This could be Adesanya's toughest challenge yet.
UFC 281 is here, the last truly mega UFC card of 2022. This is not a PPV you can afford to miss.
At the top of the card is Israel Adesanya. One of the UFC's biggest stars, he defends his UFC middleweight title against a surging Alex Pereira. This time round, the normally unbeatable Adesanya could have a minor chink in his armor. Adesanya, currently unbeaten at middleweight, has been defeated not once, but twice by Pereira in kickboxing matchups.
But this isn't kickboxing, it's mixed martial arts. And Adesanya's kickboxing bouts with Pereira come with caveats. In the first match, Pereira was gifted a decision many thought Adesanya won. In the second fight, Adesanya was winning clearly before being brutally knocked out by a brutal, clinical hook.
Regardless of how this plays out, for the first time in a long time, there's an element of drama to an Adesanya main event.
And outside that fight, UFC 281 is stacked. We've got a second title fight featuring Carla Esparza vs. Zhang Weili. Esparza recently won the UFC strawweight title against Rose Namajunas in one of the worst fights I've ever witnessed, but this contest will almost certainly be different. Look for Zhang Weili to go full beserker mode here. I expect Esparza could get steamrolled.
Outside of that we've got a certified banger in Dustin Poirier vs. Michael Chandler. The legendary Frankie Edgar also has his retirement match against Chris Gutierrez.
Israel Adesanya vs. Alex Pereira
Pereira has an incredibly powerful left hook and far more experience with world class strikers than anyone Adesanya has fought in the UFC to date. Because of this, and the way Pereira has blitzed through the UFC so far, many folks are picking Pereira.
Not me. For a few reasons. Number one: Adesanya should have won the first kickboxing match with Pereira on the scorecards and was handily beating Pereira until he was caught in the second fight. Number two: MMA is different. The range is different, the way you defend with four ounce gloves is different. In my opinion it plays into Adesanya's skillset. He's not trying to deflect shots with gloves. He's countering, he's parrying, he's controlling distance with kicks and circling out. I expect Adesanya to make this look relatively easy over a five round decision.
Carla Esparza vs. Zhang Weili
Zhang Weili by knockout. Too strong, too fast, too technical. This is a terrible match-up for Esparza. I'll be shocked if Weili loses this.
Dustin Poirier vs. Michael Chandler
Chandler's best chance is via knockout in the first round. If it gets out of the first round I expect Poirier to take over. Poirier has gotten out of the first round with Conor McGregor in their last two bouts, so I expect him to win this fight by decision. I also expect this to be the best fight on the card.
The UFC now has a partnership with ESPN. That's great news for the UFC and the expansion of the sport of MMA, but bad news for consumer choice. Especially if you're one of the UFC fans who want to watch UFC in the US.
In the US, if you want to know how to watch UFC 281, you'll only find the fight night on pay per view through ESPN Plus. The cost structure is a bit confusing, but here are the options to watch UFC on ESPN, according to ESPN's site:
You can do all of the above at the link below.
MMA fans in the UK can watch UFC 281 exclusively through BT Sport.
There are more options if you live in Australia. You can watch UFC 281 through Main Event on Foxtel. You can also stream via Kayo for AU$55. You can even order using your PlayStation or using the UFC app on your Xbox. I usually buy direct from the UFC website.
Need more international viewing options? Try a VPN to change your IP address to access those US, UK or Australian options listed above. See the best VPNs recommended by CNET editors.
The UFC 281 main card starts at 10 p.m. ET (7 p.m. PT) on Nov. 12. Here are all the details from multiple time zones.