The Ultimate Fighting Championships returns with one of the biggest fight cards of the year and an event that will include multiple title fights and some of the greatest fighters to have ever fought in the octagon. Israel Adesanya will face his greatest rival in kickboxing – Alex Pereira. Will the challenger dethrone Adesanya? Here are our predictions.
UFC 281 Main Event: Israel Adesanya vs Alex Pereira Predictions
Israel Adesanya Preview
Israel is a 33-year-old fighter from New Zealand. He had his first professional MMA fight in 2013, but until 2017, Israel fought mainly in kickboxing. For comparison, as of April 2017, Adesanya had 80 fights in kickboxing: 75 won, 5 lost; and 9 fights in MMA, each won.
In 2017, Adesanya won 2 titles in Oceania regional promotions: Australian FC and Hex Fight Series. But Adesanya attracted the attention of UFC matchmakers not with two titles, but with 9 knockout victories in a row.
The debut of the New Zealander in the UFC took place in a duel against Rob Wilkinson in February 2018, whom he defeated by knockout in the 2nd round. After that, Israel won 4 more victories, which brought him closer to the title fight:
In February 2019, Kelvin Gastelum was scheduled to fight for the title with the reigning champion Robert Whittaker. However, Rob pulled out of the fight due to a hernia and was hospitalized 2 hours into the fight. As a result, the matchmakers did not wait until Whittaker recovered from the operation and appointed a duel for the interim title between Adesanya and Gastelum. This fight took place in April 2019. In a tough fight, Israel won by unanimous decision and became the Interim UFC Middleweight Champion.
The fight for the unification of the belts between Adesanya and Whittaker took place in October of the same year. Israel knocked out Robert in the 2nd round and became the new UFC middleweight champion. Since then, Adesanya has had five title defenses but this could be his biggest challenge.
Adesanya's Skills, Strengths, and Weaknesses
Israel Adesanya has a filigree striking technique that he developed while performing kickboxing. He is a very smart fighter. He understands that he does not have knockout power, so he interrupts opponents with pure skill. This is annoying for the majority of MMA fans, who think that it is a boring and slow style but the truth is that Adesanya is a genius.
It may seem to the layman that he fights in an effortless manner, but this is not so. Adesanya presses powerfully, even as the second number, dodges the opponent's attacks, thanks to footwork and head movement, constantly pulling the opponent apart. One blow he can prepare for several rounds, as was the case with Gastelum, Whittaker, and Costa.
There are suspicions that Israel does not have a strong enough jaw. He lost his last fight in kickboxing by knockout, and little Kelvin Gastelum, who looks more like a fat lightweight than a middleweight, also seriously shook Adesanya several times.
Alex Pereira Preview
Alex is a 35-year-old fighter from Brazil. He spent most of his fighting career in kickboxing, performing in the Glory promotion, where he became a champion in 2 weight categories.
When Pereira signed with the LFA in 2020, Israel Adesanya was already a UFC champion. Alex claimed that taking the UFC belt would be a cakewalk for him as he beat Adesanya twice in kickboxing. In the LFA, Pereira had 1 fight, in which he knocked out Thomas Powell, and UFC matchmakers offered the hype Brazilian to sign a contract.
Alex's debut took place in November 2021 in a duel against Andreas Michailidis. Pereira knocked out his opponent in the 2nd round. Pereira then fought in March 2022. His opponent was Bruno Silva. Alex won by unanimous decision. His most recent fight was in July when he knocked out Sean Strickland in the 1st round and won the opportunity to fight for the title.
Pereira's Skills, Strengths, and Weaknesses
As a basic kickboxer, Alex is most dangerous in the standing position. He combines high-end technique with snapping kicks and good handwork with knockout power.
Alex lacks mixed martial arts experience and is an understaffed fighter. His superiority in the stand is leveled by a mediocre takedown and a lack of understanding of what needs to be done in the clinch. Andreas Mikhailidis successfully pinned Pereira in the 1st round, taking space from him and showing possible ways to defeat the Brazilian.
Adesanya vs Pereira Prediction
In all honesty, Pereira should not have been given a chance to fight for the title after three fights in the UFC and he has generally not overcome a lot of difficult opponents. He has qualities and is an unbelievable kickboxer but his MMA skills are nowhere near the level of Adesanya. Perhaps if this was a kickboxing match, we would have gone for a different bet but we believe that this fight will be long and Adesanya will win it in the end.