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How to bet UFC 281: Israel Adesanya vs. Alex Pereira expert picks, best bets for main event and entire fight card

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UFC 281 odds courtesy of Sports Interaction, Canada’s most trusted sportsbook.

A rivalry that reaches beyond MMA will be reignited at UFC 281 when Israel Adesanya defends the UFC middleweight title against Alex Pereira on November 12. 

The co-main event will see Carla Esparza defending the UFC strawweight title against Zhang Weili. The bout takes place inside New York’s Madison Square Garden. 

Also on the stacked card will be Dustin Poirier, Michael Chandler, UFC legend Frankie Edgar, and Molly McCann.

The Sporting News, with the help of Sports Interaction, takes a closer look at the UFC 281 card. Can we expect any upsets? 

MORE: Sign up to watch the UFC 281 PPV, exclusively on ESPN+

Israel Adesanya (c) vs. Alex Pereira for the UFC middleweight title

In Canada, per Sports Interaction, Adesanya is the -185 favorite, while Pereira is the +145 underdog. 

Pereira is 2-0 against Adesanya, but only in kickboxing. Pereira defeated Adesanya via decision in April 2016 and beat him via KO in March 2017. Since his days in kickboxing, Adesanya has gone 12-1 in the octagon. Pereira is 3-0 inside the octagon with two wins via knockout. 

Adesanya is an offensive and defensive wizard. He lands 3.93 significant strikes per minute, with a strike accuracy mark of 49%. He does have a takedown defense mark of 78%. “The Last Stylebender” has been taken down 11 times in his last four fights. 

In his short time in the octagon, Pereira lands 6.29 significant strikes per minute (108 against Bruno Silva). He has an accuracy mark of 60% and a takedown defense mark of 73%. Pereira does struggle when it comes to the takedown game. He has been dropped four times in three fights. He knocked out a reserved Sean Strickland before he had an opportunity to test any potentially new defensive techniques. 

Recently, Adesanya has been playing it “safe” against his opponents with high striking capabilities. Some call Adesanya “boring.” From the way The Sporting News sees it, Adesanya is strategic. He adapts to the style of his opponent. Adesanya forces them to back away in case he lands a big blow first. Check out the fighting styles of Jared Cannonier, Yoel Romero, and Robert Whittaker (the rematch) to prove that point. He’s a chameleon.

In the case of Pereira, a striker, Adesnaya may go all in or play a defensive game to tire Pereira out. At that point, the champion may only need one singular blow to take him out, as he did against Paulo Costa. 

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This is not kickboxing. Utilizing the clinch, Adesanya can take down Pereira. Adesanya could strike when he feels it is the right time. It might start slow at first, but the fight could reach its breaking point in the middle. The Sporting News believes Adesanya will have his hands raised by the end of UFC 281. 

Sporting News prediction: Adesanya via TKO (round three)

Carla Esparza (c) vs. Zhang Weili for the UFC strawweight title

In Canada, per Sports Interaction, Zhang is the -460 favorite, while Esparza is the +315 underdog. 

Esparza is coming off of a questionable and slow fight against the former champion Rose Namajunas, who took out Zhang with a head kick to win the belt. “Cookie” is on a six-fight win streak. Zhang, who lost the rematch, would win another rematch against Joanna Jedrzejczyk in June by knocking her out cold.  

If Zhang comes out swinging like everyone expects her to, this could be a quick reign for Esparza. Zhang lands 5.78 significant strikes per minute (2.20 for Esparza). “Magnum” landed 165 against Joanna in the Fight of the Year candidate between the two. She then landed 83 against Namajunas in the rematch inside MSG and 69 against Joanna in the other rematch. Esparza has landed above 45 once, in 2017, against Cynthia Calvillo. 

Normally Esparza has an edge on the ground. She averages 3.25 takedowns per 15 minutes. Zhang averages 2.09 takedowns and has landed nine in four fights. 

Zhang’s explosiveness will be the ultimate edge in this bout. Esparza can hang with the best of them, but can she survive a Zhang onslaught? It appears that we will see a new strawweight queen at UFC 281. 

Sporting News prediction: Zhang via TKO (round one)

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Dustin Poirier vs. Michael Chandler; Lightweights

In Canada, per Sports Interaction, Poirier is the -200 favorite, while Chandler is the +155 underdog. 

This is your leading bout for a potential Fight of the Night bonus. Poirier is 3-2 in his last five fights, his last bout being a submission loss against Charles Oliveira for the UFC lightweight title in December 2021. Chandler is 2-2 since joining the UFC. His last bout was a front-kick KO win over Tony Ferguson in May. Before that, he lost two in a row against Oliveira and in a war against Justin Gaethje inside MSG. 

