Two middleweight strikers look to settle their rivalry, and a strawweight queen aims to defend her throne against a former champion in the UFC's return to the Big Apple. Read on for our best bets for Saturday’s UFC 281:Adesanya-Pereira bill.
As they’ve made a habit of doing since first gracing Madison Square Garden in 2016, the world’s preeminent mixed martial arts promotion has booked a star-studded event for its annual trip to New York City. Israel Adesanya will attempt to defend his throne against longtime rival Alex Pereira at 185 pounds in the main event.
In the co-main event, Carla Esparza will officially begin her second reign as strawweight queen opposite ex-titleholder Weili Zhang. Esparza reclaimed the belt in May in a tepid split decision opposite Rose Namajunas. Her challenger most recently put Joanna Jedrzejczyk out to pasture in the most ruthless fashion in June.
Before the championship bouts, Dustin Poirier will meet Michael Chandler in a clash of elite lightweights.
With all that said, here are our best bets for Saturday’s UFC 281: Adesanya-Pereira event (odds via Caesars Sportsbook, FanDuel Sportsbook, and PointsBet; pick confidence based on a 1-to-5-star scale).
UFC 281: Adesanya-Pereira Card and Odds
(Odds via Caesars)
- Israel Adesanya (-230) vs. Alex Pereira (+190)
- Carla Esparza (+280) vs. Weili Zhang (-360)
- Dustin Poirier (-220) vs. Michael Chandler (+180)
- Frankie Edgar (+190) vs. Chris Gutierrez (-230)
- Dan Hooker (-150) vs. Claudio Puelles (+125)
- Brad Riddell (+105) vs. Renato Moicano (-125)
- Dominick Reyes (-220) vs. Ryan Spann (+180)
- Molly McCann (+310) vs. Erin Blanchfield (-400)
- Andre Petroski (-200) vs. Wellington Turman (+170)
- Matt Frevola (-140) vs. Ottman Azaitar (-165)
- Karolina Kowalkiewicz (+100) vs. Silvana Gomez Juarez (-120)
- Michael Trizano (+155) vs. Seung-Woo Choi (-180)
- Julio Arce (+175) vs. Montel Jackson (-210)
- Carlos Ulberg (-130) vs. Nicolae Negumereanu (+110)
UFC 281: Adesanya-Pereira Best Bets
- Fight line: Hooker (-150 via Caesars) ★★★★
- Upset: Pereira (+190 via Caesars) ★★★
- Winning method: Poirier by KO/TKO or submission (-110 via PointsBet) ★★★
- Prop bet: Frevola-Azaitar ends in the first round (+130 via FanDuel) ★★★★
- Parlay: Reyes (-220) + Hooker (-150) + Pereira (+180) = +579 (via Caesars)
Top Picks for UFC 281: Adesanya-Pereira
Fight Line: Hooker (-150)
Claudio Puelles may have earned five straight wins and three kneebar finishes, but they’ve all come against middling competition. Skill for skill, he trails Dan Hooker just about everywhere. Hooker’s recent woes are a good reason to pick an upset for Puelles, but the Kiwi remains the more versatile fighter with the greater strength of schedule and higher fight IQ.
Whether he takes the fight to Puelles and sparks him with a nasty hook or plays wrestler and chews the clock for three rounds, Hooker gets back in the win column with a dominant showing against a game, yet brittle and comparatively green Puelles.
Upset: Pereira (+190)
Granted, Pereira’s clash with Adesanya could result in a five-round staring contest, especially given the latter’s recent uneventful showings. That said, the Brazilian challenger’s edge in striking accuracy and significant strikes landed per minute have me siding with an upset.
With Adesanya likely playing as a point fighter and throwing oodles of feints and low kicks, look for Pereira to remain his usually stoic self, target the champ’s body and dome in equal measure, and land the bout’s most consequential blows to claim both the upset and the UFC middleweight crown.
Winning method: Poirier by KO/TKO or submission (-110)
In a battle that’s sure to yield all kinds of ultraviolence, I expect Poirier to be the last man standing. Yes, Chandler’s a D-I wrestler who packs a jaw-melting wallop in his right hand, but he’s been all too willing to brawl in each of his four UFC matchups, a habit that’s left him with just a 2-2 promotional record and four knockout losses in seven career defeats. Poirier, conversely, has claimed 14 of his 28 scalps via strikes, and he isn’t above snatching the occasional neck.
All this to say, look for Poirier to withstand Chandler’s early onslaught and punch in bunches before putting his tiring foe away with either a nasty straight left or a choke.
Prop bet: Frevola vs. Azaitar ends in the 1st round (+130)
Matt Frevola is a willing brawler who’s been sparked in the opening round in two of his three UFC losses, while Ottman Azaitar’s earned eight of his 10 career knockouts in the same stanza. If either of these two lightweights chooses the wrestle, Frevola will be the man, but he’ll have to strike his way into his takedowns. Azaitar won’t waste any time in putting him on the back foot and forcing him to return fire.
Whether Azaitar overwhelms Frevola with a hellacious blitz or the latter lands a clean, fight-ending hook, this matchup has all the makings of a brief, but busy slobber knocker.
Parlay: Reyes (-220) + Hooker (-150) + Pereira (+180) = +579
Where to Bet on UFC 281
Check out our top-rated sportsbooks:
UFC 281 best bets made 11/12/2022 at 3:14 a.m. ET.