UFC 281 Predictions

Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

UFC 281 Predictions


UFC 281 Predictions


Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

UFC 280 lived up to its expectations and has made itself a hard act to follow, but if any card is going to do it, it will be UFC 281. UFC 281 will take place at Madison Square Garden in New York, and features a main event between Middleweight Champion Israel Adesanya and his former kickboxing opponent Alex Pereira. This card also features some other incredible fights, such as a UFC Women’s Strawweight championship bout between Carla Esparza and Weili Zhang, along with a fight destined for fireworks between Dustin Poirier and Michael Chandler. 


Main Event: Israel Adesanya (23-1) vs Alex Pereira (6-1)

Winner: Alex Pereira by KO/TKO 

Most mixed martial arts fans know the incredible story behind this fight. They met twice before, but in kickboxing, where Pereira was able to get the best of Adesanya in both matchups. One of which being a brutal knockout victory. Now it comes down to whether history repeats itself or if Adesanya proves he’s the king of the Middleweights for a long time to come. 

Adesanya has cemented himself into the top two UFC Middleweights of all time, if not the best, with an undefeated record in the division with his only loss coming outside the division when he challenged Jan Blachowicz for the Light Heavyweight crown. If he can defeat Pereira and prove to the world the past means nothing, his GOAT case may gain considerable traction. Standing across from him on the other side of the Octagon is his most formidable test to date, Alex Pereira, who has walked through all changes the UFC has thrown at him thus far. If he can do what he has done to Adesanya in the past, he becomes the new champion. I believe whoever wins this holds the belt for a considerable amount of time. As mentioned by Ted Ashbrock, this fight will play out in one of two ways, Adesanya by a decision or Pereira by a knockout. 

In this case, I believe the king is dethroned and Pereira will win by an incredible knockout to become the new undisputed Middleweight Champion. This fight reminds me a lot of when Anderson Silva lost his belt against Chris Weidman. Although Pereira fights basically nothing like Weidman, it is still the unbeatable who is nearing the end of his run to take on someone who wants it more. Adesanya also has very similar defensive techniques to Silva, including the wild head movement and low hands when moving backwards. Against Pereira, it will prove to be a costly mistake. Although Adesanya will win the first two rounds with his prowise, in the third round Pereira will land the punch that shocks the world and walk away with the Middleweight belt around his waist. 


Co-Main Event: Carla Esparza (19-6) vs Weili Zhang (22-3) 

Winner: Weili Zhang by KO/TKO

The Co-Main event features a Women’s Strawweight title bout between the Champion and pioneer of the division Carla Esparza and the former champion Weili Zhang. Esparza has greatly improved her legacy after going on a six-fight win streak to get her title back after being considered a journeywoman of the division for a long time. She now faces arguably the most talented female fighter we’ve ever seen in this division in Weili Zhang. Zhang wants her title back, and she is going to do everything in her power to take it. After being knocked out by Rose Namajunas and then losing an incredibly controversial, and I believe wrongful decision, in her rematch, she now has a chance to get the belt back, and she doesn’t want to waste it, and I don’t think she will. I have all the respect in the world for Esparza, but if we are being honest she didn’t look impressive in her win over Namajunas to win the title and in Zhang’s lost outing she looked like a cold-blooded killer. The only way Esparza has any chance of winning this fight is by dragging Zhang into deep waters with her wrestling, and due to the sheer strength advantage of Weili I don’t think she will be able to do that. Zhang is going to come out of the gates fast and piece apart Esparza until a fury of a brutal mix of punches and kicks finishes this fight with Zhang to come back home with the title. 

