UFC 281 takeaways — Alex Pereira is officially Israel Adesanya’s boogeyman, Dustin Poirier is Mr. Reliable

Editor’s Note: What can we take away from an exciting series of title fights and marquee matchups at UFC 281? Jeff Wagenheim, Marc Raimondi and Brett Okamoto offer their thoughts from a highlight-packed event in New York.

NEW YORK – Why are we surprised?

Alex Pereira had shown us it was possible long before he stepped into the octagon to challenge Israel Adesanya for the middleweight championship in UFC 281’s main event on Saturday night. When he and Adesanya were both kickboxers, Pereira had fought “The Last Stylebender” twice and defeated him both times, giving Adesanya the only KO loss of his martial arts career. (At least up to this point.)

So we all knew that the challenger could defeat Adesanya because he did it twice.

And then he did it a third time.

And yet it was shocking for MMA fans unaccustomed to seeing Adesanya overpowered, at least not by another 185-pounder. When Pereira injured the defending champion with a right hand midway through the fifth round and then Adesanya swarmed along the cage to seize the moment, the full house at Madison Square Garden went silent at the finish for a moment, perhaps in disbelief, before bursting out with a deafening Cheers erupted for a new champion.

Pereira (7-1), who just two years ago resumed a long-dormant MMA career after being a two-time glory kickboxing champion, showed his strength throughout the fight. Even if he missed, he posed a threat. When he connected, he made an impression. But early on, Adesanya (23-2) traded in the pocket, emboldened by Pereira’s serious injury just off (after?) the horn to end Round 1.

However, as the fight continued and Adesanya absorbed some heavy leather, he began to use his footwork more and more to keep the safest distance he could. He even mixed in wrestling to gain the advantage in round 3, which didn’t put Pereira in much danger but did tire the challenger. It also revealed an area where the new champion is still a work in progress: a grappler better than Adesanya, of which there are several, would put Pereira in as much danger as his power punches put his opponents in danger.

None of this is intended to disparage the former champion. Like Kamaru Usman a few months ago, Adesanya carried much of the action throughout the fight and led to the finals. As much power was coming his way, he seemed headed for a decisive victory. When the fighters met in the middle of the octagon for the final round, Adesanya was ahead on all three judges’ lists, three rounds to one. But that’s why they schedule these championship fights for five rounds.

And if there’s still time on the clock and a fighter with electrifying power is sitting in the cage, the lights could go out at any moment. what they did Again. -Wagenheim

The door is open again for The Diamond



Dustin Poirier and Michael Chandler trade punches in an incredible first round of their fight.

Don’t look now, but Dustin Poirier is right back in the UFC lightweight cover photo.

After winning an all-out war against Michael Chandler, Poirier has entered the competitor talk again. Here’s the important part: the men Poirier lost to in title fights are no longer the champion. Khabib Nurmagomedov has retired. Charles Oliveira lost the belt, first on the weigh-in and then in the octagon to new champion Islam Makhachev. And Poirier still has as good a resume as anyone at the top of the 155lb weight class, including KO wins over Justin Gaethje and Conor McGregor.

Makhachev will make his first title defense against Alexander Volkanovski, the world featherweight champion, at UFC 284 in February. Could Poirier pick the winner of this fight? It’s certainly possible. Poirier has only suffered two defeats since 2016 and both have been in title fights against the aforementioned former champions. At this point, “The Diamond” has almost built a Hall of Fame legacy, although you know he’d love to win the big one and hold that gold belt just once. He was interim champion, but never undisputed.

With the win over Chandler, Poirier kept the conversation going. And really, he’s almost there. The UFC also knows what to do with him. Poirier is always professional and rarely has a bad fight. He always leaves it outside, like on Saturday when Chandler almost finished him on several occasions. But Poirier came back and won, via a third-round finish. That’s what he does, so it wouldn’t surprise anyone to see him in a title shot again next year. – Raimondi

Thank you for 15 unforgettable years, Frankie Edgar

Let it be known that Frankie Edgar’s MMA career didn’t end with a knee kick from Chris Gutierrez. That punch ended the fight just under two minutes into the first round, but these two weren’t done with each other just yet. As soon as Edgar was able to get up, Gutierrez walked straight up to him and hugged him in a hug that seemed to last forever. That’s the deep respect The Answer has garnered over its 15-year career.

