Last Updated Nov 13, 2022, 11:11 AM
UFC 281 Picks, Predictions, Odds
Sports Betting Expert
The penultimate UFC PPV event of the year will see two title belts on the line. UFC 281 will feature Israel Adesanya defending his UFC Middleweight Championship against Alex Pereira, while Carla Esparza makes the first defense of her UFC Women's Strawweight Championship against Zhang Weili. Top lightweights Dustin Poirier and Michael Chandler will square off in the Octagon too, making this one of the best UFC promotions of the calendar year.
UFC 281 will take place on Saturday, November 12, 2022, at legendary Madison Square Garden in New York City, New York. The prelims for this event will get underway at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN2, while the main card gets started at 10 p.m. ET on PPV.
Israel Adesanya vs. Alex Pereira Picks
The Last Stylebender has successfully defended the UFC Middleweight Championship five times since unifying the title with a victory over Robert Whittaker at UFC 243 in October 2019. Israel Adesanya is currently ranked the second best pound-for-pound fighter in the promotion, as his only recent defeat came when he moved up to light heavyweight to try to take down Jan Blachowicz. Adesanya failed in his endeavor to become a two-division champion, but he has been dominant as a middleweight. He doesn't deliver the exciting knockouts that some fans want at this weight class, yet he has been dominant over the last few years.
Challenger Alex Pereira was a world-class kickboxer before trying his hand at MMA. Pereira was a two-division champion at middleweight and light heavyweight before making the full-time jump to the UFC last year. He earned a Performance of the Night bonus for his second-round TKO of Andreas Michailidis at UFC 268, and he was superb in a first-round KO of Sean Strickland this summer at UFC 276. That has led to some action on the underdog despite his lack of experience in the UFC.
Pereira naturally fights at a heavier weight than Adesanya, and he narrowly avoided missing weight on Friday. He finally got down to 185 pounds in the final minute, but now he will be free to bulk back up prior to this fight. It feels like people are giving the challenger a little too much credit though. Adesanya has a slight reach advantage, and he has been fantastic during his career with a 23-1 record and 15 knockouts to his name.
To Win Fight: Israel Adesanya (-200)
Total Rounds: Over 4.5 (-150)
Carla Esparza vs. Zhang Weili Picks
Carla Esparza was not expected to beat Rose Namajunas at UFC 274. Esparza was a moderate underdog going into the fight, but Namajunas and Esparza fought one of the most lackluster title fights you'll ever see at this level. That led to Esparza winning a split decision, becoming the UFC Women's Strawweight Championship title holder for the second time. She beat Namajunas for the inaugural title in this division eight years ago, but she gave up the strap in her first title defense as Joanna Jedrzejczyk proved to be too much.
That's why Esparza is a heavy underdog by the UFC betting odds to Zhang Weili despite being the current champion. Weili has won 22 of her last 24 fights, and the only person she has been unable to defeat is Namajunas. This fact might seem to bode well for Esparza given that she is 2-0 against Namajunas, but Weili is not a good matchup for Esparza. The challenger likes to continually push the action, and that is not something that Esparza has fared well with during her MMA career.
To Win Fight: Zhang Weili Inside the Distance (-110)
Total Rounds: Under 3.5 (+100)
Dustin Poirier vs. Michael Chandler Picks
There aren't many fighters that are more exciting than Michael Chandler. The No. 5 ranked lightweight in the UFC is not afraid to take risks in search of dazzling finishes, making him a fan favorite. Chandler was a former world champion in Bellator, and six of his last seven bouts have been decided by knockout. He has been on the right side of four of those fights, allowing him to climb the rankings quickly. However, he is an underdog against former UFC Lightweight Champion Dustin Poirier as Poirier's only two losses in the last six years have come against the legendary Khabib Nurmagomedov and Charles Oliveira.
It's easy to talk yourself into Poirier considering he has performed at a high level in this division for more than a decade. However, Poirier is a fighter that likes the flashy knockout too, and he isn't as dedicated to ring control as some of his rivals. That has the potential to bode well for Chandler even though Poirier has the size advantage and the reach edge, making the underdog worth a shot at this price.
To Win Fight: Michael Chandler (+180)
Total Rounds: Under 1.5 (+100)