Israel Adesayna (L) faces off with Alex Pereira (Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

UFC 287: Pereira vs Adesanya 2 Preview and Predictions

In the words of infamous Oscars slap artist Will Smith, this weekend, the UFC is going to “party in the city where the heat is on, all night on the beach till the break of dawn. Welcome to Miami.” Headlining the South Florida fight card is a middleweight championship bout – the MMA rematch between champion Alex Pereira and former champ Israel Adesanya, as they clash once again at UFC 287: Pereira vs. Adesanya 2.

To say the two men are familiar with one another might be an understatement. Not only did they lock horns in Nov. 2022, but they also squared off twice inside the kickboxing ring. Pereira stands at 3-0 against Adesanya, winning a closely contested decision and holding a pair of knockout victories over the former champion. The two knockouts played out in similar fashion, Adesanya was winning the fights until, all of a sudden, he wasn’t. He looks to change the tune and capture his first ever win over Pereira and regain his middleweight crown in the process.

Pitbull might be “Mr. 305,” but in the MMA world, Jorge Masvidal is the crown prince of South Florida. The former two-time title challenger looks to earn a huge victory in front of a friendly crowd when he meets Gilbert Burns in the co-main event.


Masvidal is on a three-fight losing streak, the two aforementioned title challenge defeats and, most recently, a lopsided decision loss to Colby Covington. He’s in desperate need of a win in order to maintain relevance near the top of the welterweight division. His opponent Burns also failed in a title bid against Kamaru Usman and dropped a wild back-and-forth affair against Khamzat Chimaev. But, the Brazilian has looked impressive at moments in both of those fights, as well as in his two recent wins over Stephen Thompson and Neil Magny. A meeting with current champion Leon Edwards might not be out of the question if “Durinho” comes away with a victory.

Also on the main card, Rob Font will face Adrian Yanez in a bantamweight battle, Kevin Holland will be trying to get back in the win column against Santago Ponzinibbio, and Raul Rosas Jr. will be looking to keep his undefeated record in tact when he takes on Christian Rodriguez.

The UFC 287 early prelims air live on ESPN+ and UFC Fight Pass starting at 6 p.m. ET, followed by the preliminary card on ESPN+ and ESPN at 8 p.m. ET. The main card airs on ESPN+ pay-per-view at 10 p.m. ET. Combat Press writers Andrew Sumian and Matt Petela preview the action in this week’s edition of Toe-to-Toe.

Just five months ago, Alex Pereira notched his third combat sports victory over Israel Adesanya; can “The Last Stylebender” finally notch a victory over his two-sport rival?

Sumian: Here we go. It is hard to contain the excitement I have for this main event, given how the last one, back in November, played out. There is no doubt that Israel Adesanya was on his way to winning a unanimous decision. However, in true Alex Pereira fashion, the challenger landed a devastating blow that rocked the champion and sent him into recovery mode. Pereira knew this was the opportunity to seize and followed up with an onslaught of powerful punches which led to an incredible fifth-round knockout victory. If the MMA world realized anything that day, it is that Pereira has Adesanya’s number in the realm of combat sports. Will history repeat, or can the former champion finally succeed in defeating the biggest rival in his combat sports career?

Pereira joined the UFC for one reason and one reason only – to become a champion and defeat an opponent he knows far too well. The champion had an accelerated climb throughout the middleweight division, which has gotten stale over the years due to Adesanya’s dominant champion run. The Brazilian’s victory over Adesanya gave new life to the division and has certainly set up one of the most anticipated rematches in recent UFC history. Pereira’s power is undeniable. His large fists rival the size of an industrial toaster, and his ability to knockout any opponent that stands with him is without question. The champion will look to make it 4-0 against his rival this coming Saturday.

It is hard not to feel bad for Adesanya in this particular situation. He was clearly on his way to a fairly dominant decision victory over Pereira, but once again fell victim to the Brazilian’s thunderous power. Nevertheless, Adesanya is a much more fluid striker. He holds a speed advantage over the newly crowned champion and has the better footwork. Despite his latest loss, the former champion is one of the best middleweight champions of all time and can erase the past if he is able to get past this powerful foe.

