If you thought that the last UFC event was massive, check out the upcoming fight card of UFC 281: Adesanya vs Pereira. Not only will we have two title fights but the entire card is full of legendary fighters as well as rising stars. Here are our predictions for the best fights in the UFC 281 fight card.
Dustin Poirier vs Michael Chandler
Dustin Poirier Preview
Dustin is a 33-year-old American fighter. He started his professional career in 2009. In 2010, Poirier was signed to the WEC promotion, but after the UFC bosses bought this organization, he moved to the UFC with a record of 8-1.
Poirier began his journey in the best promotion on the planet in the featherweight division. He has established himself as a dangerous top, but getting close to the title fight, he always lost in important fights. So in 2012, Poirier was talked about as a promising prospect who had a good chance of getting a title shot. But in the contender fight, he was choked out by the Korean Zombie in the 4th round. In 2014, Poirier went on a streak of 3 wins and was again close to contender status, but in September of the same year, he was knocked out by Conor McGregor in 1 minute and 46 seconds.
After losing to the Irishman, Dustin moved up to lightweight. His debut in the new weight took place in April 2015 in a duel against Diego Ferreira, whom he finished in the 1st round. Poirier was on a winning streak again, but his ascent was halted in September 2016 when he was knocked out by Michael Johnson.
Over the next 2 years, Poirier again gave a streak of 4 victories in a row, and received the right to fight for the interim title in April 2019. His opponent was Max Holloway, who at that time was the reigning featherweight champion. It was obvious that Dustin would easily defeat Max, who changed weight without proper preparation, which happened on April 5, 2019, when Poirier won by unanimous decision and became the interim UFC champion.
Since then, Poirier failed in multiple title chances against Oliveira and Nurmagomedov but then won twice in the second and third fights against McGregor.
Dustin is good at – a basic boxer with good wrestling skills. He has fast punches, unorthodox elbow defense, and knockout power. Dustin is a thinking fighter. He breaks through good combinations and breaks the opponent on different floors.
In critical situations, he can turn on the fight to wear down the opponent on the canvas and score points on it.
Poirier has no cardio. He gets very tired already in the 3rd five-minute period, because of which his performance and striking power suffer. I note that Dustin has mediocre defense on his feet. He cares a lot about inflicting damage on his opponent and forgets to defend himself against his opponent's blows. I think that Poirier has taken too much damage throughout his career and will continue to fall even from medium-strength punches.
Michael Chandler Preview
Michael Chandler is a 36-year-old American fighter. He started his professional career in 2009. Chandler's debut in the UFC took place in January 2021 in a duel against Dan Hooker, whom he finished in the 1st round. After a confident debut, the matchmakers gave Michael a title shot for the vacant lightweight belt.
The title fight between Oliveira and Chandler took place in May 2021. In the 1st round, Michael seriously shook the opponent, but could not finish it off. Oliveira survived and at the start of the 2nd five-minute period he himself knocked out Michael, becoming the new UFC lightweight champion.
Since then, Chandler fought against Justin Gaethje and lost and then beat Tony Ferguson with a KO earlier this year.
Chandler is a wrestler. He has high takedown scoring, tenacious control, a devastating ground and pound, and a wide arsenal of submissions. In the stance, the fighter relies on physical strength and explosive power. Thanks to these qualities, he knocked out Dan Hooker.
As shown by the fights with Charles Oliveira and Justin Gaethje, Michael is a 1-round fighter. Already after 5 minutes of intense work, he was tired, lost concentration, which is why he did not notice in the championship fight the blow that Oliveira shocked him with. In the duel against Gaethje, Chandler, after 1.5 rounds, did not have enough strength to constantly keep his hands at his chin.
Carla Esparza vs Zhang Weili
This will be the co-main event of the evening in the massive UFC 281: Adesanya vs Pereira event, and it will also be a title fight. Zhang Weili will try to win the belt for the second time.
Carla Esparza Preview
Carla is a 35-year-old athlete from the USA. In 2014, she took part in the 20th season of The Ultimate Fighter. Its peculiarity was that in the final of the show the champion belt in the minimum weight was played out. In the title fight, Carla defeated Rose Namajunas by choke in the 3rd round and became the first UFC champion in the women's minimum division.
