UFC 281 marks the second pay-per-view in a row when two championship titles appear to be in jeopardy.
Two weeks ago, only one belt changed hands, but there is reason to believe that Israel Adesanya as well as Carla Esparza risk losing to their opponents Alex Pereira as well as Zhang Weili. Pereira has won two kickboxing victories over the UFC middleweight champion, and while these victories are not conclusive when viewed critically, they certainly give reason to be optimistic that Pereira will be able to take the most important victory in their trilogy.
As for Esparza, she remains one of the most underrated UFC champions despite her second world championship win, thanks in no small part to a forgettable decision win. Rose Namajunas in UFC 274 which returned the gold to her waist. In contrast, Zhang is considered a 115-pound berserker and is currently the favorite for Saturday’s fight.
The MMA Fighting team of Alexander K. Lee, Steven Marrocco and Jed Meshew are here to take a look at these two headlining bouts and pick the biggest potential storyline from the undercard, which features Dustin Poirier against. Michael Chandlerplus retirement. Frankie Edgar and return Dominic Reyes.
Does Alex Pereira have Israel Adesanya’s number?
Lee: I can’t stress enough what a great job the UFC has done to make sure this fight is a success. It’s not often you find a convincing fighter with a fan-friendly style like Alex Pereira, who accidentally scored a couple of victories (including one incredible knockout) over his dominant but divisive middleweight champion in another fight. sport. They gave Poatan the right matchups, put him in a Candidates fight against a ranked opponent, and let him take care of the rest. Now we are here.
As long as their fight continues on their feet, it’s hard to imagine a scenario in which Pereira not create a definite challenge for Israel Adesanya. Yes, the myths surrounding their two kickboxing bouts have mostly been dispelled (Pereira defeated Adesanya by a narrow decision in their first fight and then needed a nasty knockout to salvage a likely decision loss in their second fight). However, Pereira is Glory’s two-division kickboxing champion, and there’s nothing to sneeze at.
It’s a stretch to say that Pereira has a clear advantage, even if you found his previous victories informative. But the thing is, Adesanya hasn’t beaten him convincingly yet. If you were looking for an underdog to end Adesanya’s recent unpopular rule, you could do a lot worse than Pereira.
Meshyu: No, but he still has a very good chance of winning this fight.
I’ve watched both of their kickboxing fights a few times by this point and my overall impression of how they fit together is that Adesanya is the “better” fighter, with more advanced defense and higher overall skill levels. , but Pereira is a more dangerous fighter. And the same for MMA. Izzy has a clear advantage in technique, but Pereira is arguably the heaviest puncher I’ve ever seen in MMA. The amount of energy it generates effortlessly is amazing. And that makes him incredibly dangerous at any time.
In a vacuum, Adesanya must win this fight, but my concern is that he will try to fight Pereira like he did with Jared Cannonier, which is incredibly dangerous. All it takes is one from Pereira and if you leave it for 25 minutes you will have many opportunities to find it, especially since Pereira is not going to be intimidating like Cannonier. He’s already slept with Izzy, so he’ll believe he can do it again, and he’ll insist on it until the deed is done. For this reason, I think I will choose “And New” next weekend.
Morocco: I’m going to grab onto what Mr. Lee points out in his breakdown in the fight, which is “as long as their fight remains on.” Here I am emphatically pointing out the fact that a) we are no longer in the kickboxing ring, and b) Adesanya is being run by one of the best strategic minds in MMA. If we competed only in strikes, I would agree that the champion is under constant threat. And if he didn’t have Eugene Bareman in his corner, I don’t think The Last Style Bender would have been able to do what he did in MMA, which is take out all the top middleweights of his generation.
One of the reasons Adesanya is so divisive is because he has developed a style that pretty much keeps him out of gunfights that put him at risk. It’s certainly not the most exciting thing in the world, but it’s very effective, which is why destroyers like Yoel Romero and Robert Whittaker couldn’t catch up. He has many years of experience fighting the best fighters in the world. Over five rounds. In MMA. This is something that Pereira simply cannot reproduce. He didn’t have that much time in the cage and didn’t compete at the same level. Adesanya is not some college level wrestler. However, it may not be necessary to ruin Pereira’s flow and control the pace of the fight, which he absolutely excels at as a champion. I think Adesanya did a very good job: he made a strategic mistake in that rematch and the first fight was close. It’s not to have someone’s number. If Pereira is going to repeat the past, he will have to put much more than heavy hands on the table.
Carla Esparza deserves more respect?
I’m not saying people don’t disrespect Carla Esparza or UFC fighters in general, it happens. But the idea that people who pick a fighter or think a fighter can’t or won’t win are “disrespectful” is stupid. Now if they said “Carla Esparza will be destroyed because she sucks”, then of course don’t do it. But nobody says it. They say that Zhang Weil is going to trample her, and by the way, it will actually happen!
Esparza is the legitimate UFC strawweight champion. She beat Rose Namajunas fairly and here’s how it works. But her chances of going against Zhang and coming out of him in consciousness are as slim as a garter snake. Zhang significantly more athletic and physical, and she’s better in every category of MMA except straight wrestling, and that’s probably still pretty close. There is simply no way to win this fight because Whaley isn’t going to have a 25-minute staring contest with her like Rose did. To be honest, the fact that Esparza is only +280 underdogs means she gets a lot more “respect” than I could have imagined.
Still, an incredible achievement to regain the title after all these years. A real career for “Cookie Monster”.
Morocco: I’m with Jed, here. What does respect have to do with anything in this fight, or any other fight, for that matter? It seems to me like a holdover from a time when the sport was still fighting for legitimacy and “respect” was a pillar of hardcore fandom. If you still don’t understand that “respect” and the ethics of martial arts have very little to do with how things are in today’s UFC, I don’t know what to tell you. It goes without saying that I respect Esparza – she fights other people in a cage for money, and all things considered, she does it pretty well. It has nothing to do with how I think she will handle one of the most athletic, strong and gifted fighters in Zhang.
Esparza is here because she was a more versatile fighter than Namajunas in their first fight and in their second fight Namajunas planned her game right after the win. I don’t see anything about Zhang that makes me think that she would interfere with herself in the same way, meaning that Esparza’s fight would be her saving grace for 25 minutes. While I’m not sure Zhang faced a good clean fighter like Esparza, it didn’t seem to matter much because her strength, speed, and ferocity did the job perfectly. That’s how I see the match – it has nothing to do with respect for the champion.
Lee: At the end of the day, you have to win fights and it’s something that few in the minimum division have done better than Esparza over the past few years. Of course, the results weren’t always, shall we say, conclusive, but she did her best to get back to the title shot and left the cage at the end of the day with a belt (and without a scratch on her wedding just around the corner!).
Esparza was part of the second wave of women’s MMA stars and fought only the best opponents on her way to the top. Then she made an impressive run Ultimate Fighter home before dominating Namajunas to become the first UFC strawweight champion. She failed to successfully defend him, but this loss to Joanna Jedrzejczyk says more about Jedrzejczyk’s abilities than any shortcomings on Esparza’s part. Esparza is a grinder and she wandered around long enough to put together an airtight case for a title opportunity and latched on to it. So by that measure, yes, Esparza deserves a lot more respect than being seen as someone who just holds the title until a more exciting option comes along.
All this said, Zhang knocked out this Saturday.
Is it really…