This fight is going to come down to one thing. Can Israel Adesanya avoid the power of the newly crowned champion while staying calm and calculated? In a five-round fight, I do favor Adesanya in speed, footwork and cardio without question. However, one powerful shot can change everything in a 25-minute championship bout. I really do believe Adesanya when he says this is make it or break it. If he loses this time, his legacy will take a substantial blow, and he will never be remembered as the dominant champion he was for several years. But, he will not lose. Adesanya will be able to rise to the occasion, overcome the mental aspect of this fight, and defeat Pereira within the first three rounds. His footwork and quickness will be on full display and as he continuously lands combinations before finding an opening to put the champion away. This will be an entertaining back-and-forth fight to say the least. It is very possible we could see a fifth meeting before it is all said and done.

Petela: Sometimes there are opponents that just have your number. Take Joe Frazier, for example. No matter how many times he fought George Foreman, he was never going to win. That doesn’t mean, in the all-time pantheon of great heavyweights, Frazier is held in less regard than Foreman, he simply was a bad size and style matchup.

That’s the case with Alex Pereira and Israel Adesanya. Pereira just has his number. Physically, he’s too devastating a puncher for Adesanya to eat shots for 25 minutes without getting knocked out, and he’s too talented for Adesanya to avoid getting hit for five rounds. This fight will likely play out like the first mixed martial arts meeting between the pair of elite kickboxers. Pereira will keep a slow pace early, in fear that he might gas out, and, in doing so, he will lose most of the first four rounds. However, when his back is against the wall, he will rise to the occasion and deliver the finishing blows to once again thwart his rival and remain champion.

While it might be a good idea for Adesanya to try and grapple a bit more in this fight, I don’t think his ego will allow him to do that. He’s going to want to prove to the world, and to himself, that he can stand with Pereira over an entire fight and pick him apart without getting knocked out. Unfortunately, he will fail in that quest once again and be a grand total of 0-4 against Pereira. The rivalry ends here once and for all with a clear victor.

Gilbert Burns and Jorge Masvidal both came up short against Kamaru Usman when he was the champion; does the winner earn a crack at now champion Leon Edwards?

Petela: Well, Dana White has all but guaranteed that Colby Covington will get the next crack at Leon Edwards, but there’s a case to be made for Gilbert Burns as deserving of a title shot if he wins. The same can’t really be said of Masvidal, who recently lost to Covington and failed twice to claim gold against Kamaru Usman.

As far as how this fight is going to play out, it seems to me like Burns should be able to dispose of Masvidal with relative ease. Burns won’t give Masvidal the space he needs to get off any dynamic striking, instead he will pressure him and remain in close quarters. With the first round taking place largely against the fence, both fans and Masvidal will begin to get restless. The second round is where Burns will get the finish. Probably from a body lock and a trip, Burns will get a takedown early in the stanza and immediately go to work on the ground. His world-champion-level jiu-jitsu skills will allow him to slice through Masvidal’s guard like a hot knife through butter, and, after passing into side control, he will snatch up an arm-triangle choke that ends the bout with more than a minute left in the round.

Sumian: It would be really fun if Masvidal was able to defeat Gilbert Burns. One can only imagine how entertaining the post-fight promo would be, given the current state of the welterweight division. However, it is just way too difficult to imagine. My colleague is spot on. Burns is a masterful tactician who is capable of executing a game plan to perfection. He will utilize a similar gameplan to the one he used to defeat Stephen Thompson and earn himself a dominant unanimous decision. Masvidal is still tough as nails, but the fairytale narrative is coming to an end sooner rather than later. Still, this should be entertaining, given Masvidal’s ability to hype up a crowd with relative ease.

Who’s the biggest winner at UFC 287?

Sumian: Adrian Yanez. Man, the bantamweight division is loaded. Yanez is one of the young and hungry contenders who is quickly climbing the always entertaining bantamweight division. He will be able to outgun Rob Font early and often and earn himself a unanimous decision victory. A win over Font will earn the up and comer a top-five bantamweight for his next appearance.

Petela: Robert Whittaker. With Pereira taking out Adesanya again, “The Reaper” will find himself in the pole position for the next crack at middleweight gold. He is a terrible matchup for Alex Pereira and will likely utilize a wrestling-heavy approach to upend the champion in their eventual meeting.

Who’s the biggest loser at UFC 287?

Petela: It has to be Israel Adesanya. Where does he go from here? Two losses in kickboxing and two in MMA to the same man is going to be tough to overcome. He’s undoubtedly one of the greatest middleweights in history, but Alex Pereira simply has his number. Even if Pereira loses the title to Robert Whittaker, or someone else who Adesanya has defeated, those four combined losses will always be looming over him, and they could haunt his confidence for the remainder of his career.

