The UFC returns to Madison Square Garden in New York City on Saturday, Nov. 12. I hope you are ready because we have some sizzling UFC 281 predictions, props, and best bets in this preview!
This card is headlined by two title fights: Isreal Adesanya vs. Alex Pereira and Carla Esparza vs Zhang Weili. Dustin Poirer also makes his return to the Octagon for the first time since his submission loss against Charles Olivera. Poirier takes on Michael Chandler who’s coming off a brutal KO victory over Tony Ferguson.
UFC 281 Predictions: Betting Selection
In the wild world of Mixed Martial Arts, anything can happen. When betting on MMA the most crucial thing to look for is a fighter’s best path to victory, then incorporate that into your bets. With this being a huge card there are many different ways we will look to attack it from a betting perspective. Those strategies will be layered into my three UFC 281 predictions below.
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Isreal Adesanya vs. Alex Pereira
Adesanya vs. Pereira is a fight with fans rambling back and forth on who will come out victorious. “The Last Stylebender” comes into this fight as a (-210) betting favorite. This is despite suffering two defeats by Pereira, with the most recent one being knocked out cold.
Despite suffering two losses to the challenger in Kickboxing, it’s hard to ignore how dominant Adesanya has been in the UFC. He’s destroyed every challenger that has shared the cage with him and is now beginning to lap opponents. Robert Whittaker, Paulo Costa, Marvin Vettori, Jared Cannonier, Yoel Romero, and Derek Brunson, are all world-class fighters Adesanya has left clueless in the Octogan. Stylebender has shown he is a battle-tested champion after going through 5 round wars with the likes of Kelvin Gastelum.
Adesanya’s cardio has held up every fight and when you look at his resume, we can see why he’s coming in as the favorite. On the flip side, Alex Pereira has just three victories inside the UFC and all three against suspect opponents. We saw Bruno Silva tag Pereira multiple times throughout their fight, landing hard shots to the body and head of Pereira.
Historically Isreal Adesanya is one of the hardest fighters in the world to hit, absorbing just 2.6 significant strikes per minute. His fight IQ and brilliant understanding of range and distance have made him the toughest puzzle to crack in the UFC. This is a fight where Pereira is now stepping into Izzy’s world, He will see and experience things he hasn’t seen in the past and as the fight goes on he will grow extremely frustrated. Look for Isreal Adesanya to get a finish by KO/TKO in the later rounds of the fight.
The pick: Isreal Adesanya by KO/TKO in rounds 3, 4, or 5 | +950 at FanDuel Sportsbook
Carla Esparza vs. Weili Zhang
Strawweight Champion Carla Esparza comes into this fight as a massive underdog against Weili Zhang. Weili Zhang is coming off a brutal KO victory over Joanna Jedrzejczyk. With the ramblings of how she’s looked in camp and the performance of her previous fight, it’s easy to see why she’s such a heavy favorite.
Esparza’s only threat in this fight and in any fight is her wrestling, she has been extremely successful at taking her opponents down and holding them there. However, Weili Zhang’s takedown defense has improved tremendously over the last few years. She’s trained and learned from some of the best wrestlers in the world like Henry Cejudo and his whole team down in Arizona. Zhang is coming into this fight in the prime of her career landing over 5.7 significant strikes per minute compared to Esparza landing just 2.2.
Carla Esparza is 35 years old, I believe her time is coming to the end in this division. Look for Weili Zhang to defend takedowns and land hard shots on the feet. I think Weili gets this fight done inside the distance, and that’s what I’m rolling with for this fight.
The pick: Weili Zhang ITD | -110 at Fanduel Sportsbook
Dustin Poirier vs. Michael Chandler
Anytime fighters like Dustin Poirier and Michael Chandler step into the Octogan you know it’s going to be instant fireworks. Both fighters desperately need a victory if they are hoping to challenge for the title in the future. Dustin has some of the best boxing in the UFC and against such a powerful puncher like Michael Chandler, it’ll be interesting to see how much he looks to engage in a war.
Technically speaking Poirier is the more polished striker, I don’t think he will throw himself into the fire as previous opponents have done against Chandler. While many people expect this fight to finish inside the distance, I believe Poirer brings a more cautious approach.
Dustin Poirier absorbs over 5 significant strikes per minute, he hasn’t been knocked out since 2016, I think he will be able to stay on the outside landing the better strikes. We saw Justin Gaethje do this to Chandler and I see a similar story taking place inside Madison Square Garden on Saturday. Dustin Poirier by decision at +390 at DraftKings is a bet with odds too good to pass up.
The pick: Dustin Poirier via Decision | +390 at DraftKings Sportsbook