The big fights keep rolling in UFC. In one of the final pay-per-views of the year, the promotion returns to New York City for UFC 281. You’ll want to read this for betting picks on UFC 281’s top fights, including the main event between Izzy Adesanya and Alex Pereira.
Adesanya vs. Pereira Pick
For the first time in what feels like a long time, Adesanya isn’t a complete runaway betting favorite when he defends his middleweight championship. As it stands, popular UFC betting sites have pegged the title holder at 1-to-2 odds to win.
Pereira is a fascinating opponent. That’s because he’s twice faced Adesanya — only it was in a kickboxing ring, not the UFC octagon. These two squared off in the Glory promotion and each fight ended the same way: with Pereira’s hand in victory. The first came in 2016 via decision, while the latter was a knockout blow in 2017. Considering Adensays only lost 5 times in his illustrious kickboxing career, dropping two to Pereira is significant.
Sure, the fighting rules won’t be exactly the same at UFC 281, and a lot has changed in five years time, but it’s worth running back that fight before making a prediction. Adesanya has had a lot of success using his length to keep fighters at a distance in MMA, but he failed to do so versus Pereira previously. That’s because the challenger is the same height as Adesanya and with only one inch less reach. This led to the first decision loss.
In the rematch, Adesanya was far more aggressive. Unfortunately, that led to him getting cracked with a vicious left hook that ended the fight. Pereira, beyond his height, has plenty of power in his offensive arsenal.
You can make the case that it’s Adesanya that’s improved more since that defeat as he’s ravaged through the entire weight class in UFC. Pereira hasn’t faced anywhere near the caliber of competition since transitioning to MMA.
This isn’t an easy bet, but because of that, we think Pereira’s odds should be shorter. He’s a tough matchup for Izzy whether it’s MMA or kickboxing rules. We’re going to throw money the challenger’s way because bookies aren’t valuing him nearly enough as they should in a 50-50 fight.
Weili Zhang vs. Carla Esparza Pick
Esparza is the reigning, defending strawweight champion after an upset win over Rose Namajunas, however, she's not getting any love from the bookies here. The challenger, Zhang, is a pretty sizable betting favorite over the title-holder:
Obviously, "styles make fights", but we should mention that Namajunas disposed of Zhang not once, but on two different occasions. When you factor that in, Zhang's lopsided line feels somewhat head-scratching at first.
Regardless, Zhang is the bet to make here. She absolutely mauled Joanna Jedrzejczyk last time out. Sure, you could argue Jedrzejczyk was past her prime, but that doesn't neglect how well-rounded of a fighter Zhang is. She's improved her grappling skills immensely and is not just a striking machine anymore. We think Zhang knocks out Esparza to regain the world title here.
Dustin Poirier vs. Michael Chandler Pick
No belts on the line in this one, but not like the fight needs them. These fighters are two of the best lightweights the sport has seen in the past decade. At the moment, Poirier is ranked No. 2 inside the division, while Chandler is No. 5. Perhaps cause of those rankings, Poirier is comfortably favored over Chandler by the oddsmakers:
Stop me if you’ve heard this cliche before: “this is going to be a war.” Welp, we hate to re-use the corny line, but that’s exactly what this is going to be. But these fighters love to bring violence and can absolutely strike with the best of ‘em. And while Chandler has a wrestling pedigree, he’s mostly left that out of his recent bouts (perhaps because he’s getting older and how intensive grappling is for conditioning).
So we expect a stand-up fight bell-to-bell. We give Poirier the boxing edge in that scenario. Not only is he precise with his punches, but also elusive defensively. As the younger fighter, we expect Poirier to outpunch Chandler and take the victory. Throw money on the Diamond here!
How To Bet On UFC 281?
We covered the top three fights of UFC 281 above, but of course, the rest of the card also has money-making opportunities. In all, there are 14 different fights to bet on throughout the card. To get all your UFC 281 bets, hit one of the betting sites we’ve listed in the table below. As detailed in our latest sportsbook reviews, these sites all excel at MMA betting.
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