UFC 287 takes place on Saturday night in Miami and we’ve got our predictions for all the fights below.
Alex Pereira vs. Israel Adesanya
Former divisional kingpin Adesanya has a score to settle with Pereira, having now been beaten by his nemesis three times in two different sports. The Brazilian first defeated him twice in kickboxing, once by decision and once by knockout, before dethroning him as the UFC middleweight champion with a fifth-round TKO last year.
However, those results don’t reflect how close the fights were. Adesanya arguably deserved to win their first encounter in 2016 and was clearly winning the rematch in 2017 until he get caught, and it was deja vu in 2022, when Pereira landed a devastating blow that changed everything in the final round of a fight Adesanya had been leading on the scorecards.
So, while both fighters are elite strikers, it seems that Adesanya has a slight advantage in technique, accuracy and fight IQ that enables him to win more rounds, but Pereira has more explosive power and has been better at fighting through adversity, as well as the confidence that comes from having repeatedly found a way to win against the former champ.
A potential issue for Adesanya is that he doesn’t have the broadest skill-set beyond his stellar striking, but Pereira is even less experienced in MMA, so it’s still an avenue that might be worth pursuing more this time around for the ex-champ. Meanwhile, Pereira may well have gleaned from their previous encounters that he does best against Adesanya by being aggressive and pressuring him and that could see him push for an earlier finish this time round, but that does present the risk of being exposed to Adesanya’s sharp counter-striking.
As such I don’t feel like Pereira’s past success necessarily makes this fight a foregone conclusion and it still feels like a very finely balanced match-up. The law of averages would suggest that given how close he has come in their previous fights he’s going to get that win eventually, but winning by decision against a fighter who can knock him out at any moment is a task that’s fraught with danger.
Still, I am going to pick Adesanya to pull it off this time by continuing to win rounds by being a bit faster and bit slicker in the majority of the exchanges, but this time look to utilize more clinch-work and potential takedown attempts to restrict Pereira’s offensive threat, especially late in the fight when he might be in a position to play it safe and run down the clock to win on the scorecards and reclaim the title.
Prediction: Israel Adesanya to win by decision.
Gilbert Burns vs. Jorge Masvidal
Comes of a trio of losses, Masvidal finds himself in a must-win situation in the co-main event against Burns, who bounced back from a loss to Khamzat Chimaev with a submission victory over Neil Magny in his last fight.
Masvidal was always a respected fighter, but he really soared to fame and fortune fairly late in his career when he dispensed with his previously more cautious counter-striking boxing style and instead opted for a more offensively-minded approach that resulted in a memorable run of highlight-reel wins over the likes of Darren Till, Ben Askren and Nate Diaz.
However he then found himself being propelled into the upper reaches of the welterweight division where he’s found it tough to compete with elite wrestlers like Kamarau Usman and Colby Covington who have dominated him on the mat, with Usman making things worse when he also KO’d him for the first time in his career in their rematch. And so from being on top of the world, the 38-year-old now finds himself in a spot where he’s even talking of retiring if he doesn’t beat Burns on Saturday night.
Unfortunatley for him Burns presents another tough matchup as he is a well-rounded fighter who can strike, wrestle and submit his opponents. His real advantage here clearly lies in his wrestling and jiu-jitsu though, which could pose big problems for ‘Gamebred’, who is actually a fairly solid defensive grappler and not easy to finish, but isn’t on Burns level.
So I feel this is another fight where Masvidal doesn’t get the opportunity to show off his striking ability much as Burns pressures him and uses his wrestling advantage to get the fight to the floor, setting him up for a second round submission finish.
Pick: Gilbert Burns wins by submission in Rd2.
Rob Font vs. Adrian Yanez
The 34-year-old Font is looking to bounce back from two consecutive losses to Jose Aldo and Marlon Vera this weekend when he goes up against the 29-year-old Yanez, who has gone unbeaten in his five-fight UFC run.
Yanez hasn’t faced the highest level of opposition yet in the UFC, though beating Davey Grant on the scorecards is no easy task. Yanez has shown himself to be a skilled boxer with a high volume approach and big power in his hands, and he can also mix in kicks too.
That’s led Yanez to four finishes in five fights, but Font might be harder to put away as he’s never been stopped by strikes, despite having faced some of the best in the division. And he’ll match up fairly well with Yanez as Font is also a good boxer with a high output, though he lacks his opponent’s stopping power and isn’t as inclined to use kicks.
This is an exciting, competitive fight, but I think Yanez has the edge in speed and power. He might not be able to finish Font, but I think he’ll land the more damaging blows on his way to a decision victory.
Pick: Adrian Yanez wins by decision.
Kevin Holland vs. Santiago Ponzinibbio
Ponzinibbio, shook off back-to-back split-decision losses with a knockout of Alex Morono in his last fight and now faces Holland, who has lost two in a row against tough opposition in Khamzat Chimaev and Stephen Thompson.
Both fighters like to stand and trade and as is often the case Holland will have the size advantage, being 3″ taller with a vast 8″ more in reach to work with than Ponzinibbio. He’ll use that effectively with his powerful straight punches and kicks from range, but he’s also creative and unpredictable to keep his opponent’s guessing.
Ponzinibbio is not easy to keep at bay though as he’s a crafty striker who pressures his opponents well and throws in combination. He can be hittable though and that’s a concern against Holland’s finishing power.
Holland’s wrestling defense is a well known achilles heel, but Ponzinibbio is unlikely to exploit that and if anything it’s Holland who might try to use his respectable offensive wrestling and potential submission threat to change things up, though it might be risky against his veteran opponent.
Ponzinibbio is still a threat, but he’s not quite the same fighter he once was before his lengthy absence due to health issues a few years ago, and I think that together with Holland’s size and power advantage will win out here, with a stoppage being possible, though in the end I’ll settle on a decision victory.
Pick: Kevin Holland wins by decision.
Raul Rosas Jr. vs. Christian Rodriguez
At just 18-years-old Rosas Jr is already a rising star with a 7-0 record who emerged from the Contender Series and won his UFC debut via a quick submission in December. Rodriguez is 25 years old, but only has two more fights than his opponent, holding a 8-1 record, including a 1-1 run in the UFC so far.
Despite his age Rosas is surprisingly well-rounded. He’s a somewhat capable striker, though there’s certainly plenty of room for improvement there. However, where he really shines is on the mat as he’s a fast and agile grappler with proven finishing ability via submission, while he’s a good wrestler too and transitions well between the different aspects of his game.
Rodriguez has a 4″ reach advantage here despite being a couple of inches smaller than Rosas. He should be the more effective striker here and he is capable on the mat, though I doubt he’ll really want to spend much time there in this match-up.
Nevertheless, I do think Rosas Jr will be able to get the fight where he wants it regardless and will take him to eventually work his way to a second round submission stoppage.
Pick: Raul Rosas Jr wins by submission in Rd2.
Prelims (Predicted winners in bold)
Kelvin Gastelum vs. Chris Curtis
Michelle Waterson-Gomez vs. Luana Pinheiro
Karl Williams vs. Chase Sherman
Gerald Meerschaert vs. Joe Pyfer
Cynthia Calvillo vs. Lupita Godinez
Ignacio Bahamondes vs. Nikolas Motta
Steve Garcia vs. Shayilan Nuerdanbieke
Jaqueline Amorim vs. Sam Hughes