Chandler is the pure wrestler with seven wins via submission. However, he is known in the UFC to stand and bang. He has averaged 5.17 significant strikes per minute in the UFC, with a 46% accuracy mark. Chandler also has averaged 1.83 takedowns per 15 minutes, with only two. 

Poirier lands 5.61 significant strikes per minute, with an accuracy mark of 50%. He has a better defensive mark (53%) than Chandler (45%). As seen in previous fights, Chandler can have a weak chin. There are times he lets his hands down to keep the bout interesting (ex: the Gaethje fight). Poirier is the better boxer of the two and has a one-inch reach advantage. Michael Bisping pointed out on his YouTube channel that Poirier has better footwork and is more fluid. 

If Chandler sticks to offense only, then Poirier might take the win. On the floor could be a different story. If Poirier can avoid it, he may be in business. 

Only a three-round affair, everyone will be watching this bout. The Sporting News predicts an aggressive but smart Poirier, resulting in a big win for “The Diamond.” 

Sporting News prediction: Poirier via TKO (round two)

Frankie Edgar vs. Chris Gutierrez; Bantamweights

In Canada, per Sports Interaction, Gutierrez is the -120 favorite, while Edgar is the +160 underdog. 

The UFC community will bid farewell to former UFC champion and New Jersey’s Frankie Edgar, who is fighting for the last time in the octagon. It will not be an easy going away party for Edgar, who is 1-4 in his previous five bouts. He faces Gutierrez, who’s on a 6-0-1 streak since losing his first UFC bout in 2018. 

Edgar lands 3.79 significant strikes per minute, while Gutierrez has landed 4.69. Edgar’s strike defense mark is 66% (63% for Gutierrez). On the floor, Edgar has averaged 2.30 takedowns per 15 minutes and has a takedown defense mark of 65%. Gutierrez is not close due to his short run in the octagon, but he does have a 74% takedown defensive mark. 

The 41-year-old Edgar’s best days are behind him. Gutierrez knows that. There is a chance that Edgar can pull off one last miraculous win, but how likely is that? Gutierrez can enter the bantamweight rankings by taking Edgar off it for good. Will it be a brutal win or a calculating battle? The Sporting News is going with youth over experience in this bout. 

Sporting News prediction: Gutierrez via TKO (round two)

MORE: All you need to know about UFC 281

Dan Hooker vs. Claudio Puelles; Lightweights

In Canada, per Sports Interaction, Hooker is the -160 favorite, while Puelles is the +130 underdog. 

Since his five-round war with Dustin Poirier, things have not gone well for Hooker. He is 1-3 in his last four fights, with a TKO loss against Arnold Allen in March as one of the big blunders against him. “The Hangman” faces the 26-year-old Puelles, currently on a five-fight win streak after losing The Ultimate Fighter: Latin America 3 tournament in 2016. 

The veteran, Hooker has the edge in significant strikes landed per minute (4.91 to 1.99) and strike defense (51% to 46%). Puelles has seven wins via submission, with three in the octagon. He averages 2.74 takedowns per 15 minutes (0.89 for Hooker) and has landed eleven in his last five fights. Hooker does have a takedown defense mark of 60%. 

It is a risky fight for Hooker. He is barely holding onto a spot in the lightweight rankings. His best strategy is to utilize leg kicks to halt any momentum of Puelles. Hooker has to avoid the ground game and strike early and often. If the 32-year-old can do that, his path to victory is secure. He may be in trouble to start the bout. However, The Sporting News is predicting Hooker finally gets over the hump.

Sporting News prediction: Hooker via KO (round two)

Brad Riddell vs. Renato Moicano; Lightweights

In Canada, per Sports Interaction, Moicano is the -125 favorite, while Riddell is the -105 underdog.

This is a close matchup to watch. Riddell is on a two-fight losing streak, while Moicano is 2-2- in his last four fights. 

Moicano has a slight edge in significant strikes landed per minute (4.80 compared to 4.73). Riddell has a better strike accuracy mark (53% compared to 48%). On the ground, Moicano averages 1.70 takedowns per 15 minutes (1.85 for Riddell) but has an accuracy mark of 48% (37% for Riddell). Moicano was taken down five times by Rafael Dos Anjos but landed seven takedowns in two dights before that. Riddell landed seven takedowns in three fights before his loss to Jalin Turner but has been dropped 15 times inside the octagon. 

Moicano is susceptible to the power punch. Riddell has five wins via knockout, but his last knockout win was in 2019. If Moicano can take Riddell down to the floor, it may be game over for “Quake,” who lost his last bout via submission. 

