The UFC returns with yet another banger of a title fight rematch at UFC 287 when Alex Pereira defends his middleweight title for the first time against long-time rival Israel Adesanya in the main event.
This will be the fourth time these two have met in a fight, with Pereira winning each of the previous three but Adesanya running him super close every time.
We’ll also see Gilbert Burns fight Jorge Masvidal in the co-main event, while we’ll also see the likes of Kevin Holland, Raul Rosas Jr, Adrian Yanez, Rob Font, Kelvin Gastelum and Chris Curtis fighting on the card.
Last time out at UFC San Antonio we got the main event pick correct with Cory Sandhagen beating Marlon Vera, although it wasn’t a perfect pick. You can see our full pick history here.
We’ll look to improve our overall record here and after starting with the early prelims, we move on to the rest of the prelims now.
Karl Williams (8-1) vs Chase Sherman (16-11) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
Heavyweights take to the cage next. Williams made his UFC debut last month and claimed a win over Lukasz Brzeski on the cards, while Sherman has lost five of his last six fights, with a decision to Waldo Cortes-Acosta most recently in November 2022. Williams steps in on short notice to replace Chris Barnett.
Williams is a big heavyweight at 6ft 3 with fantastic wrestling skills and the cardio to go with it. He also has good hand speed and power, although his striking is certainly his weak point. Sherman is a traditional heavyweight with some big haymakers and a decent leg kick, but pretty poor takedown defence and that’s a big issue for him here. Hi defeats to Alexandr Romanov and Jake Collier showed that he really struggles with persistent wrestlers, and that’s what Williams does brilliantly.
If Williams can implement the same game plan he did last month, then he should win this fight. His hand speed will make Sherman think twice in the striking exchanges, which will open up the takedowns for Williams to control him and claim a dominant win.
PICK – Karl Williams via Decision
Gerald Meerschaert (35-15) vs Joe Pyfer (10-2) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
Veteran vs hype train up next in the middleweight division. Meerschaert has won four of his last five fights in the UFC, with a stunning submission win over Bruno Silva last time out back in August. Pyfer has burst onto the scene with three wins in a row via knockout, including Alen Amedovski in his full UFC debut last time out.
Meerschaert is a stunning grappler with insanely good durability and submission skills, as shown by his 27 career wins by tap out. His boxing isn’t the best though and he can be clipped, as his three KO defeats show. Pyfer is a heavy-handed scrapper with solid fundamentals and good wrestling, but often he gets a bit carried away and can find himself huffing and puffing as the fight goes on. He has the skills to win this fight, but Meerschaert is no pushover.
GM3 has halted many a hype train and he knows how to stay safe until an opening shows itself before he takes advantage. However, relying on someone who is very skilled to make a mistake as your chance to win isn’t something that we can back. He could well get the win, but expect Pyfer to mix in his wrestling with his heavy hands to claim a decision victory with the judges in a statement win.
PICK – Joe Pyfer via Decision
Michelle Waterson-Gomez (18-10) vs Luana Pinheiro (10-1) – (Strawweight/115lbs)
A very fun strawweight scrap up next between a veteran and an upcoming star in the division. Waterson-Gomez has lost four of her last five, with a controversial win over Angela Hill sandwiched between losses to Joanna Jedrzejczyk, Carla Esparza, Marina Rodriguez and Amanda Lemos. Pinheiro on the other hand is on an eight-fight win streak including both of her UFC bouts so far, where she beat Randa Markos via DQ and Sam Hughes most recently in November.
Waterson-Gomez is a talented karate style fighter who is also a good wrestler and has decent submission skills to boot. Pinheiro is a really complete fighter with heavy hands, good kicks, excellent takedowns, solid submissions and great judo to go with it. Generally the Brazilian has the edge everywhere here and it seems like a bit of a set up fight for her.
Pinheiro has the judo skills to take this fight down and dominate, and she has the size and power advantage on the feet to control the striking exchanges if she performs to her best. Waterson-Gomez needs to use her speed and movement to work a volume-heavy attack to tip the judges in her favour, but it seems highly unlikely that this goes anywhere other than in Pinheiro’s win column.
PICK – Luana Pinheiro via Decision
Chris Curtis (30-9) vs Kelvin Gastelum (17-8) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
A banger at middleweight up next between two fan favourites on the roster. Curtis has won nine of his last 10 fights, including four of five in the UFC. He KO’d Phil Hawes and Brendan Allen before a decision win over Rodolfo Vieira was followed up by a decision loss to Jack Hermansson. He bounced back with a big KO win over Joaquin Buckley last time out. Gastelum has lost five of his last six including the last two in a row to Robert Whittaker and Jared Cannonier.
Curtis is an undersized middleweight with fantastic boxing skills and great power in his hands, to go with his granite chin and solid cardio. Gastelum is known for his chin and powerful left hand, while he also has decent wrestling skills too but he hasn’t fought in 20 months after suffering with injuries. This is a real coin toss of a fight.
Gastelum’s losses have come regularly in recent times, but they have come against top level opposition and the one time he fought someone he was expected to beat (Ian Heinisch) he did so comfortably. Curtis is probably fighting at his maximum level right now and Gastelum has fought at a far higher level than that. I won’t be surprised either way, but I think Gastelum can go with him for the full 15 to claim a win on the scorecards in a razor close yet entertaining fight.
PICK – Kelvin Gastelum via Decision
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