UFC 281 Odds, Pick & Prediction for Israel Adesanya vs. Alex Pereira: Target This Time Prop (Saturday, November 12)
Roy Rochlin/Getty Images for Empire State Realty Trust. Pictured: Alex Pereira and UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya
- UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya meets Alex Pereira in Saturday's UFC 281 main event.
- Pereira is 2-0 in kickboxing bouts against Adesanya, but the dominant UFC champ is the betting favorite in their first MMA fight tonight.
- Below, Sean Zerillo breaks down the matchup and offers his favorite bet for the title fight.
Israel Adesanya vs. Alex Pereira Odds
UFC middleweight gold is on the line on Saturday night at Madison Square Garden. Israel Adesanya looks to remain unbeaten in the division and avenge his kickboxing losses to Brazilian Alex Pereira in the UFC 281 main event.
Adesanya will look to defend his 185-pound belt for the sixth time. He is 12-1 under the UFC banner since joining the promotion in 2018.
Pereira is just 3-0 in the UFC – and 6-1 overall in MMA. He's been training full-time in the sport for only a few years while alternating between kickboxing and MMA. Still, "Poatan," which translates to hands of stone, is one of the most imposing and effective power punchers in combat sports. The UFC rushed him ahead of the line in the division to ensure the UFC octagon rematch between the two former GLORY Kickboxing rivals.
Below, I'll provide my analysis and projections for Saturday's matchup (10 p.m. ET, ESPN+ pay-per-view) and utilize those factors to bet on the UFC 281 main event, Adesanya vs. Pereira.
Tale of the Tape
|Avg. Fight Time
|Date of birth
|Sig Strikes Per Min
|SS Absorbed Per Min
|Take Down Avg
The size parity is immediately apparent.
Adesanya is exceptionally long for the division and typically has a substantial height and reach advantage against his opponents. On average, Adesanya owned a reach advantage of 6.25 inches while standing 4 inches taller in his past four middleweight defenses.
Pereira has the head, hands and legs of a heavyweight on a middleweight torso. He is built differently – and carries the most significant power of any opponent Adesanya has faced.
In their kickboxing matchups, Adesanya proved he is the more technical fighter while Pereira carries more power and applies more pressure.
Their first kickboxing bout was a competitive but controversial decision; many thought Adesanya won. In the second fight, Pereira was more aggressive, and though he was likely down on the scorecards, he flattened Adesanya in the third round with his signature left hook.
Unlike Adesanya's recent opponents – who have been gunshy and have stayed to the outside, where the champ easily outpointed them – Pereira has shown a willingness to walk through the fire against the champion. That intention is what makes Saturday's fight so intriguing.
Still, this is a five-round MMA fight. And Adesanya has significantly more experience in this sport.
While Pereira's power should play better in the small gloves, the most noticeable factor could be striking defense. Adesanya relies much more on movement and footwork while Pereira prefers to block punches with his high guard, which is much more effective with padded kickboxing mitts than in UFC finger gloves.
I don't see Adesanya turning into a wrestler against Pereira, but he likely has the grappling upside if it exists anywhere in a matchup between a pair of kickboxers. Look for Adesanya to use the clinch and some cage control as a pressure release.
While Pereira hasn't trained grappling nearly as long as Adesanya, his getup game and submission defense have improved drastically compared to his earlier MMA career (2015-2016). Pereira was submitted in his MMA debut for his only loss.
Cardio should also be a concern in a five-round fight. Pereira maintained a solid pace (16 strike attempts per minute) in a three-round war with Bruno Silva, but I wonder if he will fall apart in the championship rounds against a champion who has gone a full 25 minutes on six different occasions.
While Adesanay's volume appears low, on paper, that's the product of his matchups. For example, he paced for around 130 significant strikes in his finishes over Robert Whittaker and Paulo Costa:
When his opponents are aggressive, Adesanya lets his hands go. But he will not put himself out of position by chasing opponents or forcing action.
I suspect Pereira will bring the fight to him on Saturday. He has the confidence of those previous wins – including the knockout – and at 35 years old, a limited time horizon to compete at the highest levels of MMA.
I view Adesanya as the superior minute winner in the fight while Pereira could have the more impactful moments. Whether those moments and his power are enough to swing rounds in his favor is up to the judges. If Adesanya remains conservative, and Pereira consistently pressures but cannot find a finish, I could see him winning a decision.
Still, I suspect most of the decision equity is tied to the champion while I would give the challenger slightly more finishing upside.
Adesanya vs. Pereira Pick
I projected Israel Adesanya as a 65.5% favorite (-190 implied) in this matchup, and I don't see value on either side of the moneyline.
Adesanya opened closer to -170 (62.9% implied), and I would have bet him around those odds, but I cannot touch the line at current prices.
I expect the fight to end within the distance – or by finish – 56% of the time (-125 implied), slightly more often than the market suggests but below the divisional average (58.5%). I would bet that prop up to -117 (54% implied) at a 2% edge compared to my projection.
Moreover, I see slight value in Pereira by KO/TKO (projected +262, listed +275 at DraftKings), and I may prefer that prop to his moneyline.
However, I'm staying away from picking a side in this matchup. I expect Pereira to enter the pocket and potentially cause chaos. Both men have knocked down their opponents in more oversized gloves, and I expect ample opportunities for either to find a finish on Saturday if Pereira continually moves forward.
The Pick: Fight Ends Inside the Distance (-105, 0.5u at Caesars)