UFC 287 goes down this weekend and atop the card is the fourth ever fight between UFC middleweight champion and Israel Adesanya. Pereira is of course undefeated against Adesanya with two wins in Glory and one in the Octagon in November. Two of those wins have been stoppages (the only stoppage losses of Adesanya’s career).

And our staff mostly believes we’ll see Pereira go 4-0 versus Adesanya this Saturday. Seven staffers are on Pereira (including our top three staffers in our standings) and three are on Adesanya.

In the co-main for UFC 287, where Gilbert Burns meets Jorge Masvidal, we are near unanimous in believing this will be a bad weekend for Gamebred.

How We Got To UFC 287

Check out the rest of our UFC 287 staff picks below.

UFC 287 Staff Picks

Alex Pereira vs. Israel Adesanya

Anton Tabuena: Even if he’s 0-3, Adesanya has shown that he has more than enough tools to beat Alex Pereira. He has landed a lot and hurt him multiple times in those fights, especially when he puts Pereira on his back foot, where his power and his offense isn’t as potent. The problem is, Adesanya is a great counter striker from the outside, but he defaults to those habits way too much, when he should be pressuring him back and following up on strikes more instead.

Against a man with the touch of death, it’s proven to be a bad idea as it only gives Pereira more time to settle down, and much more chances to land that bomb. If Adesanya can get respect early like he’s done for all three fights, but this time make the concerted effort to up the volume and keep pressuring him back, Pereira’s offense and power can be muted and I wouldn’t be surprised if Adesanya even finds a finish.

Will that happen though? I don’t know. Even if we don’t consider the mental aspect of losing to someone three times, it’ll also be tough to change habits that have been so ingrained to his fighting style in just a couple of months. I think Adesanya styles on him early again, but will he stay disciplined in a way that contradicts his natural instincts? Or will he worry about that power, and just score some points while also letting Pereira off the hook over and over?

I feel like I’ve outlined the exact case for a Pereira win, but I’m still gonna pick the more technical striker. Maybe UFC 287 will prove that fourth time’s the charm. Israel Adesanya by TKO.

Eddie Mercado: Izzy needs to be perfect for 25-minutes, while the much more powerful Pereira does not. Alex Pereira by submission (RNC) at 4:05 of round 4 

Tim Bissell: We just saw this in November so I’m not expecting either fighter to have made leaps and bound in their games since then. I don’t think Adesanya will be a wrestler at UFC 287, I think he’ll fight more or less the same fight he did last time out, which was looking pretty good until those punches from Pereira started to add up. Pereira has no reason to change his gameplan this time around.

The improvement he needs most is in his weight-cutting. A smoother cut for UFC 287 and we could see him pile on more pressure early and get the fight over quicker. However, even after a poor cut he showed he has a second wind that, when paired with a killer instinct, is absolutely lethal. Alex Pereira by TKO

Zane Simon: At UFC 287 we really are just right back where we were before the last version of this fight, with the knowledge that Israel Adesanya is entirely capable of beating Alex Pereira in any given instant, but largely seems unable to consistently follow that path to victory.

In part, that’s just because the path is so obviously dangerous. Adesanya needs to keep the pressure high and stay in Pereira’s face to keep the Brazilian from setting up creative entries for his high kicks and left hooks. But that’s exactly what he was doing in their second kickboxing bout when he got slept, so there are clearly no guarantees. Long story short, it’s not hard to see how Adesanya could beat Pereira, but he hasn’t yet, and he’s had plenty of chances. Alex Pereira via TKO, round 3.

Staff picking Pereira: Stephie, Kristen, Chris, Eddie, Bissell, Zane, Dayne 

Staff picking Adesanya: Jack, Lucas, Anton

Gilbert Burns vs. Jorge Masvidal

Anton Tabuena: I’m not sure Masvidal has much left in the tank, and this seems like a terrible match up for him. Even on the feet, I think I’d favor Burns who is much faster and will probably be the more potent striker, especially in 2023. On the ground, it isn’t even close. Gilbert Burns by Submission.

