While most of the MMA world is focused on the upcoming UFC 280 card headlined by Charles Oliveira and Islam Makhechev from Abu Dhabi next weekend, I couldn’t help but notice that UFC 281 next month is beginning to shape up quite nicely as well.
On paper, UFC 280 is one of the most stacked cards of the year when looking at it from top to bottom and should be one of the most entertaining cards of 2022.
However, UFC 281 from New York City next month could actually end up being just as good or better when all the dust has settled.
As of now, there are currently 14 fights booked for the UFC’s return to Madison Square Garden, with the highly anticipated fight between Israel Adesanya and Alex Pereira scheduled to headline the event.
While the Adesanya/Pereira fight will certainly be the most talked about heading into the event, there are plenty of other ones on this card that shouldn’t be slept on either.
Here are a few early thoughts and notes that I have for UFC 281:
Obviously, I’m as excited as the rest of the MMA community for what should be one of the tougher challenges to Israel Adesanya’s dominant reign in the UFC’s middleweight division when he faces former kickboxing rival Alex Pereira. Izzy has already tasted defeat twice at the hands of Pereira from their days in Glory, will the Stylebender be able to do anything differently this time around to keep his undefeated MMA record at 185 pounds intact?
The co-main event featuring Carla Esparza vs Zhang Weili should be an interesting one. Esparza is coming off one of the most lackluster title wins in the history of the promotion when she beat Thug Rose earlier this year, but it’s hard to imagine this one being a snoozer the way Weili has looked recently. Esparza’s second title reign could be short lived if she doesn’t bring her A game to this one.
Michael Chandler vs Dustin Poirier should be a 100% banger of the year candidate and deliver plenty of fireworks. Both of these guys are more than willing to go out on their shields and leave it all in the octagon as they fight to determine who stays in line for another potential shot at the lightweight championship down the road.
Frankie Edgar was recently added to the card and received his wish of getting one final fight in front of his home fans. While the UFC didn’t do him any favors by booking him against Chris Gutierrez, it will be great to see Edgar get to fight in front of a New York crowd one final time regardless of the outcome.
Dominick Reyes will be making his return to the octagon after a year and a half long layoff and will look to end an absolutely brutal stretch that’s seen him drop three straight fights after starting his career 12-0. Reyes lost a close decision to Jon Jones that started the losing streak, before it was extended with two brutal knockout losses. Can Reyes get back on track here or will the skid continue?
As with most Izzy and/or Volk headlined events, there are plenty of other familiar faces from their City Kickboxing team on the lineup as well. This time Dan Hooker, Brad Riddell, and Carlos Ulberg will be fighting on the undercard.
Which fights are you looking most forward to from the UFC 281 lineup and how do you think this card stacks up compared to UFC 280? Let us know your thoughts down below!
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