The UFC loves to put on a Supercard in Madison Square Garden, and UFC 281 has all the smoke for fight fans to get excited about. Jake Paul, who?
It’s a stacked card featuring a main event between Middleweight Champion Israel Adesanya vs. Alex Pereira and a co-main event between two-time Strawweight Champ Carla Esparza vs. Zhang Weili. Let’s also not forget about our fight of the night candidate between lightweight stars Michael Chandler and Dustin Poirier.
It’s going to be a fun night of fist-a-cuffs in front of a ruckus New York crowd. Here are our picks for some of the marquee fights of the night.
Israel Adesanya C (-165) vs. Alex Pereira (+140)
These two fighters are no strangers in the night. They have met twice before, but it was in a kickboxing ring, with Alex Pereira (6-1) winning both encounters. However, this isn’t kickboxing, it’s MMA, and although that might not mean much when both men love to stand up and bang, the Octagon experience is a big factor here.
With 13 UFC fights, Israel Adesanya (23-1) has grown as a fighter since his kickboxing days, while his nemesis has only had 3 UFC fights, with this being the biggest spotlight yet. Pereira might have some serious knockout power, but we could see the champ come into this with a more well-rounded strategy and at least go for a take-down or two. Even if Adesanya tries and isn’t able to take Pereira down, just the threat of that could open up some holes in Pereira’s game to exploit.
Some people are taking Pereira because of their past, but this fight will go all five rounds, with Adesanya winning via decision. Let’s just hope it’s an exciting fight and not a snooze fest.
Adesanya, by unanimous decision
Carla Esparza C (+295) vs. Zhang Weili (-360)
Carla Esparza (20-6) is a two-time Strawweight Champion, which is quite the accomplishment in a stacked division. But Zhang Weili (22-3) is on another level. It almost feels like Esparza has been a placeholder until Zhang’s eventual return, and here we are.
Not only is the Chinese star better in every facet of the fight game, but this battle should be over in the first two rounds. Sure Esparza can wrestle, but Zhang’s takedown defence and just her overall physical tools should negate that threat.
Zhang is going to pick Esparza apart on the feet, and it will end violently.
Zhang by TKO, Rd. 2
Dustin Poirier (-175) vs. Michael Chandler (+150)
Just mark this one down as the fight of the night right now. Both these guys love to throw down, and this one should be a crowd-pleaser. Michael Chandler (23-7) loves to brawl, and he’s always a threat to score a takedown. It might be his power wrestling that he’ll have to rely on because it probably isn’t the wisest move to stand and trade with Dustin Poirier (28-7).
Eddie Alvarez, Justin Gaethje, Max Holloway, and Connor McGregor all tried to play the standup, let’s trade punches, game with Poirier, and each of them paid for it…dearly. The Louisiana native is just on a higher plane, and with Chandler’s questionable chin and somewhat loose-cannon tactics, this just smells like a Poirier victory. Chandler will need to mix things up and try and get Poirier to the ground, but many have tried, and many have failed. This is a barn burner, but it will be Poirier walking away from the ashes.
Poirier by unanimous decision
There is a lot to love about this UFC 281 card, and if you want to add a bit more spice to the steak, we recommend playing in our FREE UFC Pick’em Challenge at OP Bets. It’s your chance to win prizes. Enjoy the fights!