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UFC 281 - Adesanya vs. Pereira: Preview, TV Time, Card, and Predictions

UFC returns to New York with an action-packed PPV.

The UFC returns to Madison Square Garden this Saturday, with an action-packed card that will feature two world title bouts.

Middleweight champion Israel Adesanya will defend his belt against the heavy-handed Alex Pereira.

Israel Adesanya vs. Alex Pereira

They already faced each other twice in kickboxing, and on both occasions Pereira was the winner. Therefore, the great attraction of this battle is that the great champion will fight against one of his demons.

We might see a different version of Israel Adesanya, considering that he’ll no longer have his usual height and reach advantage over his opponent. It would not be smart to stand and bang with Pereira either; the champion has already felt the Brazilian's power in his own flesh.

The champion has greater experience in mixed martial arts, while Pereira made his pro debut only seven years ago. We could be witnessing a new version of Adesanya, ready to wrestle and dominate his opponent on the canvas.

Pereira will always have a chance to win, as he will have 25 minutes to land a single devastating blow. Five of his six MMA victories came by (T)KO, not to mention more than 20 knockouts in his extensive kickboxing career. Pereira has an absurd amount of power.

Prediction: Israel Adesanya wins by Unanimous Decision.

Carla Esparza vs. Zhang Weili

Although she became a champion for the second time, Esparza’s last fight wasn’t quite impressive; in fact, her bout against Rose Namajunas was one of the most boring title matches ever. The champion needs to step up her game.

Esparza is one of the best wrestlers in the 115-pound division and has been at the top of the division for almost 10 years. Perhaps the champion doesn't get the credit she deserves, and this Saturday's fight will give her the opportunity to make a statement against a tough opponent.

No 115-pounder has more takedowns landed (44) than Esparza in the division, and this speaks to the effectiveness the champion shows while taking the fight to the ground.

The challenger, Zhang Weili, is by far the toughest fighter in the division; the Chinese warrior can take punishment and then finish the fight with a single blow.

We can expect Weili to come out aggressive, throwing a barrage of punches and kicks in order to wear down her opponent. Esparza won’t be able to weather the storm in a 25-minute fight.

Although Weili is a far superior striker than Esparza, she’s fairly decent at wrestling, and her submission game isn’t that bad, as she holds seven submission wins in her pro career.

Zhang Weili should demolish the champion inside three rounds. The Chinese is on a roll and is looking more and more terrifying inside the octagon.

Prediction: Zhang Weili wins by (T)KO.

Dustin Poirier vs. Michael Chandler

Undoubtedly, this will be the fight of the night.

We may be in the presence of a fight to define the next lightweight challenger; this comes after champion Islam Makhachev faces Alex Volkanovski.

Poirier and Chandler are two extremely complete fighters, each with their own style. Poirier has more stylistic boxing, while Chandler possesses real bombs in his hands.

In terms of grappling, both are extremely efficient and experienced. That said, we will see an unpredictable fight between two of the best and most eye-catching lightweights on the planet.

Poirier, a southpaw, will try to slow-cook the fight, boxing from the outside, kicking the calf, and moving around the octagon. If necessary, we'll see him take the fight to the ground.

Chandler is going to be on the hunt. The former Bellator champion is going to move forward, switch his stance constantly, feint with level changes, and throw his powerful right hand when the time is right.

This is the ideal fight to grab some popcorn, get comfortable on the couch, and open your eyes wide, because at any moment something interesting could happen.

Prediction: Michael Chandler wins by (T)KO

UFC 281: Adesanya vs. Pereira – Full Card

MAIN CARD (10:00 p.m. ET / 7:00 p.m. PT) - Only on ESPN+ PPV

Middleweight Championship: Israel Adesanya vs. Alex Pereira

Women’s Strawweight Championship: Carla Esparza vs. Zhang Weili

Dustin Poirier vs. Michael Chandler

Frankie Edgar vs. Chris Gutierrez

Dan Hooker vs. Claudio Puelles

PRELIMS – (8:00 p.m. ET / 5:00 p.m. PT) - ESPN+

Brad Riddell vs. Renato Moicano

Dominick Reyes vs. Ryan Spann

Erin Blanchfield vs. Molly McCann

Andre Petroski vs. Wellington Turman

EARLY PRELIMS – (6:00 p.m. ET / 3:00 p.m. PT) - ESPN+ and UFC Fight Pass

Matt Frevola vs. Ottman Azaitar

Karolina Kowalkiewicz vs. Silvana Gomez

Michael Trizano vs. Seungwoo Choi

Julio Arce vs. Montel Jackson

Carlos Ulberg vs. Nicolae Negumereanu