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Israel Adesanya of Nigeria looks on before his middleweight title bout against Jared Cannonier during UFC 276 at T-Mobile Arena on July 02, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Israel Adesanya of Nigeria looks on before his middleweight title bout against Jared Cannonier during UFC 276 at T-Mobile Arena on July 02, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images via AFP.

Israel Adesanya and Alex Pereira will take their rivalry from the ring to the cage at Saturday’s UFC 281, where the former aims to defend his middleweight crown. Check out our Adesanya-Pereira UFC picks ahead of the bill’s main event.

Pereira got the better of Adesanya by KO and decision in their two kickboxing tilts in 2016 and 2017. After committing to MMA full-time just over a year ago, the Brazilian now looks to thwart Adesanya once more - this time in four-ounce gloves - in what will mark just his fourth walk to the Octagon. Pereira kicked off his UFC stint by dispatching Andreas Michailidis and Bruno Silva before earning his shot at the middleweight throne with a stunning knockout of Sean Strickland at UFC 276 in July.

Fittingly enough, Adesanya’s last outing came in the main event of that very same bill, where he defended his title for the fifth time with a lopsided decision over Jared Cannonier. The reigning middleweight champ now heads to Madison Square Garden with wins in all but one of his 13 UFC outings.

Here are my Adesanya-Pereira picks and predictions for Saturday’s marquee matchup at UFC 281 (odds via Caesars Sportsbook and FanDuel Sportsbook; pick confidence is based on a 1-to-5-star scale).

Check out our Poirier vs. Chandler picks.

Adesanya vs. Pereira Fight Info

Date/Time: Saturday, Nov. 12, 10 p.m. ET (main card)
TV: PPV, ESPN+
Location: Madison Square Garden, New York City, NY

Adesanya vs. Pereira Odds

(via Caesars)

MarketAdesanyaPereira
Moneyline-220 (bet $220 to win $100)+180 (bet $100 to win $180)
Over/UnderOver 3.5 rounds (-190)Under 3.5 rounds (+150)

Adesanya vs. Pereira Picks

Who Will Win Adesanya vs. Pereira?

Pereira (+180) ★★★

The differences between effective MMA and kickboxing striking aren’t lost on me, but I expect this matchup to remain an upright duel and for the underdog to win again just the same. As the striker with more to lose, Adesanya may replicate his recent showings and go heavy on the feints and low kicks. That said, Pereira is the more accurate of the pair, boasting 61% accuracy to Adesanya’s 50%, and he lands 6.3 significant strikes per minute to the champ’s 3.9.

In other words, when Pereira lets his hands go, he usually makes it count, and I expect him to overthrow Adesanya come fight night by landing more quality shots.

Adesanya vs. Pereira Over/Under Pick

Under 4.5 rounds (+120) ★★★

If Adesanya stages a repeat of his last few outings and potshots from range, we could be in for another five-round snoozer. However, as in the last kickboxing bout between the champ and his challenger, I expect an otherwise methodical duel to change drastically with a single clean shot.

Given the stakes, the shared history of the men involved, and their methodical in-cage ways, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Adesanya throw a bevy of feints and for Pereira to make his reads for most of this matchup before one of them either commits to a lethal salvo or makes a costly mistake before the final horn.

Adesanya vs. Pereira Winning Method Pick

Pereira by KO/TKO (+270) ★★★

If this bout does indeed end before the judges get involved, I think Pereira will be the man responsible. Not only does Pereira know how to pick his shots, but he also doesn’t give much away, and I expect Adesanya to have some difficulty drawing him out.

With over 20 kickboxing stoppages to his name and five KO/TKO wins in his six MMA contests, Pereira boasts finishing prowess unlike any man Adesanya has faced during his reign. I see the challenger putting in some relentless work to the champ’s body - where he lands 40% of his strikes - before completing his middleweight coup with another stunning left-hook KO.

Where to Bet on Adesanya vs. Pereira Picks

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Adesanya-Pereira picks made 11/11/2022 at 10:23 a.m. ET.