Sporting News prediction: Moicano via submission (round two)

MORE: Israel Adesanya vs. Alex Pereira purse, salaries

Dominick Reyes vs. Ryan Spann; Light Heavyweights 

In Canada, per Sports Interaction, Reyes is the -250 favorite, while Spann is the +185 underdog. 

Reyes badly needs a win after three losses in a row. One of those losses came against Jon Jones for the UFC light heavyweight title, which was controversial. Reyes last fought in 2021. Spann is 2-2 in his last four bouts. His previous win was via submission over Ion Cutelaba in May. It is a step up in competition for Spann. 

Reyes averages 4.77 significant strikes per minute, while Spann averages 3.35. Known for striking, Reyes has an accuracy mark of 50% (44% for Spann). Spann averages 1.50 takedowns per 15 minutes. His last takedown was in 2020 against Johnny Walker.

While Reyes was knocked out cold in a war against Jiri Prochazka in his last bout, he still has a lot to give in the sport. Can “The Devastator” return to his former glory? Since Spann has lost to top-tier fighters in Anthony Smith and Johnny Walker, Reyes is the perfect test for him. It might be one that Reyes has the ultimate edge in due to his dangerous elbows and striking capability. 

Sporting News prediction: Reyes via TKO (round two)  

Molly McCann vs. Erin Blanchfield; Flyweights 

In Canada, per Sports Interaction, Blanchfield is the -440 favorite, while McCann is the +300 underdog. 

“Meatball” Molly comes into this bout on a three-fight win streak, with two wins in a row via spinning back elbow. She’s riding high since she and Paddy Pimblett took over the U.K. MMA scene. Blanchfield, the 23-year-old from New Jersey, has won six in a row (three in the UFC).

Right off the bat, both fighters are solid strikers. Blanchfield lands 5.69 significant strikes per minute (5.84 for McCann). McCann, a pressure puncher, has a strike defense mark of 62% (64% for Blanchfield). Blanchfield landed 120 strikes in her UFC debut, while McCann landed 127 against Ji Yeon Kim in 2021.

Blanchfield is a wizard on the floor. She averages 3.99 takedowns landed per 15 minutes (1.73 for McCann). Despite being taken down twice by JJ Aldrich, Blanchfield landed ten combined takedowns in two fights before that. McCann has taken down four opponents in her last three bouts. Before those fights, she was dropped down 12 times in two contests. 

The crowd will favor Blanchfield but don’t count out McCann, who has gained support wherever she goes now. Will McCann’s luck continue inside “The World’s Most Famous Arena,” or can “Cold Blooded” halt the Liverpool-born fighters run? If McCann can dig deep and avoid the takedown game of Blanchfield (or at least survive it early), her striking will do the talking. At that point, it is only the question of when the big blow will come for “Meatball” Molly. 

Sporting News prediction: McCann via TKO (round two)

MORE: Sign up to watch the UFC 281 PPV, exclusively on ESPN+

Andre Petroski vs. Wellington Turman; Middleweights

In Canada, per Sports Interaction, Petroski is the -225 favorite, while Turman is the +170 underdog. 

Both fighters are on win streaks, and submissions are the name of their game in the octagon. Petroski averages 4.10 takedowns per 15 minutes, while Turman averages 1.98. The former has a stronger takedown defense rate of 100% (85% for Turman). Petroski has taken down his opponents eight combined times in his first two UFC bouts. 

Turman has been around the UFC longer and has faced tougher competition. What Petroski has in this bout, however, is a grueling, fast-paced attack game. If the 31-year-old Petroski can get to Turman early, the Brazilian might have a chance to expose Turman. 

Sporting News prediction: Petroski via submission (round two) 

Matt Frevola vs. Ottman Azaitar; Lightweights 

In Canada, per Sports Interaction, Frevola is the -115 favorite, while Azaitar is the -120 underdog. 

Frevola, the New York native, comes into the fight 2-2 in his last four bouts. Azaitar is 2-0 in the UFC and undefeated as a pro fighter. It is a tale of two competitors. Azaitar is a knockout artist, while “Steamrolla” Frevola is a striker and wrestler. One of the main concerns is that this is the first bout for Azaitar in the UFC since 2020 after being released for breaking safety protocols on Fight Island. 

Frevola lands 3.43 significant strikes per minute. In his short time in the octagon, Azaitar lands 8.43 (43 total strikes in two fights). Frevola averages 2.47 takedowns per 15 minutes but hasn’t landed one since 2019 against Luis Pena. This bout can end depending on the pace of both fighters. Frevola is known to head right into battle, making him susceptible to the early knockout. However, if he can suffocate his opponent and control cage time, he can make it a difficult fight for Azaitar. 