Esparza made her first title defense against Joana Endrzejczyk. The Pole knocked out the champion in the 2nd round. In total, Carla had 14 fights in the UFC: 10 won, 4 lost.
Esparza's last fight took place in May 2022. Her opponent was Rose Namajunas. Carla won by split decision.
Esparza has been wrestling since the age of 6. She effectively takes the opponents to the ground, where she shows tenacious control and takes good positions. Thanks to the study of BJJ, the American woman has dangerous submissions in her arsenal that she can use against an opponent who has made a mistake.
Carla has mediocre boxing. Her punches are weak and slow, which makes her unable to compete on equal footing with clean strikers. Carla lacks cardio. She gets tired by the beginning of the 3rd round and can lose the last five minutes.
Zhang Weili Preview
Weili is a 33-year-old athlete from China. She moved to the UFC in 2018 and went on a 3 win streak in a year. In August 2019, Weili became the main contender for the title and knocked out Jessica Andrade in 49 seconds in a championship fight, becoming the new owner of the belt.
Weili's first title defense was against Joana Jedrzejczyk, whom she defeated by split decision. But in April 2021, Zhang was knocked out in a minute by Rose Namajunas and lost her title. The matchmakers organized an immediate rematch between Zhang and Namajunas, in which the Chinese lost by a split decision.
Weili last fought in June 2022. Her opponent was Joana Jedrzejczyk. Zhang knocked out her opponent in the 2nd round.
Weili is a versatile fighter. She aggressively presses opponents, throwing a large number of punches from unexpected angles. Zhang has knockout power – she won 11 of her 22 victories by knockouts.
On the ground, Zhang does not work for points but tries to inflict maximum damage and finish the opponent. She powerfully scores opponents with ground and pound and has a wide arsenal of submissions. In attack, Weili flirts a lot and forgets about defense.
Andre Petroski vs Wellington Turman
Andre Petroski Preview
Andre Petroski entered the UFC through TUF season 29, he was Team Ortega's first middleweight pick. At TUF, Petroski won one fight before losing to Brian Battle via second-round submission in the semi-finals. Since then, he has won three fights in a row in the UFC, including a 76-second submission in the last fight against Nick Maximov.
His professional record in MMA is 8-1, all fights ended ahead of schedule. Petroski's forte is grappling. Wrestling since the age of four, Petroski qualified state three times at Springfield High School and later competed for Bloomsburg University in Pennsylvania.
Wellington Turman Preview
Wellington was signed to the UFC in 2019, where he currently has a record of 3-3 and an overall 18-5. UFC matchmakers did not contribute to a successful start in the organization for the young Brazilian, he was immediately thrown under the “tanks”, as a result of knockout defeats from Andrew Sanchez and Bruno Silva. He subsequently returned to a winning streak, defeating Sam Alvey by a split decision and then armbar Misha Cirkunov, for which he received a bonus from the UFC in his first Octagon finish.
Erin Blanchfield vs Molly McCann
Erin Blanchfield Preview
Erin Blanchfield set a record in the Invicta women's organization 5-1 with her only loss to Tracey Cortez by a split decision in 2019. At the moment, her professional MMA record is 9-1, 4 stoppage wins, with three wins in the UFC (Sarah Alpar, Miranda Maverick, JJ Aldrich). Blanchfield will perform at home, she is from New York and trains at MK Muay Thai.
Blanchfield averages 4 takedowns per 15 minutes, usually one per round is enough for her because she has excellent work from above. She will have a 16 cm armspan advantage over Molly.
Molly McCann Preview
Molly McCann has bounced back from a poor UFC debut, losing in May 2018 via submission to Gillian Robertson in the second round in her home country of Liverpool.
At the moment, she has again entered a series of three victories, but it is worth noting that the opponents were not at the level of the UFC (Ji Yong Kim, Luana Carolina, Hannah Goldie). Her professional record is currently 13-4, with all six of her stoppage victories ending in knockouts. McCann is a clear-cut boxer-aggressor, she has the desire to fight, but technically she is unremarkable and well-promoted for the British audience.