Top Three Things to Watch in the UFC 287 Main Event

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The UFC 287 main event is certainly an exciting one. It’s the fourth battle between the current middleweight champion, Alex Pereira and his longtime combat sports foe, Israel Adesanya. The two previously met twice in kickboxing under the GLORY banner and next met in the UFC back in November. On all three occasions, Pereira has had his hand raised, twice via knockout.

After breaking down the fight just six months ago, not a lot has changed. Neither man will become Dagestani wrestlers, they’re going to stand in the middle of the octagon more often than not and look to out whit each other with their striking skills.

In their last fight at UFC 281, Adesanya hurt Pereira towards the end of the first round, however, it wasn’t enough to get him out of there. It took Poatan three and a half more rounds to get to Adesanya, scoring a TKO in the final round.

We now look ahead to UFC 287 where Adesnaya will be entering as the challenger to the middleweight title for the first time since 2019. Rather than try and add anything to the fight itself, we will take a look at the top three things to watch during the UFC 287 fight week and on fight night itself.

Top Three Things to Watch in the UFC 287 Main Event

1 – Alex Pereira’s ability to check the leg kick

We all know how good a striker Adesanya is. He’s one of the greatest kickboxers to enter the UFC and has made a career in MMA by setting up the majority of his strikes after attacking the leg of his opponents to set up further attacks. He utilises a whipping leg kick like most use the jab to set up further attacks. He landed 100 leg kicks in the three fights prior to clashing with Pereira without ever really being compromised.

Pereira’s ability to check the leg kick of Adesanya massively affected The Last Stylebender‘s ability to set up his attacks. He was forced into pop-shotting his opponent and not landing long combinations, leading to unsustained attacks. The most important of the checks from Pereira came in the fifth round. He checked the leg kick offering of Adesanya, leading the New Zealander to cross his legs over and cause him to fall backwards.

If Pereira can time Adesnaya’s leg kicks again, Izzy could again struggle to set up his attacks and lead to a long night for the former champion.

2 – To wrestle or not to wrestle? That’s the question…

Another thing to look out for and to question is whether Isreal Adesanaya will look to wrestle his Brazillian opponent. There appears to be a large hole in the game of Pereira, his ability to defend the takedown. In their first fight, Adesnaya took Pereira down in the third round and controlled him for 3:47, winning him the round with ease.

Prior to the Pereira fight, Adesnaya hadn’t landed a single takedown throughout his UFC career. The takedown itself was effective, he caught the leg of Pereira off a kick, got into the clinch, countered a hip throw attempt from the Brazillian and spun him around to take the weight over his standing leg and ground Poatan.

Don’t be surprised to see Adesnaya wrestle in their MMA rematch. He did well in this realm in their first fight, controlling Pereira effectively. Why not go to the tactic that saw him comfortably win the round? It all depends on Adesanya’s mentality. If he’s willing to swallow his pride and admit that he might be matched in the striking game, we could see him shoot. If he still wants to try and prove that he’s the more elite striker, expect to see this one contested on the feet for as long as it lasts. Wrestling, for Adesanya, however, is the path of least resistance.

3 – Isreal Adesanya’s Mentality

The final point to keep an eye out for during fight week especially as well as on fight night itself is Isreal Adesanya’s mentality. Let’s not forget, Adesnaya is now 0-3 against Pereira across multiple different disciplines. He’s been finished twice, once in kickboxing and once in MMA. He’s coming off his first knockout loss in MMA and his first since 2017. An important factor here, however, is to remember that in his previous fight with Pereira at UFC 281, he was stopped on his feet via TKO. He wasn’t knocked out cold so he could always argue (to himself) that he was fine and was just caught by Poatan.

He is also bouncing straight back in there with his bitter rival, a man who may just have his number. We have to commend Izzy for jumping straight back in there with Pereira just five months after losing to him. When he stands across from Pereira, when they’re being given their pre-fight instructions, does he picture the knockouts and does he picture the three previous losses? Only Adesanya will know but it could play a part.

He admitted that this is the only chance he has to get the UFC middleweight title back, putting even more pressure on himself. He must also consider that this could be his last chance to get his revenge on Pereira. It’s looking increasingly likely that the Brazillian will move up in weight as he’s a huge middleweight. If Adesanaya doesn’t win this one, it could be his last opportunity to get one over his rival.

A large majority of the pressure is on Adesnaya in this one. He’s the megastar, he’s the one who has it all to lose. If Pereira loses, it’s simple for him. He moves up to light heavyweight to try and win the title there. If Adesnaya loses, what’s next? He likely drops down in the pecking order and has to fight his way back to a title shot in the future.

All these questions will be answered at UFC 287 this weekend live from Miami, Florida!

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Frazer Krohn has been with MMASucka for nearly 5 years. He is the host of the MMASucka podcast, which is released every Monday. He's the author of a series of six books about MMA, which were published in 2023.

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