The UFC returns to the fight mecca of the world when Israel Adesanya defends his World Middleweight Championship against long-time rival Alex Pereira inside Madison Square Garden this weekend.
The 185-pound championship will be on the line as the former kickboxing rivals go head to head for the first time in mixed martial arts, in one of the most stacked cards of the year.
Serving on the undercard is a women's strawweight title fight between Carla Esparza and Weili Zhang, while Dustin Poirier will fight Michael Chandler in a hotly anticipated lightweight bout too.
We'll take a look at the main event and provide you with our best free UFC picks to see if we can earn you some extra cash while watching an incredible fight card.
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UFC 281 information
- Saturday, November 12th, 2022
- Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York
- Main card starts 10pm ET
- Middleweight (185-pounds) world championship bout
- 5 x 5 minute rounds
Israel Adesanya vs Alex Pereira
This fight is going to be truly exceptional between two of the highest level strikers that the UFC roster has ever possessed, going toe-to-toe in the centre of the octagon to prove they're the best middleweight in the world.
Adesanya has been a dominant UFC champion, going undefeated in this weight class in the UFC including 6-0 in title fights with five successful defences against Robert Whittaker (twice), Yoel Romero, Marvin Vettori and most recently Jared Cannonier at UFC 276.
His only defeat in the UFC came as he tried to move up a weight class to claim the light heavyweight title, but was beaten by Jan Blachowicz in a unanimous decision at UFC 259.
"The Last Stylebender" has a professional record of 23-1 with 15 knockout wins and eight decisions, while the defeat to Blachowicz is his only professional loss in MMA.
Pereira on the other hand is a relative newcomer to the MMA world with a 6-1 record professionally, and a 3-0 record in the UFC to earn this title shot.
He defeated Andreas Michailidis via knockout at UFC 268 on his debut, before earning a brilliant decision win over Bruno Silva back in March of this year. His last bout was a vicious first-round knockout win over Sean Strickland, earning him this bout against his long-time rival for the belt.
He has won five of his six professional bouts via knockout, with his only defeat coming in his MMA debut back in 2016 via submission.
Pereira is however a world champion kickboxer with GLORY, where he holds two victories over Adesanya, once via a decision (April 2016) and once via violent knockout (March 2017).
Route to Victory
This is likely to be a highly technical striking bout, with both fighters looking to make it a kickboxing fight to prove they're dominant in their own field over their opposing rival.
The first bout between the two was close but it was the Brazilian who used his snapping left-hook and kicking game to his advantage to get the nod on the judge's scorecards, and despite the knockout win in their second bout a year later, it was Adesanya who was winning the fight until that point.
The Nigerian was quicker and used his leg kicks and combinations to much greater effect and was well on his way to getting the victory back, before a nasty left hook landed and turned his lights out entirely.
He will surely look to implement a similar game plan this time around, but use his ability to take the fight down and clinch against the cage to his advantage wherever he can to slow the fight down and take some time.
It would be highly surprising to see either fighter engage in any sort of grappling considering where both their strengths lie, but from the little we've seen of them both in that world, it's fair to say that Adesanya has a slight edge with submissions and offensive grappling. Defensively however, they're both very good at stuffing takedowns and getting back to their feet if they need to.
For Pereira, it's all about doing what he's already done before. Come forward, crowd Adesanya and look to land his crushing power in the exchanges, knowing he is capable of putting Adesanya out if he lands flush.
But with speed disadvantage and the fact he is significantly older than he was during their first two meetings, he will have to be careful to not get caught on the way in by counters that could put him out.
UFC Picks - Adesanya gets his revenge
This is a unique bout in the sense that the champion is the betting favorite, but he has been beaten by the challenger in the past albeit in a different sport.
It's likely to go in a similar way to those bouts, but Pereira is now 35 and significantly slower than he used to be, while Adesanya is arguably at the absolute peak of his powers.
With more experience in an octagon and in the world of MMA, plus his dominance in the weight class, I simply can't go against Adesanya to defend successfully once again.
The moneyline is a great value bet considering Adesanya's odds usually, but for some extra value take a look at him winning on the scorecards once the prop prices appear.
UFC Picks - Israel Adesanya to win @ -180
UFC Picks - Israel Adesanya to win via decision
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