UFC 281 takes place tomorrow at Madison Square Garden in New York City. There are plenty of interesting fights on this UFC card. Let’s get into our UFC 281 preview of the fights on the main card.
UFC 281 Preview: Dan Hooker vs. Claudio Puelles
The first fight on the main card is a lightweight matchup between Dan Hooker and Claudio Puelles. Dan Hooker has experienced tough times in his last five fights, only winning one of them. It is worth noting that his losses have come against title challengers Dustin Poirier and Michael Chandler, current lightweight champion Islam Makhachev, and a rising contender in Arnold Allen.
However, Dan Hooker badly needs a win against Claudio Puelles to help him start to rise in the lightweight rankings once more. On the other hand, Claudio Puelles has won five fights in a row. He is a rising contender in the UFC lightweight division and will look to add another high-profile win against a well-known opponent.
Hooker is primarily a striker and should do well if the fight stays on the feet. His striking is accurate and powerful and Hooker is quite durable, too. Claudio Puelles is much more of a grappler and will look to take Hooker down. Given Puelles’ grappling ability and momentum, he gets the edge in this matchup.
Prediction: Claudio Puelles by Submission
Frankie Edgar vs. Chris Gutierrez
Next up, we have a bantamweight matchup between the former lightweight champion and UFC legend Frankie Edgar and Chris Gutierrez. Frankie Edgar has stated that this will be his last fight in the promotion. Gutierrez has won four of his last five fights and Edgar only has one win in his last five fights. Edgar is also 41 years old and has had a long career, while Gutierrez is only 31.
Chris Gutierrez is an accomplished striker and has two KO/TKO wins in his last four wins. Edgar, meanwhile, has suffered KO/TKO losses in three of his last five fights. Edgar is known for his toughness, but Gutierrez will likely be too much for the aging veteran.
Prediction: Chris Gutierrez by KO/TKO
UFC 281 Preview: Dustin Poirier vs. Michael Chandler
Right before the title fights, Dustin Poirier and Michael Chandler face off in a highly anticipated lightweight fight. Both Chandler and Poirier are top fighters in the UFC lightweight division. Chandler is coming off a highlight reel KO win against Tony Ferguson and Poirier last competed in a submission loss in his title fight against Charles Oliveira.
Both are excellent strikers. Poirier has the advantage when it comes to technical striking, but Chandler has greater power. If this fight becomes a technical striking battle, Poirier will likely win.
However, aside from striking, Chandler has the better wrestling. It’s likely he’ll use this during his fight with Poirier and it could be an important tool in helping him win. Both fighters are looking for a big win to catapult them back into title contention. However, Poirier gets the slight edge in my opinion due to his superior technical ability on the feet.
Prediction: Dustin Poirier by Decision
UFC 281 Preview: Carla Esparza vs. Zhang Weili
The first title fight of the card takes place in the strawweight division between champion Carla Esparza and former strawweight champion Zhang Weili. Esparza won the title in a rather lackluster title fight with Rose Namajunas back in May. Weili, meanwhile, is coming off a vicious KO win against former strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk.
Carla Esparza is an excellent wrester and will look to take Zhang Weili down and keep the fight on the ground. Zhang Weili is the superior striker and should do well if she can defend against Esparza’s takedowns. Given Weili’s superior striking and greater power, coupled with her recently improved takedown defense, I expect a win and a finish for Weili.
Prediction: Zhang Weili by KO/TKO
Israel Adesanya vs. Alex Pereira
Finally, we have the main event of the card, a middleweight title fight between champion Israel Adesanya and Alex Pereira. As everyone likely knows, Pereira did beat Adesanya twice in kickboxing, once by decision and once by knockout. However, both fighters have improved since then, so it is hard to take too much from those fights.
Of course, MMA is also a different combat sport than kickboxing. Adesanya has won his last three fights in a row and is undefeated at middleweight, last beating Jared Cannonier by unanimous decision in July. Pereira has only fought three times in the UFC so far, but he has finished two of his three UFC opponents by KO/TKO. Pereira last finished Sean Strickland in round 1 at UFC 276, the same card as Adesanya’s most recent title defense.
Pereira clearly has massive power for a middleweight. We saw that at UFC 276 when he finished Sean Strickland with just a few punches. However, Adesanya is quick, technical, and possesses excellent skill as a counter-striker. Additionally, Adesanya has a huge experience advantage, with 13 UFC fights to his name compared to only three UFC fights for Pereira.
It is also possible that Adesanya has the advantage when it comes to stamina. Pereira has finished many of his opponents early in the fight and, especially in light of his struggles to make weight for UFC 281, clearly cuts a lot of weight to make 185 pounds. Adesanya, meanwhile, has gone the full 25 minutes on many occasions.
Pereira’s power definitely poses a risk to Adesanya. However, Adesanya’s experience, technical skill, and feints should see him retain his title in my opinion. Adesanya gets the edge in this fight.
Prediction: Israel Adesanya by Decision
UFC 281 Should Be a Great Card
UFC 281 looks like it should be an excellent card with plenty of good fights. There are also good fights on the prelims that we didn’t cover here. I would bet that several fights on the main card don’t go the distance, especially Carla Esparza vs. Zhang Weili. Thanks for reading our preview and enjoy the fights.
Check back next week for more MMA content.