UFC 281 Will See Israel Adesanya Defend His Title

Posted on: November 11, 2022, 09:25h. 

Last updated on: November 13, 2022, 10:48h.

Madison Square Garden will host UFC 281 this Saturday. The card includes a bout in which defending middleweight champion Israel Adesanya will return to the octagon to see if he can continue to reign.

Israel Adesanya
UFC fighter Israel Adesanya in the octagon during a recent fight. The middleweight champ will defend his title in UFC 281 on Saturday. (Image: Associated Press)

Two title bouts headline Saturday’s big card, with Adesanya facing Brazilian Alex Pereira. In the second main event, Carla Esparza, with two championships, will defend her strawweight title against Zhang Weili.

Other matches on the card have been drawing a lot of attention as well. Most notably, the Dustin Poirier vs. Michael Chandler lightweight bout, which is expected to turn into a spectacle.

Knives and Machetes Make the Man

Adesanya, “The Last Stylebender,” will make his sixth title defense against Pereira, the only fighter who’s been able to knock him out. Pereira is a former Glory champion and earned his title shot by taking down Sean Strickland at UFC 276.

  Adesanya Pereira
Moneyline -210 +180
Over/under O4.5 rounds (-130) U4.5 rounds (+100)
  Courtesy of DraftKings  

Adesanya (23-1) and Pereira (6-1) have faced each other twice, with the Brazilian winning both times – one by KO. Adesanya has worked to up his game since then. Most recently, he outlasted Jaren Cannonier in UFC 276 at the beginning of July.

That bout required all five rounds to determine a winner. Although Adesanya has the stamina and endurance to go the distance, he can’t allow Pereira to force him into a full-length fight on Saturday.

Adesanya knows what he’s up against and isn’t likely to take any big risks against Pereira’s powerful attacks. He may have three times as many MMA fights under his belt than does his opponent, but Pereira obviously knows how his opponent fights.

Adesanya recently revealed some of the reasons he has become so competitive. When coach Eugene Bareman thinks the champ (or any other fighter) is beginning to slack off, he has the perfect motivation. In an interview with MMA Fighting, Adesanya revealed that Bareman regularly pulls out knives if he thinks fighters are “being complacent.”

He added that the coach is “always packing.” That’s enough to get anyone to up their game.

Chandler Ready for Poirier

In one of the night’s other big fights, Chandler (23-7) says he isn’t too worried about facing Poirier (28-7) in the octagon. Just days before the fight that could define the next challenger for the lightweight belt, the former Bellator champ explained why he expects to find success quickly.

Chandler stated that he can easily read Poirier, calling his moves “basic.” He added that he knows this won’t be an easy fight, and that he expects his opponent to be aggressive.

One of the greatest talents in Bellator history, Chandler will be looking for another shot at the belt. The MMA fighter already fought for the belt in 2021, but was knocked out by Charles Oliveira in the main event of UFC 262 after an intense first round.

The fight between Esparza (20-6) and China’s Weili (22-3) should be another tough match, as will the battle between Frankie Edgar and Chris Gutiérrez in a bantamweight fight.

New Zealand veteran Dan Hooker (21-12) will have a tough test as well. He faces 12-2 Peruvian Claudio Puelles in a fight for the lightweight division.