Sanabul Fight News: UFC 281

The UFC came back to Madison Square Garden in NYC on Saturday night, with an unbelievable card of UFC 281. Israel Adesanya and Alex Pereira headlining the card with the rematch of the decade, with potentially the best middleweight of all time in Israel Adesanya out to avenge two kickboxing losses to Pereira in his new sport of MMA. 

Carlos Ulberg and Montel Jackson started off the card with each of the men taking home the victory in impressive fashion. Carlos Ulberg came out with a first round finish over fellow light heavyweight, Nicolae Negumereanu, finishing his opponent quite easily to spark the action for the City Kickboxing team which populates a lot of this UFC 281 card. Montel Jackson took a close decision win over bantamweight veteran Julio Arce in a tight, fun matchup in the bantamweight division that showed Montel Jackson as a very interesting up and coming contender in a stacked division. 

Mike Trizano and Matt Frevola both took home some American wins, with each of the US natives showing out in NYC with some impressive finishes. Mike Trizano ended up coming out on top in a one-round war with Seung-Woo Choi, finishing him with 10 seconds left in the round after both men landed some haymakers through the first 5 minutes. Matt Frevola had a tall task in front of him with the impressive prospect Ottman Azaitar making his comeback for the first time since September, 2020. Frevola ended up coming out with a first round knockout, flatlining Azaitar after he came out looking quite rusty after a couple years out of the sport. Matt ended up calling out Paddy Pimblett during his post-fight interview, setting up for an interesting matchup in the lightweight division. 

Andre Petroski and Erin Blanchfield both continued to assert themselves as real contenders in their respective divisions, both coming out with incredibly dominant victories over some good contenders. Petroski grinded out a quite dominant unanimous decision over fellow grappler Wellington Turman in a 3-round contest, with Petroski proving to everyone that he’s no slouch on the mat. Blanchfield dominated from start to finish, putting Molly in a deadly crucifix and mauling her until she locked up a nasty Kimura that Molly had no choice but to tap to.

Ryan Spann and Renato Moicano finished off the prelims in very exciting fashion with two incredible finishes of their own. Spann was matched up against former title challenger Dominick Reyes in a 3-round contest, but only needed one to get it done. Spann landed a flush jab on Reyes that dropped him, finishing him with ground and pound in the first round. Moicano got a first-round finish of his own, getting on Brad Riddells back against the cage and securing a tight rear-naked choke to put an exclamation mark on his spot in a very stacked lightweight division. Moicano got on the mic post-fight and became an instant fan-favourite, with lots of f-bombs and excitability Moicano may have produced the best post-fight interview of all time on Saturday night.

Dan Hooker revived his career on Saturday night with a win over up and coming grappler Claudio Puelles. Claudio was really trying to get Dan to join him on the ground, as he was getting absolutely pieced up on his feet. Puelles must have dropped to pull guard at least 20 times through the two rounds of the fight, including when Dan would hit him with body shots and he would just drop to the ground or imanari roll. Regardless, Puelles strategy did not work, and Dan Hooker ended up getting a TKO victory when he finally dropped Puelles once and for all and he decided not to get back up, putting a statement on Hooker’s career and letting the lightweights of the UFC know that he’s not going anywhere just yet. 

The retirement fight of Frankie Edgar was on the horizon, with his daughter and wife in the building and Chris Gutierrez across the cage from him, Frankie had a tall task on his hands. Chris dominated the fight from start to finish, and flatlined Frankie in the first round, making many of us wonder who was cutting onions in our living rooms as the legend in Frankie Edgar stepped out of that octagon for the last time in his career. 

Dustin Poirier and Michael Chandler did what we all expected them to do, they met in the middle and went to war. Chandler put the pace on in the first round, scaring Poirier bettors a couple of times against the cage with some massive looping haymakers, unfortunately none of them landing the final blow to finish Dustin in the first. Dustin ended up getting on the back of Chandler in the third round after a failed takedown attempt, and locked in a rear-naked choke to get a bloodied Iron Mike out of there in the third round after an extremely fun war, receiving a Fight of the Night bonus from Dana. 

Weili Zhang was set to challenge Carla Esparza as the co-main event, in an attempt to regain her strawweight title that was stripped from her by Rose Namajunas. Weili showed her athleticism and impressive technical abilities on the feet and the mat in this matchup with the champion Carla Esparza as a -400 favorite on some sportsbooks. Weili ended up in a dominant position with Carla on the mat in the second round and locked in an odd sideways Rear-Naked Choke, which actually was extremely tight and ended up making the champion, who many thought would have the advantage on the ground, tap in the second round. 

Alex Pereira and Israel Adesanya had the storyline of the decade when it comes to matchups in the UFC, and those two men combined to potentially create the most striking prowess that has ever been in a UFC octagon at once. The two men had an interesting fight for the first four rounds, with Israel seeming to be ahead on the judges' scorecards. Going into the fifth round Alex had a great pep talk from his coaches, and seemingly gained back some energy during a lackluster fourth round. Alex came out hard in the fifth, and put it on Izzy to get a TKO victory up against the cage after a barrage of strikes from the former kickboxing champion. 

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