Edgar’s cornermen soon joined the embrace, and in a sense, the Madison Square Garden crowd did as well. A “Frankie Edgar! Frankie Edgar!” Singing broke out, and a sad ending turned into a tribute.

MMA fans will miss Edgar Strike, who was always an outlier, set to the fitting soundtrack of Notorious BIG’s “Kick in the Door” before he even entered the Octagon.

But more than anything, the sport will feel the lack of Edgar’s unquenchable commitment to taking on outsized challenges. He earned that respect over a decade ago when he defeated a legend, BJ Penn, to become UFC Lightweight Champion and then competed at 155 pounds against all the (bigger) comers despite having a body that was better was suitable for the bantamweight.

The 135-pound division has been Edgar’s weight class for the last few years – finally – and that’s where he ended his career this weekend. He didn’t want to go out like that, having lost five in his last six fights, all but one by KO. But “The Answer” has been stoic in his appreciation for what he has.

“I have my family here,” Edgar said. “That’s all that counts.”

Edgar never used trash talk or gimmicks to gain attention. So it makes sense that he didn’t want there to be pomp and circumstance surrounding the retirement fight. He would have preferred to walk away quietly when he was ready to finish. The problem was that Edgar still had more fighting power in him. Saturday showed the rest of us that it was time, but Edgar knew it himself. He understood that if he hadn’t made his commitment to walk away public, he would have just kept fighting. Just as he has always done, sometimes against all odds, for 15 unforgettable years. -Wagenheim

Zhang comes full circle as UFC champion



Zhang Weili forces Carla Esparza to reclaim her strawweight title in the co-main event of UFC 281.

After defeating Carla Esparza to win the UFC women’s strawweight title for the second time on Saturday night, Zhang Weili made a poignant statement through her interpreter.

The first time she won the title against Jessica Andrade in 2019, it was in Zhang’s native country of China, and she received a massive ovation. Zhang said in her post-fight interview that it was the first time she felt like she belonged in China. This time she belonged to the whole world.

In recent years, Zhang has had a complicated relationship with fans in the United States. America’s complicated relationship with China has done her no favours. Zhang was massively booed during her title defense against Rose Namajunas in Jacksonville, Florida in April 2021. Namajunas defeated Zhang in just 1:18 of the first round. The reaction to Zhang was so bad that during their next training camp at Fight Ready in Arizona, they played boos over the PA system, and those at the gym hurled verbal insults at Zhang during sparring sessions as a preparation method.

Zhang drew boos again here at Madison Square Garden last year, another loss to Namajunas. But this week in New York, the tide seemed to be turning. Esparza, who came off a lackluster title win against Namajunas earlier this year, was the one booed at the press conference and on fight night. Zhang got a lot of cheers.

Maybe a few years ago, American fans weren’t ready for Zhang’s title reign. But it seems like they’re ready to embrace her now as one of the best fighters in the world after a vicious KO on Joanna Jedrzejczyk and now that submission win over Esparza. – Raimondi

Adesanya-Pereira could have been fight of the year

It won’t end up winning because we want our fight of the year to have a higher pace and involve more back and forth corridorries. more blood. You know, like Dustin Poirier and Michael Chandler earlier in the night. But the level of excellence in this title fight, man – chess at a high level. The technique, the focus, the physical preparation and the strategy. You can watch the fight and point out technical errors in grappling, but in terms of each fighter playing to their strengths and trying to maximize their chances of winning, this was the most intriguing fight of the year for me.

These two must fight again. This matchup is great. The fact that it could have ended in the first round when Adesanya landed that big shot late adds another wrinkle. One could imagine that Pereira will only continue to improve his grappling over time. This is one of the best matchups in the UFC. – Okamoto

https://www.espn.com/mma/story/_/id/35012654/ufc-281-takeaways-alex-pereira-officially-israel-adesanya-boogeyman-dustin-poirier-mr-reliable UFC 281 takeaways — Alex Pereira is officially Israel Adesanya’s boogeyman, Dustin Poirier is Mr. Reliable

Emma Bowman

Emma Bowman is a USTimesPost U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Emma Bowman joined USTimesPost in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing emma@ustimespost.com.

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