This weekend UFC 287 is taking place in Miami, Florida and will be headlined by one of the most highly anticipated championship rematches in recent history for the promotion as Alex Pereira will attempt to defend the UFC Middleweight title against former champion Israel Adesanya.
Pereira dethroned Adesanya back at UFC 281 last November with a standing TKO (technical knockout) victory in the fifth and final round. Prior to his loss against Pereira, Adesanya had been undefeated at middleweight in his MMA career.
While this will be the second time that the two will fight inside the octagon, it’ll actually be the fourth time they have fought overall, with the two also having a pair of kickboxing matches prior to joining the UFC. Pereira is currently 3-0 overall in their rivalry and will be looking for his fourth win as he attempts to make the first defense of his recently won Middleweight title.
Since arriving in the UFC, Pereira has gone 4-0 with three of those wins coming via KO/TKO and none of them were bigger than his stoppage over Adesanya, whose only previous loss had come via decision in an attempt to win the UFC Light Heavyweight title against Jan Blachowicz.
Meanwhile, Adesanya is 23-2 with 15 wins coming via KO/TKO and he seems to be hungry to regain his title from his longtime rival. Despite being caught and stopped in the final round, Adesanya was up 3-1 on all three scorecards heading into the final round and almost found a last-second stoppage of his own at the end of the first round when he clearly wobbled Pereira as time expired.
Adesanya has acknowledged this week that he needs to be more assertive from the start in this matchup with Pereira, and it will be very interesting to see if he follows through with that plan. Adesanya, who has some of the best striking in MMA, is two and a half years removed from his most recent stoppage, and arguably had grown comfortable “point fighting” during the latter portions of his championship run (meaning he knew he would be able to secure enough rounds on the scorecards to retain his title via decision).
However, that approach will be much more difficult now that he finds himself challenging for the title as opposed to trying to retain it. That will likely cause Adesanya to feel the need to push himself a little harder earlier in their matchup this time around.
All fifteen of Adesanya’s stoppages have come inside the first two rounds, and in my opinion, his best chance to win this fight will be to push the pace and attempt to get Pereira out of there as early as possible on Saturday as opposed to fighting for a decision victory.
Both fighters have a tendency to look for countershots and Adesanya could open up more of those opportunities by forcing a quick pace with a high striking volume out of the gate and causing Pereira to go on the offensive more himself.
Assuming Adesanya fights with this heightened sense of urgency and uses a quicker pace than he has in his most recent trips to the octagon, he should be able to overwhelm and put Pereira away via KO/TKO sometime during the first three rounds of this one to reclaim the UFC Middleweight throne.
Pick: Israel Adesanya (-135)
Method: Adesanya by KO/TKO (+300)
Both betting lines are currently available at BetMGM Sportsbook