Fight 12: Dustin Poirier (28-7) vs Michael Chandler (23-7)

Winner: Dustin Poirier by KO/TKO

If there are two guys who I’m excited to see every time they step into the Octagon, it’s Dustin Poirier and Michael Chandler, and now they are fighting each other, what a treat! Poirier is coming off a loss to the former Lightweight champion Charles Oliveira and a win over Chandler would be a step in the right direction back to another title shot. For Chandler, a win over someone like Poirier may put him in a number one contender style matchup against Beneil Dariush. In a fight I expect to be very similar to Chandler vs. Justin Gaethje, I think that kind of fight favors Poirier. I have heard many people say Chandler is going to resort back to his Bellator style of fighting where he dominated opponents with his wrestling, but I haven’t been given any reason to believe that. Chandler has a 2-2 record in the UFC with his wins being over Dan Hooker and Tony Ferguson who are shells of their former selves. In his victory over Ferguson, who has proven to be washed, Chandler fought incredibly close with Ferguson, which is not promising considering how bad Ferguson looked against Nate Diaz. Poirier, on the other hand, has looked very impressive in his fights against Conor McGregor, put up a decent fight to Charles Oliveira, and holds wins over other top talents in the UFC, which is something Chandler can’t say. I expect this to be a barn burner where both fighters impress the fans with powerful punches, but eventually Poirier will crack the weaker chin of Chandler and rebound from his loss to Oliveira. 


Fight 11: Frankie Edgar (24-10-1) vs Chris Gutierrez (18-3-2) 

Winner: Chris Gutierrez by KO/TKO

Former Lightweight Champion Frankie Edgar, who is now fighting in the Bantamweight Division, steps into the Octagon for the last time against up-and-comer Chris Gutierrez. Recently, Edgar has looked like a shell of the earlier days of his legendary career, with losses in four of his last five. Most recently being brutally knocked out by Marlon Vera, and now he has a tall task in front of him in someone with the momentum of Gutierrez. On the contrary, Gutierrez has been anything but cold recently with a three fight win streak, most recently finishing Danaa Batgerel with a flurry of strikes. If he can land those strikes against Edgar, he is sure to end this fight with another finish. As a Jersey boy myself, and Edgar being a champion during my childhood, I’ve always been a fan of his, so it is always hard for me to pick against him, but I have to in this fight. We have seen in his recent appearances that any big strike that lands on Edgar’s chin is going to put him out, and with the striking ability that Gutierrez possesses it is only going to be a matter of time before something lands. I do think that Edgar will be able to make it out of the first round, but Gutierrez will use his sharp leg kicks to slow Edgar’s pace. In the second round, when Edgar’s ability to move out of danger is slowed, Gutierrez will connect and finish the fight by second round knockout. 


Fight 10: Dan Hooker (21-12) vs Claudio Puelles (12-2) 

Winner: Dan Hooker by Decision

The first fight on the main card features former top contender Dan Hooker taking on young submission artist Claudio Puelles. After his incredible fight with Dustin Poirier, Hooker has had a fall from grace, going only 1-3 in his last four with his only win coming over Nasrat Haqparast. If Hooker wants to stay relevant, he needs to halt the winning streak of Puelles this Saturday night. As I mentioned previously, Puelles is riding his wave of momentum right now caused by his five fight win streak and looks to get a statement win over Hooker. This is a tough fight to pick because of what I’ve mentioned earlier, do I go with the established veteran on what looks to be a downward spiral, or the younger fighter who has proven much less? In this case, I’m taking the veteran. I’m not ready to give up all hope on Hooker because if you look at his last three losses they are too Michael Chandler who is a top contender in the Lightweight division, Islam Makhachev who just dominated Oliveira to become the Lightweight Champion, and Arnold Allen who is on the way to a Featherweight title shot after defeating Calvin Kattar. These losses are far from poor and although it’s clear Hooker isn’t on the level of those competitors, Puelles is a big step-down, and he defeated Haqparast only a year ago who is around the same level of competition if not higher. Hooker may end up losing one round of this fight solely based on the grappling ability of Puelles, but I see no reason why he won’t be able to strike for at least two or three rounds and earn a decision victory. 