Tim Bissell: Masvidal is the better striker here, but not by miles. Burns is better at everything else, miles better when it comes to grappling. Masvidal has also shown frightening bad IQ in his career and an inability to change the momentum of a fight once things aren’t going his way. If he’s unable to piece Burns up on the feet, he’s going to run out of ideas at UFC287 and be stuck on the end of another lopsided decision loss (or worse).

Burns looked sensational last time out and prior to that he hung in there with Khamzat Chimaev like no one else has. I don’t see anything Masvidal brings to the table that could be a threat to Burns. I think the Brazilian will get a measure of Masvidal, do fine on the feet and, when he needs to, get things to the ground and find the submission. Gilbert Burns via submission

Zane Simon: Book this fight five years ago and it’s a very competitive contest, maybe even one that Masvidal wins pretty convincingly. But I’m not sure any version of ‘Gamebred’ would have beat the determined, aggressive version of Burns that we’ll see at UFC 287. The version of Burns who went hammer and tongs with Khamzat Chimaev. Especially not a version of Masvidal that seems less crafty and a solid step slower than he’s ever been before. Gilbert Burns via decision.

Staff picking Burns: Stephie, Kristen, Jack, Eddie, Lucas, Bissell, Anton, Zane, Dayne 

Staff picking Masvidal: Chris

Rob Font vs. Adrian Yanez

Tim Bissell: Rob Font is starting to feel a little gatekeeper-y. That being said, he could give Adrian Yanez some problems at UFC 287 with his experience and very tough jab. But I think we’ve seen about all we will from Font at this stage of his career, whereas there’s a lot more to see from Yanez (and I’d argue what we’ve seen from him already exceeds the highpoints set by Font).

Font is also coming off a punishing loss to Marlon Vera. So it certainly feels like everything is lined up for Yanez, who hits very hard for the weightclass, to take another step up the ladder at the expense of the vet. Adrian Yanez via TKO

Zane Simon: I don’t like to see so many of us picking against Font here. He’s proven that he has the durability, workrate, and consistency of form to beat even very decent opposition. And Yanez is at a point in his career where he still has everything to prove.

But, if I’m just looking at their technical form as strikers, it feels much more likely to me that if someone’s gonna have a big round where they really hurt their opponent here, it’s going to be Yanez. He’s got the better active defense, he’s got the sharper counter-punching, he’s just a more nuanced striker.

If he starts slow and/or fades late, then there’s a very good chance that Font just sneaks out two rounds against him for the win. But if there’s going to be one big round where someone gets badly hurt, I think it’ll be Yanez doing the damage. When I do that kind of math, I gotta lean toward the damaging fighter to take the whole thing, especially over just three rounds. Adrian Yanez by decision.

Staff picking Font: Chris, Eddie
Staff picking Yanez: Stephie, Kristen, Jack, Lucas, Bissell, Anton, Zane, Dayne 

Kevin Holland vs. Santiago Ponzinibbio

Anton Tabuena: UFC 287 gives us a proper match up at this stage of their careers. Ponzinibbio’s power can probably cause him problems, but Holland should be faster with better output. I can see this going either way, but I’m going with Holland. I think his last two opponents were bad match ups for him, and Holland should be able to beat people at this level. Kevin Holland by Decision.

Tim Bissell: Kevin Holland has a big size and reach advantage over Santiago Ponznibbio, but my pick is going to the fighter who I think shows more urgency and better decision making.

UFC 287 really is now or never for Ponznibbio, whose career (and even life) was under threat from various infections he suffered a few years ago. He’s struggled since coming back, but I think his desire to win and advance in the division is probably more intense than Holland’s, who seems to like fighting, but not need it the way a lot of other fighters do. Probably makes him a more well-adjusted human, but I don’t think it serves him well in this match-up.

