pereira Betting Card

  • Dustin Poirier vs. Michael Chandler to end by KO/TKO (-160)
  • Zhang Weili by Decision (+195)
  • Israel Adesanya outright (-210)

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