This upcoming Saturday, November 12th, 2022, the UFC will host one of its most anticipated Pay-Per-View of the year, UFC 281. The action will take place at the “World’s Most Famous Arena” Madison Square Garden in New York City. The fight card is built around the Middleweight Championship of the World between Superstar Israel Adesanya and Brazilian Challenger Alex Pereira. The Co-Main event features the Women’s Strawweight Championship of the world between current champ Carla Esparza and former champ Weili Zhang. The third fight on the main card deemed the “People’s Main Event”, pins Lightweight Superstars Dustin Poirier and Michael Chandler in what should be an absolute barn burner. Right before their lightweight scrap, Hall of Famer Frankie Edgar will end his incredible career in a retirement fight against surging Bantamweight contender Chris Gutierrez. And the first fight of the main card sets up New Zealand veteran and teammate of Israel Adesanya, Dan Hooker, in his Lightweight return against the dangerous submission threat that is Peru’s Claudio Puelles.
In what should be an incredibly entertaining night of fights, look for Israel Adesanya to rack up the style points and retain his UFC gold or for Alex Pereira to spoil the party and capture Middleweight supremacy at Madison Square Garden with a jaw-dropping knockout.
UFC 281 marks the sixth title defense for Israel Adesanya and his Middleweight throne. This leaves Adesanya only one more title defense away from the Top 5 in UFC History, trailing Jose Aldo who ranks fifth in UFC History with seven title defenses. After breezing to victory over Jared Cannonier this past July at UFC 276, Adesanya faces arguably his toughest opponent to date. And a familiar one at that. During his kickboxing days, Adesanya fought Alex Pereira twice. He lost both, one via a controversial decision and the other via a brutal knockout. One could argue Israel’s knockout loss to Pereira is the main reason for the latter being in the position to fight for a belt this early into his mixed martial arts career. The knockout shot that Pereira landed was not simply a brutal one, it was devastating. The perfectly executed left hook that Pereira connected with, shut Israel’s lights off upon impact. Adesanya remained unconscious on the floor in what looked like an attempted homicide. The knockout delivered an example of the ferocious power Alex “Poatan” Pereira possesses and gave him recognition around the world of combat sports. Alex’s nickname, “Poatan”, which translates to Hand of Stone, reflects his deadly power and his ability to end a fight in the blink of an eye. For these very reasons, Adesanya seems to be paired up with the toughest test of his UFC career. Having said that, Israel has proved time in and time out that he is the number one Middleweight on the planet for a reason. Having defeated the always dangerous and skilled Robert Whittaker twice, along with a plethora of skilled challengers such as Paulo Costa, Yoel Romero, and Marvin Vettori, Adesanya’s striking capabilities are off the charts. Adesanya uses his 6’4” frame like a killer, with exceptional defensive head movement and footwork, assassin like accuracy with his strikes, and an arsenal of moves on the feet. His in-and-out point fighting style along with his offensive and defensive speed and footwork makes Israel a nightmare matchup for any and all comers. But as we talked about above, Alex Pereira has the ultimate equalizer, the death touch. This battle of highly technical and skilled striking makes for an incredibly intriguing fight that culminates as the main event of the evening and caps off what should be a great night of action at Madison Square Garden.
Before we can get to the main event, the co-main event of the evening must take place. The Strawweight championship bout involving current champ Carla Esparza and challenger Zhang Weili is a compelling matchup. Entering the fight in her first defense of the Strawweight belt since capturing it from Rose Namajunas at UFC 274 this past May, Esparza is hoping to successfully defend her belt in this her second time as Champion. After winning season 20 of the Ultimate Fighter in 2014 which earned her the Strawweight belt, Esparza was unable to defend her belt when she fought at UFC 185. Here, challenger Joanna Jedrzejczyk put on a kickboxing clinic and knocked out Esparza with punches in the second round. After her loss, Esparza has rebounded strongly and put together a run of 9 wins and 3 losses in her last 12 UFC fights. Her last win was the most notable, defeating Rose Namajunas by split decision to recapture UFC gold. Esparza is a contentious figure for MMA fans due to the amount of controversial split decision wins that earned her a title shot and then ended up winning her the belt. Esparza will be looking to shut down this narrative at UFC 281 where she is set to face one of the toughest adversaries in all of women’s MMA. None other than dynamic Chinese superstar and former Strawweight champ Zhang Weili. Weili is coming off a spectacular spinning back fist KO of Hall of Famer and former champ Joanna Jedrzejczyk. After getting back on track with a win, Weili now holds an impressive pro record of 22-3. With her only UFC losses coming against former champ Rose Namajunas, Weili has taken the UFC by storm with her fearsome striking, powerful grappling, and an immense dedication to the sport. Weili looks primed to recapture her championship status this Saturday night at UFC 281 in New York City at the historic Madison Square Garden.
Before we can get to our captivating title fights, a contest you won’t want to miss will be on display in the Lightweight division of the UFC. Former interim champ and the pride of Lafayette Louisiana, Dustin the “Diamond” Poirier will take on the always dangerous and game “Iron” Michael Chandler. In what should be a striker’s delight, this bout has the potential to produce a Fight of the Year type performance. Dustin Poirier hopes to display his sharp boxing skills and if needed his granite chin to defeat the kill-or-be-killed nature of Michael Chandler’s fighting style. Coming off a thrilling fight in which Poirier competed for the Lightweight title against Charles Oliveira, the latter was ultimately bested and was defeated by submission in the third round. However, Poirier had his moments in the fight, specifically in the first round, where he knocked down Oliveira and brutalized him with over 50 significant strikes in the round. On the other side, Chandler is coming off one of the most epic knockouts of all time with his front kick KO of legend Tony Ferguson. Both Poirier and Chandler are ready to do whatever it takes to produce a victory in what can be deemed a crucial Lightweight title eliminator. Get the popcorn ready ladies and gentlemen, this fight is one you do not want to miss.
Among the great trio of fights discussed above, the fight card is stacked from top to bottom with skillful contenders. As discussed above, Frankie Edgar will be competing in the final fight of his career against leg-kicking specialist Chris Gutierrez. A bout that should pin two clever strikers against one another. On the prelims, Brad Riddell is set to take on Renato Moicano in a Lightweight contest that will see chin’s and neck’s tested. Dominick Reyes will be making his return to the UFC octagon after a timely absence. Reyes will take on the formidable Ryan “Superman” Spann who holds an 85% finish rate in 20 of his pro wins. And finally, one more prelim to keep an eye out for, American super prospect Erin Blanchfield takes on fierce Scouser sensation Molly the “Meatball” McCann in a women’s flyweight contest.
The action will get underway at 3 PM PST this Saturday, November 12th, 2022. The early preliminary card will run from 3 PM to 5 PM, and the main prelims will run from 5 PM to 7 PM. The Pay-Per-View Main Card will begin at 7 PM. Tune into ESPN+ on PPV this Saturday for an incredible night of entertainment and drama at UFC 281 in New York City at Madison Square Garden.