Sumian: The UFC. A Masvidal loss is going to erase any chance of a highly anticipated grudge match between him and Leon Edwards. If Masvidal were to win, it is a guarantee he would jump the line and face the winner of Edwards and Covington. This would keep the hype train alive for just a little longer but it simply won’t happen.

What one fighter’s UFC career is on the ropes at this event?

Sumian: If Cynthia Calvillo loses a fifth straight, there is simply no reason to keep her around. The once highly touted prospect has had an extremely disappointing UFC career despite the hot start. Weight cutting issues and disappointing performances have plagued her career, and Saturday should mark the end of her time as a UFC competitor.

Petela: Michelle Waterson-Gomez. She has lost two in a row and four of her last five fights. The “Karate Hottie” once showed promise and was thought to be a legitimate title contender, but those days have passed her by at this point. Ultimately, the former atomweight will go down as a tough competitor, who was just a little too undersized to make it to the top of the strawweight division. Should she come away with a loss this weekend, her time inside the UFC may be over, and she may return to her natural atomweight division in Invicta FC or another smaller promotion.

Which fight is the sleeper match-up on this card?

Petela: Gerald Meerschaert vs. Joseph Pyfer. Meerschaert is a dangerous submission threat and has always been just below the elite level at middleweight. He will be a tough test for rising prospect Pyfer, who burst onto the scene with a knockout on Dana White’s Contender Series and then a subsequent knockout in his official UFC debut. Should Pyfer be able to pick up a victory over Meerschaert, he could be off to the races and on his way to contendership at 185 pounds.

Sumian: Kelvin Gastelum vs. Chris Curtis deserves a main card spot. This fight should be absolutely incredible until it ends. Both of these middleweight competitors are bulldozers who do not shy away from putting on entertaining fights. The trend will only continue when they face each other in the featured preliminary bout.

Who takes home the “Performance of the Night” honors?

Sumian: Raul Rosas Jr. The young competitor will pull off another quick victory and continue the hype train that will get out of control sooner rather than later. His third fight in the UFC should be interesting if he receives a significant step-up in competition.

Petela: Santiago Ponzinibbio. His main card clash with Kevin Holland is going to be fun as long as it lasts. Holland will do his usual chirping throughout the fight, and he will lure Ponzinibbio into a back-and-forth stand up affair, but ultimately that won’t work out for the “Trailblazer” this time. A big right hand from Ponzinibbio will close the show about midway through the fight, and it will earn him an extra fifty-thousand dollars.

Pair this card with…

Petela: Brazilian BBQ. Both Gilbert Burns in the co-main event and Alex Pereira in the main event will pick up huge victories. In that spirit, get your fight fan friends some delicious Brazilian BBQ to eat throughout the event and prepare for these two Brazilian stalwarts to come out on top in their marquee matchups.

Sumian: Picadillo and cigars. This event takes place in the Cuban inspired city of Miami. It will be a great card that features a little bit of everything for both casual and hardcore MMA fans. Hit up your local Cuban spot, grab a cigar, and sit back for a night that is sure to deliver.

Fight Sumian’s Pick Petela’s Pick
Main Card (ESPN+ pay-per-view, 10 p.m. ET)
MW Championship: Alex Pereira vs. Israel Adesanya Adesanya Pereira
WW: Gilbert Burns vs. Jorge Masvidal Burns Burns
BW: Rob Font vs. Adrian Yanez Yanez Font
WW: Kevin Holland vs. Santiago Ponzinibbio Holland Ponzinibbio
BW: Raul Rosas Jr. vs. Christian Rodriguez Rosas Jr Rosas Jr
Preliminary Card (ESPN/ESPN+, 8 p.m. ET)
MW: Kelvin Gastelum vs. Chris Curtis Gastelum Gastelum
LW: Chris Duncan vs. Omar Morales Duncan Duncan
Women’s StrawW: Michelle Waterson-Gomez vs. Luana Pinheiro Pinheiro Pinheiro
MW: Gerald Meerschaert vs. Joseph Pyfer Meerschaert Pyfer
Early Prelims (UFC Fight Pass/ESPN+, 6 p.m. ET)
HW: Karl Williams vs. Chase Sherman Williams Williams
StrawW: Cynthia Calvillo vs. Lupita Godinez Godinez Godinez
CatchW (160 lbs.): Trey Ogden vs. Ignacio Bahamondes Bahamondes Bahamondes
FW: Steve Garcia vs. Shayilan Nuerdanbieke Garcia Nuerdanbieke
StrawW: Sam Hughes vs. Jaqueline Amorim Hughes Hughes