One of the year's most anticipated numbered events is here and we're following the whole thing live! Check in for round by round updates on who's ahead, along with the latest betting odds and results as these fights play out.
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Live updates from UFC 281 at Madison Square Garden
Event preview: Israel Adesanya vs Alex Pereira set to headline UFC 281
At long last, Israel Adesanya has the chance to right the wrongs of his kickboxing career as he's set to lock horns with Brazilian kickboxing standout, Alex Pereira. The two have met twice in the the ring and Pereira left with a raised hand on either occasion, one of which was after brutally knocking out ‘The Last Stylebender'. That was long ago, and the tides are a bit different now – Izzy is the reigning and defending middleweight king and Pereira is coming to secure a third victory over the City Kickboxing phenom – only this time, it's under a mixed martial arts ruleset.
Round one: The fight starts and the two exchange multiple leg kicks. Pereira's size is very noticeable. Adesanya's kicks seem to bebe more effective. The two clinch and as the round ends, Adesanya rocks Pereira. Saved by the bell.
Round two: Adesanya plays matador some more and does well with it. Izzy clips the challenger with a stiff right at the two minute mark. Pereira shocks the world and secures a takedown at the end of the round. Nonetheless, Adesanya largely controlled the striking.
Round three: Adesanya hits a lateral drop in the heat of an exchange and nearly takes Pereira's back. New wrinkles shown in both fighter's games. Adesanya is showing some Dagestani influence and controlling his opponent's wrist whilst on his back. A leg-entanglement causes a scramble but Izzy keeps his top position. Elbows rain and things look good for the champ.
Round four: Adesanya takes the center of the ring and more leg kicks are exchanged. The challenger is noticeably slower than the previous round. Stylebender clinches and the tides seem to be certainly favoring him. Regardless, Pereira presses forward. Pereira throws his patented left in the waning seconds but Adesanya clowns him for his attempt.
Round five: The challenger has his back in a corner. A kick is checked and Izzy is down – his leg seems to be bothering him a little bit, but nothing major. Alex rocks Adesanya while his back is on the cage – Izzy is moving slowly but it's not enough, the ref steps in.
Official result: Pereira round five TKO
Co-headline fight: Esparza vs Zhang for the Women's Strawweight title
But first, we get to see the strawweights battle it out as Carla Esparza looks to defend her title for the first time since recapturing it against Rose Namajunas last may. There are no easy tasks at the top, and that rings especially true in the form of her adversary, former champion Weili Zhang. Zhang left no room for question that she deserves the next title shot following her emphatic spinning backfist knock out over Joanna Jedrzejczyk.
Round one: Zhang is pressing the pace right off the bat. A tempestuous scramble shows success for both fighters, but Esparza winds up on top. The two return to their feet and the punches are exchanged. A desperate takedown attempt from the champion results with Zhang on top and brutalizing the champ.
Round two: The two exchange right hands and then Esparza shoots for a takedown but winds up on bottom and then crucifixed. The arm slips under and a choke is locked – Esparza taps, and new!
Official result: Weili Zhang second round rear-naked choke
Poirier vs Chandler: The people's main event?
To set the stage for this fight, we've got what many deem to be the people's main event, Dustin Poirier versus Michael Chandler. ‘The Diamond' is breaking the longest layoff of his career after not being able to realize championship status in the UFC for the second time. Though he's fallen short when belts are on the line, he's not one to shy away from dusting himself off and going back into the shark-filled waters that are the lightweight division. Opposite him is prolific finisher and crowd-pleaser, Michael Chandler. Chandler too has fallen short at the hands of former champion, Charles Oliveira, but he got back on the bike and delivered the 2021 fight of the year against Justin Gaethje and then reminded fans that he's in the UFC to win via hitting a 60-yard field goal on Tony Ferguson's dome.
Round one: Chandler starts out fighting super wide. He's utilizing that explosive energy via three body kicks in a row. Chandler is absolutely dominating once Poirier is pressed on the fence. ‘Iron' Mike takes Poirier down to boot. Chandler seems hurt when they return to the feet and Poirier takes over, In a typical DP furry, he tees off on Chandler, but he survives and sees the end of the round.
Round 2: Chandler is back to the wrestling early. He's on top and smothering Poirier within the first minute. A failed triangle attempt leads Chandler to Poirier's back. Blood is flowing from both parties. Neck crank attempts galore. Poirier finally scrambles but only ends up on bottom. Controversy rises due to shots to the back of DP's head but the round ends normally.
Round 3: Chandler takes Poirier on a ride but ends up on bottom. Shades of Chandler's debut in the UFC with Oliveira. Poirier sinks in a choke and submits Michael Chandler!
Official result: Dustin Poirier third round rear-naked choke