The UFC returns to the ‘Mecca’ of sports, Madison Square Garden in New York City for UFC 281 on Saturday, November 12. The headline fight on the card will be for the UFC middleweight championship when Israel Adesanya defends against longtime foe Alex Pereira. The main card will start at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+ PPV. The main event is expected to start around 12:30 a.m. ET.
Adensanya (23-1) will be making the sixth defense of his title ever since he unified the belts with a knockout win over Robert Whittaker at UFC 243 on October 6, 2019. “The Last Stylebender” is one of the most creative, exciting strikers in MMA and he also incredibly skilled with his wrestling defense. This combination has forced opponents to tread carefully and try to make the fights a little ugly.
Previous opponents like Yoel Romero, Marvin Vettori and most recently Jared Cannonier didn’t want to engage Adesanya at range, which made for fairly boring fights with the champion striking from distance and easily winning rounds with limited action. Paulo Costa decided to stand with Adesanya at UFC 253 and the champion destroyed him with leg kicks for a round before stopping him in the second round.
Adesanya’s second fight with Whittaker at UFC 271 was his most competitive fight as champion. Whittaker struggled in the first two rounds to find openings without getting hit with kicks, but he began to find success with takedowns and using his superior wrestling. Adesanya’s speed made it difficult for Whittaker to capitalize on the takedowns, but he took a round off the champion, which is difficult to do.
Pereira (6-1) is a natural kickboxer, like Adesanya, so he doesn’t have the wrestling to fall back on. The respect people have for Pereira’s kickboxing is why he’s just a +180 underdog at DraftKings Sportsbook despite his limited experience in MMA. Adesanya is a -210 favorite.