Adesanya vs Pereira: Everything to know ahead of UFC 281

Israel Adesanya defends his middleweight title against Alex Pereira – who beat him TWICE as a kickboxer – as the pair top a jam-packed UFC 281 card: Everything to know ahead of the event

  • Israel Adesanya and Alex Pereira headline a stacked UFC 281 card on Saturday
  • Pereira stopped Adesanya in one of two wins when the pair met as kickboxers
  • Adesanya, who is looking to retain his middleweight belt, is unbeaten at 185lbs
  • Dustin Poirier and Michael Chandler also go head-to-head on the undercard

Israel Adesanya makes his return to the octagon as he takes on a familiar face in Alex Pereira at UFC 281. 

The middleweight champion has been almost untouchable in the UFC, with that painful defeat to Jan Blachowicz at light-heavyweight last year still the only blemish on his otherwise hugely impressive resume. 

In Pereira, ‘The Last Stylebender’ faces a daunting task, having been beaten by the Brazilian twice as a kickboxer, the second ending via knockout. UFC president Dana White described the fight as ‘bats**t nuts’, and the Madison Square Garden crowd will certainly be expecting fireworks.

Israel Adesanya (left) and Alex Pereira (right) go head-to-head on Saturday night in New York

Despite coming in as the challenger, it is perhaps Pereira who will carry the psychological advantage coming into the bout, being the only man to knock the Kiwi out. Adesanya is yet to taste defeat at 185lbs, though. 

Yet, even with that potential psychological advantage, Pereira is at a serious experience disadvantage, with only seven fights to his name. He lost the first by submission.

With the spectacle swiftly approaching, Sportsmail takes you through everything you need to know.  

The clash between Adesanya and Pereira is scheduled to take place on Saturday, November 12 at Madison Square Garden, New York.

The preliminary card will start at 11pm for those in the UK, with the main card beginning at 1am on Sunday morning. 

The pair are expected to touch gloves at around 4.15am, though that will of course depend on the results beforehand. 

There is also plenty of action on the undercard, with Dustin Poirier and Michael Chandler going head-to-head, while Carla Esparza and Zhang Weili will also clash for the Women’s Strawweight Championship. 

Adesanya is still undefeated at 185lbs, last seeing off Jared Cannonier back in July this year

He was knocked out by Pereira as a kickboxer however, in one of two defeats to the Brazilian

How to watch the fight 

UFC 281 will be available to watch on BT Sport, with their coverage starting at 11pm. 

Those not subscribed to BT Sport can sign up for a contract-free monthly pass for a price of £25. Viewers can then also stream the fight using their app or web player.  

Alternatively, there are a number of BT Sport packages you can sign up for HERE. 

Sportsmail will also be covering the fight live, so you can keep up-to-date with us. 

Adesanya vs Pereira: The key stats

Israel Adesanya 

Age: 33

Height: 6ft 4in

Reach: 80″

Stance: Switch

Fight style: Striker

Record: 23-1-0

Alex Pereira 

Age: 35

Height: 6ft 4in

Reach: 79″

Stance: Orthodox

Fight style: Kick Boxing

Record: 6-1-0

Fight card in full

Main card 

  • Israel Adesanya vs Alex Pereira – UFC Middleweight Championship
  • Carla Esparza vs Zhang Weili – UFC Women’s Strawweight Championship
  • Dustin Poirier vs Michael Chandler
  • Frankie Edgar vs Chris Gutierrez
  • Dan Hooker vs Claudio Puelles

Preliminary card 

  • Brad Riddell vs Renato Moicano
  • Dominick Reyes vs Ryan Spann
  • Molly McCann vs Erin Blanchfield
  • Andre Petroski vs Wellington Turman

Early preliminary card 

  • Karolina Kowalkiewicz vs Silvana Gomez Juarez
  • Michael Trizano vs Choi Seung-woo
  • Matt Frevola vs Ottman Azaitar
  • Julio Arce vs Montel Jackson
  • Carlos Ulberg vs Nicolae Negumereanu

What’s been said? 

Adesanya has admitted this fight means more than most to him. 

The Nigerian-born star told the MMA Hour: ‘This is about me and my legacy. This is about rewriting history. 

‘Even though it is history and I never chased this, this is about me rewriting a new path of history and just showing people what I can really do because, again, y’all must’ve forgot. They forget, they always forget. It’s because of this TikTok era, the attention span is so quick, they move on so fast.

Adesanya has admitted the ‘personal’ fight means everything as they collide for a third time

‘So this is personal. For me, I’ve said less, he can do all the tennis ball videos and f****** hoverboard things he wants, but for me I’m just like, “Cool. You do you.” He has bragging rights, so let him do that, but when it’s time I know something he doesn’t. I can’t tell you.’

Pereira, meanwhile, is doing everything he can to get in Adesanya’s head. 

On MMA Fighting podcast Trocacao Franca, he said: ‘He knows I’m not like the other guys he fought, otherwise the results would have been different in both times we fought. 

‘He knows I’m different, and I’m proving that. I’m showing that in my three UFC fights. I’m being honest here. He doesn’t want this fight. Nobody wants. His team doesn’t want it. 

Pereira, meanwhile, has done everything he can in the build-up to get inside Adesanya’s head

‘People close to him don’t want it because they know the risk. Is he good? Is he the champion? He’s there because he did what he did. Everybody knows my potential and sees my evolution.

‘Right after I got in the UFC he said he would like to fight me maybe after four fights but “calm down”. He wanted [to fight me], but only after I did four fights.

‘Why? He had in his mind I could lose to someone and he would say, “Is that the guy you want me to fight?” I never believed that, but some people did. Others realize now he was bluffing. That’s not what he wants.’

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