I feel like Ponzinibbio will be able to outlast and frustrate Holland and find a way to menace him across multiple dimensions in the fight. Santiago Ponznibbio via decision

Zane Simon: I’m not gonna say Ponzinibbio’s chin is gone, he’s only been KO’d once in the past few years, but he definitely gets hurt a whole lot more than he used to. The hand speed isn’t what it used to be and in the early rounds especially, Ponzinibbio seems to be tentative and have trouble warming up.

If he can survive, he can still do some remarkably good work in the middle of a brawl, but it’s been a hell of a long time since we’ve seen Ponzinibbio just go out and dominate someone the way he did Neil Magny in 2018. Holland has a great chin, a ton of range, and a lot of speed, even down at 170. He’s gotten a bit wild with his technique lately, but I get the feeling he’ll charge out of the gate here and put a shock into the ‘Argentine Dagger.’ Kevin Holland via KO, round 1.

Staff picking Holland: Stephie, Kristen, Jack, Eddie, Anton, Zane, Dayne 

Staff picking Ponzinibbio: Chris, Lucas, Bissell

Raul Rosas Jr. vs. Christian Rodriguez

Anton Tabuena: We know who the UFC wants to win here, and I think the matchmakers know what they’re doing. Raul Rosas Jr by decision.

Tim Bissell: The UFC are building a hype-train/vanity project here with Raul Rosas Jr. Feels like the company, or its President, is desperate to transition the fighting roster to all Contender Series alums (with their low low contracts) and having successful grads might be viewed as a good way to justify it. Rodriguez can certainly upset the apple cart, but he hasn’t shown he has a skill set to combat Rosas’ known greatest strength. I expect the teenager to notch another win at UFC 287, and a few more, before he’s put in there with someone who can cause him serious trouble. Raul Rosas Jr. via submission

Zane Simon: Christian Rodriguez had a ton of trouble keeping range and staying off the mats against Joshua Weems. I don’t think he’s ready for Rosas’ confidence, aggression, and lightning fast backtakes. Raul Rosas Jr. via submission, round 1.

Staff picking Rosas Jr.: Stephie, Jack, Eddie, Bissell, Anton, Zane, Dayne 

Staff picking Rodriguez: Kristen, Chris, Lucas

Kelvin Gastelum vs. Chris Curtis

Zane Simon: This, the featured prelim of UFC 287, has the unfortunately high potential to be a very ugly staring match of a fight. Kelvin Gastelum has a knack for being too passive and willing to simply match tempo against opponents rather than dictating the fight, while Curtis is a natural-born counterpuncher who wants nothing more than his opponent to come to him…

To read the rest of our UFC 287 staff picks head on over to Substack. Now that Bloody Elbow is a fully independent site the best way to support us, so that we can continue fearless coverage of combat sports, is to pick up a paid subscription. Paid subscribers help fund other exclusive content like editorials from Karim Zidan and Jonathan Snowden and investigations by John S. Nash.

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Staff pick leader board

Last week Victor scored an impressive 9-1 record. Our leader Dayne had a bit of a misstep, going 5-5 and allowing the chasing pack of Eddie, Zane and Anton to all pick up one Pick on him. The only movement we saw in the standings was Kristen dropping back into fifth, from joint fourth with Zane. It’s very bunched up at the top so we could see some movement based on how the fights go at UFC 287 this Saturday.

PositionStafferCorrectIncorrectTotal Picks%Picks BackWeek 10 Record
1 (-)Dayne81421230.6595-5
2 (-)Eddie79441230.64226-4
3 (-)Zane76471230.61856-4
4 (-)Anton75481230.61066-4
5 (▼1)Kristen72511230.58595-5
6 (-)Stephie70421120.625116-4
7 (-)Bissell65581230.528165-5
8 (-)Lucas54551090.495274-6
9 (-)Chris54591130.478275-5
10 (-)Victor3021510.588519-1
11 (-)BE Community2414380.632577-3
12 (nr)Tim1411250.560676-4

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.

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