Israel Adesanya vs. Alex Pereira
It’s been a long time since UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya (23-1) faced a worthy opponent that really made fans question whether or not he’d retain his belt. This is the shortest closing line we’ve seen for “The Last Stylebender” since he knocked out Paulo Costa in 2020, showing just how much value oddsmakers (and bettors) seem to be placing on his kickboxing losses to Pereira before they reached the UFC.
However, looking into those two fights is pretty interesting. The first bout was extremely close and could have gone either way with Pereira landing the harder shots, but Adesanya landing more overall strikes and dictating the pace. Then, in the rematch, Adesanya was dominant for the first 2 rounds with Pereira even receiving a standing-eight count after getting absolutely cracked in the second. But Adesanya was ultimately knocked out cold in the third round after getting caught with Pereira’s thunderous left hook (the same shot that put Strickland’s lights out in July).
Although there are plenty of positives for Pereira in this bout, he is at a HUGE disadvantage in terms of MMA experience compared to Adesanya. Of course, he’s no combat sports novice and the bright lights of Madison Square Garden shouldn’t make him freeze inside the octagon, but he’s only had 6 MMA fights in his career. Could this be a step too far too soon?
We expect this to be a historic battle and one that will push Adesanya to be more aggressive in his approach, but the champ will have too much for Pereira, especially in the championship rounds.
Prediction: Israel Adesanya moneyline (-175) at BetOnline
Carla Esparza vs. Weili Zhang
In the co-main event, Carla Esparza is looking to defend her new strawweight title for the first time against former champion Weili Zhang. Esparza is a very good wrestler, and while we think she will be able to have success early, we expect Weili to eventually finish her.
Rose Namajunas, the recent rival of both fighters, believes that Weili Zhang has the best chance of winning, which is right in line with what we believe here at Underthecovers.us. The former champ has more potential and will prevail in this fight, without having to go to the judge’s scorecards, to regain her lost title.
Weili Zhang throws a ton of volume and holds a frightening amount of power, plus we’ve seen Esparza get knocked out before, which happened way back in 2015 when she tried defending her belt for the first time against UFC legend Joanna Jedrzejczyk.
Weili’s 60 percent takedown defense is a concern, but on the feet, she has a ton of power. Given that we’ve seen both Jedrzjeczyk and Tatiana Suarez overwhelm Esparza and earn KO/TKO wins, Weili should also be able to do the same. To get plus-money on Weili inside the distance is a great spot.
Dustin Poirier vs. Michael Chandler
While Chandler looked phenomenal against veterans Tony Ferguson and Dan Hooker, there were some glaring issues in the losses he took to former champs Charles Oliveira and Justin Gaethje. He gets hit… he gets hit A LOT actually… but his style and deficiency on the ground saw him gas out after furious starts.
Poirier has also had his way with bangers, including a relatively easy KO win over Gaethje, and his striking defense seems more than good enough to avoid Chandler’s hard-hitting power shots. Chandler has beaten the guys he was supposed to beat and lost distinctly to the top fighters of the division, so it’s no surprise he’s the underdog against a fighter in Poirer who brings his absolute best when facing this particular style.
As exciting and entertaining as Chandler is to watch, there are levels to this game. Aside from Charles Oliveira and new champ Islam Makhachev, Dustin Poirier has been leading the Lightweight division for some time now. We expect Poirier to shine as only a “diamond” does and defeat the challenge of a violently motivated Michael Chandler.