UFC 281 Preview: Odds for Adesanya vs. Pereira and Women’s Strawweight Bout

SBNY » UFC 281 Preview: Odds for Adesanya vs. Pereira and Women’s Strawweight Bout

The UFC takes to New York’s Madison Square Garden for its annual trip to Broadway, and UFC 281 features two title fights and other intriguing matchups to preview.

The main event pits Israel Adesanya vs. Alex Pereira for the UFC Middleweight Championship. Pereira has defeated Adesanya two times in kickboxing contests years ago, but Adesanya has the experience advantage in mixed martial arts. There is also a Women’s Strawweight Championship fight between underdog titleholder Carla Esparza and Zhang Weili.

UFC Middleweight Title Bout: Adesanya vs. Pereira

Looking at the main event first from the perspective of the NY sportsbooks, here are the odds from BetMGM.

Israel Adesanya-225+125+300+1400
Alex Pereira+180+550+275+2500

After winning a decision over Adesanya in 2016, Pereira knocked him out with a punch in 2017. Oddsmakers, however, are pointing toward Adesanya’s experience in MMA and fighting high-level competition in the UFC. The -225 odds equate to around a 70% win chance for the champion to retain.

Being a five-round fight also plays into the champion’s strengths. Five of Adesanya’s last six fights have gone the distance. On the other hand, Pereira has gone the distance in one UFC fight, but that was a three-rounder. Five of his last six fights (all wins) have not gone past the second round.

Adesanya is 23-1 in MMA, whereas Pereira is 6-1 and had his first UFC fight exactly one year ago–also in MSG. It’s tough to tell if both fighters will revert back to their striking ways from the kickboxing matches, or if they will go to more of a grappling route in this contest. Odds suggest that if Pereira wins, it will be due to strikes, while Adesanya will try to wear Pereira out and win a decision after 25 minutes.

Prediction: Adesanya, via decision

Esparza’s First UFC Strawweight Title Defense Will Be Difficult

Carla Esparza, currently in her second reign as UFC Strawweight Champion, has division stalwart Rose Namajunas’ number, that’s for sure. After beating “Thug Rose” via submission in 2014, Esparza forced the then-champion to be ultra conservative in their fight this past May. That strategy ended up costing Namajunas, as she lost a split decision in a fight where she was heavily favored. Esparza finds herself a heavy underdog once again.

Carla Esparza+275+450+1400+1400
Zhang Weili-350+175+125+900

Zhang Weili, on the other hand, has struggled with Namajunas but has defeated everyone else that has been put in front of her in eight UFC fights. After being then-champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk in a classic fight in March 2020, she lost that title to Namajunas via first-round knockout and then lost a rematch via split decision. Weili rebounded by defeating Jedrzejczyk again in June, this time via knockout with a spinning backfist, to earn this championship match.

Esparza is an expert at taking down opponents and grinding them down. It was what Namajunas tried to avoid for the entire fight in May, but she ended up being too conservative and lost. Given that Weili fights a more aggressive style, we don’t see her falling into the trap that Rose did. Weili also lands 5.78 significant strikes per minute, which will be a lot for the champion to take over the course of a five-round fight.

Prediction: Weili, via KO/TKO

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