The ring rust and questionable skills of Azaitar will be a factor in the bout. Frevola could easily take advantage of that. 

Sporting News prediction: Frevola via TKO (round one)

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Karolina Kowalkiewicz vs. Silvana Gomez Juarez; Strawweights 

In Canada, per Sports Interaction, Juarez is the -135 favorite, while Kowalkiewicz is the +100 underdog. 

It wasn’t long ago when Kowalkiewicz and Joanna Jedrzejczyk put on a clinic inside MSG at UFC 205. Since that loss to Joanna, Kowalkiewicz has gone 3-6. Her last bout was a badly-needed submission win over Felice Herrig. A former boxer, Juarez won her previous bout via knockout after losing two in a row. This bout may end up being Kowalkiewicz’s last stand. 

Kowalkiewicz lands 5.38 significant strikes per minute, while Juarez (in her short time in the octagon) averages 2.62 shots. Grappling has been Suarez’s kryptonite inside the octagon, as she has lost two fights via submission. She was taken to the floor five times against Loopy Godinez. Lucky for her, Kowalkiewicz is not a submission specialist. 

Kowalkiewicz’s main issue has been engaging an opponent with power and not having anything to fight back. She has suffered brutal losses over the years. At 37, it is unknown how much more damage she can take. A calculating striker, Juarez has a golden opportunity ahead of her to make an impact at the expense of Kowalkiewicz. 

Sporting News prediction: Juarez via TKO (round one)

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Michael Trizano vs. Choi Seung-woo; Featherweights 

In Canada, per Sports Interaction, Choi is the -165 favorite, while Trizano is the +130 underdog. 

It is a tough FIGHT PASS prelims fight, as both competitors are on a two-fight losing streak. Trizano comes in with the height (two-inch) and reach (three-inch) disadvantage. He has a slight edge in significant strikes landed per minute (3.45 to 3.32) and strike defense (49% to 45%). He does get his often, as his opponents have landed 261 in three combined fights. 

Neither fighter truly has an edge on the floor. 

Choi has faced steeper competition but often falls for traps on the floor. Trizano needs to work on his defense to survive. If Choi can come out hot, the test will be if Trizano can manage his ability. Based on previous outcomes, it does not appear that is the case. 

Sporting News prediction: Choi via unanimous decision

Julio Arce vs. Montel Jackson; Bantamweights

In Canada, per Sports Interaction, Jackson is the -200 favorite, while Arce is the +165 underdog.

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Jackson is on a two-fight win streak, while Are is 2-2 in his last four fights. Jackson has the height (three-inch) and reach (five inches) advantage over Arce, who recovered from a defeat against Song Yadong by striking Daniel Santos with 127 shots. The main issue would be that Jackson has not fought since 2021, while Arce’s recent clinic was in April.

Arce has the edge in significant strikes per minute (4.74 against 3.42) and strike defense (69% against 57%). On the floor is where Jackson thrives. Jackson averages 4.12 takedowns per 15 minutes, landing six in his last three fights. Against Felipe Colares in 2020 he landed 11. Arce’s 94% takedown defense is no joke, and Jackson might need to work overtime to secure a drop. 

Arce, a Queens native, will be fighting at home inside MSG. Will the will to win be enough? Jackson can strike Arce down and smother him on the floor. While he hasn’t had a submission win since 2018, the idea that Jackson can get hot at any moment isn’t far off. 

Sporting News prediction: Jackson via submission (round two)

Carlos Ulberg vs. Nicolae Negumereanu; Light Heavyweights 

In Canada, per Sports Interaction, Ulberg is the -135 favorite, while Negumereanu is the +105 underdog. 

A former kickboxer and boxer, Ulberg is 3-1 with the UFC. A Dana White’s Contender Series alum, Ulberg will have a four-inch height advantage over Negumereanu, who will have a one-inch reach advantage. Negumereanu is 4-1 in the UFC.

Ulberg is known for being a calculating figure, landing 8.91 significant strikes per minute (3.79 for Negumereanu). He has an accuracy mark of 62% (41% for Negumereanu) and landed 146 shots in a losing effort against Kennedy Nzechukwu. Being patient will be key here if he wants to take out someone like Negumereanu. 

Both are pretty even regarding average takedowns landed (1.09 for Negumereanu, 1.13 for Ulberg). Although Negumereanu has the reach advantage, Ulberg’s often-conservative approach can work in his favor. It is hard to root against the odds here. 

Sporting News prediction: Ulberg via unanimous decision


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