UFC 281: Adesanya vs. Pereira staff picks and predictions – Can Izzy exorcise his demons?

At UFC 281 Israel Adesanya will defend his UFC middleweight title against Alex Pereira, a man who — in case you have been living…

By: Tim Bissell | 11 months ago
UFC 281: Adesanya vs. Pereira staff picks and predictions – Can Izzy exorcise his demons?
Bloody Elbow 2.0 | Anton Tabuena

At UFC 281 Israel Adesanya will defend his UFC middleweight title against Alex Pereira, a man who — in case you have been living under a rock — has two professional victories over Adesanya (one by epic KO).

On Saturday night Adesanya will be hoping to mark his sixth successful UFC title defense, which will start putting him in the company of some of the company’s most famed and respected champs. A win over Pereira would also tie Adesanya with Anderson Silva for the longest ever win streak in the UFC’s middleweight division.

Pereira is a newcomer to the Octagon, but he’s risen up the ranks thanks to devastating power and a story better than most screenwriters could muster. He’s the only man to ever KO Adesanya and, he’ll tell you ‘The Last StyleBender’ has not forgotten this.

But is Pereira’s backstory, and ungodly power, enough to win UFC gold? Or will Adesanya have too much in his arsenal for his Brazilian nemesis to handle?

Check out what BE’s staff thought about the fight below. We’re not unanimous on this one, with most of us thinking Pereira will make it 3-0 versus Adesanya.

Israel Adesanya vs. Alex Pereira

Anton Tabuena: Adesanya is the better, more well rounded mixed martial artist, but will that matter? Will the gap in wrestling be that big, and will we actually see Adesanya have a fence+takedown centric gameplan even? Maybe? But I think they’ll mostly stick to their go to’s, and this will mostly be contested from distance, where — if you actually watched their fights — Adesanya is more skilled at too. As seen on those fights though, Pereira has the big equalizer, and that power seems even scarier with these small gloves. Pereira is a live dog here, and Adesanya will really be playing with fire if he makes this look like a low output sparring match for 25 minutes. I think he has to actually hurt Pereira and punish him each time he gets out of position. Whether it’s those smart counters or by clinching at the fence early on, Adesanya has to really wear him down and not keep Pereira and his power still be a threat later in the match. All of that while making sure he’s still disciplined and defensively sound makes it a lot easier said than done though. I’m not 100% confident in this, but at the end of the day, it’s more logical to pick the fighter who’s clearly more skilled and has more avenues to win. Israel Adesanya by TKO (GNP).

Tim Bissell: I’m kinda being a sucker for the story here, while also siding with my metric (which is selecting the undefeated [in the UFC] Pereira versus the almost perfect Adesanya). Even though it feels like there is only one way Pereira wins this fight (with a special KO that will be on highlight reels for however long this world continues to turn), he seems to have arrived at a place where that ability is so polished and his instincts are so sharp that it feels like an inevitability whenever he steps into the cage. This thinking is completely coloured by the promotion and the hype around Poatan and the narrative about his and Adesanya’s past fights. The facts don’t completely support this (he couldn’t get Bruno Silva out of there in three rounds). But my gut still says Pereira will find a way here and land his cataclysmic left hand on Adesanya’s chin, even though my head sees this being a dull and stifling win for The Last Stylebender. Alex Pereira via KO

Zane Simon: I’d love to see Adesanya taking the clearest paths to victory out here in this fight. Especially the aggressive, clinch focused Adesanya who stalks Pereira down with heavy body work and forces the Brazilian to pay for his willingness to work a disconcertingly relaxed defensive game. It’s the kind of fight Adesanya was taking to Pereira in their second kickboxing bout. Sure he lost that bout, but he also forced a standing 8 count out of Pereira first. If he had Pereira in that much trouble in an MMA bout, there’d be no referee intervention, he’d win it. Still, the current version of Adesanya seems less prepared to be that guy than ever. His time at the top has made him more risk averse, and it feels like big fight moments really get in his head. It’s a credit to Adesanya’s quality that he performs so well in fights where he seems distinctly uncomfortable, but given Pereira’s size and power and the distinct ability to compete with Adesanya from long distance, if the ‘Last Stylebender’ wants to have a conservative points battle, I think he’s gonna get slept. Alex Pereira via KO, round 2.

Staff picking Adesanya: Kristen, Anton, Lewis, Stephie
Staff picking Pereira: Bissell, Chris, Dayne, Zane


Who wins?

This poll is closed

  • 52%

    Israel Adesanya

    (1276 votes)

  • 47%

    Alex Pereira

    (1148 votes)

2424 votes total

Vote Now

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About the author
Tim Bissell
Tim Bissell

Tim Bissell is a writer, editor and deputy site manager for Bloody Elbow. He has covered combat sports since 2015. Tim covers news and events and has also written longform and investigative pieces. Among Tim's specialties are the intersections between crime and combat sports. Tim has also covered head trauma, concussions and CTE in great detail.

Tim is also BE's lead (only) sumo reporter. He blogs about that sport here and on his own substack, Sumo Stomp!

Email me at tim@bloodyelbow.com. Nice messages will get a response.

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