Fight Nine: Renato Moicano (16-5-1) vs Brad Riddell (10-3)

Winner: Renato Moicano by Submission 

UFC 281’s featured prelim is a bout between Lightweights Renato Moicano and Brad Riddell who are trying to climb into contention. Both of these fighters are coming off a loss and the winner will most likely be in the top 15 next week while the other is on the outside looking in. After being knocked out by Rafael Fiziev, Moicano was able to earn back-to-back wins over Jai Herbert and Alexander Hernandez, but after coming short notice against Rafael dos Anjos that winning streak came to an end. A win over Riddell, especially one in style, would propel him right back into the rankings and earn him a potential shot at a top 10 opponent. Riddell has not been so lucky since his loss to Fiziev and was dominated by Jalin Turner, but looks to get back to his former winning ways against Moicano this Saturday. I think that both of these fighters have an advantage in this fight, with Moicano’s being the grappling while Riddell’s would be the striking, but I trust Moicano’s grappling advantage more. Moicano will have to deal with the danger that Riddell poses on his feet, but I believe he will be able to take Riddell down, and I don’t see him getting back up before the end of the round. Round one could be a feeling out process where Riddell wins due to the fight staying on the feet for the majority, but I believe Moicano will be able to land a takedown early in round two. Once Moicano has Riddell down on the mat that early in the round, he will have plenty of time to find his back and lock in a rear-naked choke submission and earn a much-needed win. 


Fight Eight: Dominick Reyes (12-3) vs Ryan Spann (20-7)

Winner: Ryan Spann by KO/TKO

In a fight, I am shocked didn’t make the main card, former Light Heavyweight title challenger Dominick Reyes tries to snap his losing streak against Ryan Spann. Reyes looked unstoppable coming into his title shot against Jon Jones and gave Jones his best challenge to date in a fight some argue Reyes won. Unfortunately, he hasn’t been able to bounce back, losing his last two fights by stoppage, but in his defense they have been against some of the best in the world. Spann has been up-and-down recently, but is riding a dominant win over Ion Cutelaba and a win over Reyes would get him into the top 10. Although on paper Reyes’ losses don’t look bad, they were multiple knockouts, and when a fighter gets knocked out multiple times in a row they normally have a hard time recovering from it. Especially when those knockouts are against opponents with incredible power, so Reyes’ chin is most certainly not what it used to be, and Spann isn’t someone you want to have a poor chin against. Spann’s performance against Cutelaba was incredibly impressive. I believe this will be a brawl as long as it lasts, where eventually Spann lands something that Reyes won’t be able to get up from and Spann will impress plenty of doubters once again. 


Fight Seven: Erin Blanchfield (9-1) vs Molly McCann (13-4) 

Winner: Erin Blanchfield by Decision

Two of the hottest Women’s Flyweights out there right now square off inside the Octagon when the young prospect Erin Blanchfield takes on Molly “Meatball” McCann. Thus far Blanchfield has looked very impressive with a 3-0 start in the UFC with wins over Sarah Alpar, Miranda Maverick, and JJ Aldrich and is looking for her fourth win in a row against fan favorite McCann. If you love some incredible crowd reactions, go back and watch Molly McCann’s last two fights because her fans love her, and for good reason. She now has back-to-back spinning elbow finishes and if she can do it again to Blanchfield, she might blow the roof off the building. Unfortunately for McCann, I do think her run comes to a halt here against Blanchfield, who at such a young age looks like she could really make a run to the top of this division. Blanchfield should not decide to stand and exchange in a striking battle with McCann because that is where she will find trouble. If she uses her superior grappling, she should be able to control the fight and win a decision. 


Fight Six: Andre Petroski (8-1) vs Wellington Turman (18-5) 

Winner: Andre Petroski by KO/TKO 


Fight Five: Ottman Azaitar (13-0) vs Matt Frevola (9-3-1)

Winner: Ottman Azaitar by KO/TKO


Fight Four: Karolina Kowalkiewicz (13-7) vs Silvana Gomez Juarez (11-4)

Winner: Silvana Gomez Juarez by KO/TKO


Fight Three: Mike Trizano (9-3) vs Seung Woo Choi (10-5)

Winner: Seung Woo Choi by Decision


Fight Two: Julio Arce (18-5) vs Montel Jackson (11-2)

Winner: Montel Jackson by Decision 


Fight One: Carlos Ulberg (6-1) vs Nicolae Negumereanu (13-1)

Winner: Carlos Ulberg by KO/TKO


More The Wright Way Network