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 then moving on to the rest of the prelims, we head to the main card now.
Raul Rosas Jr (7-0) vs Christian Rodriguez (8-1) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
The youngest fighter in UFC history lived up to the hype last time out and he’s back on a pay-per-view main card next. Rosas Jr stepped into the octagon as a 17-year-old and submitted Jay Perrin in the first round, making it five wins via tap out in seven career bouts. Rodriguez on the other hand suffered the only loss of his career in his UFC debut against Jonathan Pearce, but bounced back with a submission win over Joshua Weems last time out in October 2022.
Rosas Jr is a ridiculous talent with fantastic wrestling and a nasty Brazilian jiu-jitsu game to go with his massive frame for 135-pounds. Rodriguez is a kickboxer with a wrestling background and good jiu-jitsu skills of his own to make this a very interesting fight on paper. Rosas Jr is big for the division, but he tends to be quite aggressive and with Rodriguez’s skills he could make him pay for the smallest mistakes by taking his neck or being more patient when it comes to the striking.
But with that said, Rosas Jr is a stud of an athlete despite his age and he has been able to show great composure and skill on the biggest stages so far. It won’t be nearly as quick or lopsided as his debut, but Rosas is a good enough grappler to get a takedown and control the fight for the rest of that round to secure a win on the scorecards.
PICK – Raul Rosas Jr via Decision
Kevin Holland (23-9) vs Santiago Ponzinibbio (30-6) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
A super fun welterweight scrap up next between two fan-friendly styles. Holland is 2-2 in his last four, with wins over Alex Oliveira and Tim Means before back-to-back defeats against Khamzat Chimaev and Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson most recently. Ponzinibbio on the other hand snapped a two-fight losing streak to Geoff Neal and Michel Pereira by knocking out Alex Morono to come from behind in his last outing.
Holland is a very well-rounded fighter with fantastic striking and good knockout power to go with solid grappling and jiu-jitsu skills, although he struggles when it comes to the wrestling both offensively and defensively. Ponzinibbio is a straight up striker with fantastic power in his hands and kicks, and some good takedown defence in his back pocket to boot. This one is going to be very, very fun.
Ponzinibbio was one of the most feared welterweights around before a two-year layoff saw him come back as a very different fighter. Holland is so active and has shown he can hang with the best, while his chin has held up against some real power punchers too. It’s going to be fun, but expect Holland to land the bigger shots and eventually stun Ponzinibbio with a counter before launching on his neck and taking a win on the mat.
PICK – Kevin Holland via Submission, Round 2
Rob Font (19-6) vs Adrian Yanez (16-3) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
An absolutely amazing fight for the fans up next at bantamweight. Font had won four-in-a-row before dropping his last two against Jose Aldo and Marlon Vera by decision. Yanez is 5-0 in the UFC with four knockouts, including a first-round stoppage over Tony Kelley most recently. He’s now on a nine-fight win streak.
Font is a fantastic boxer with great speed and combinations, and he showed in his most recent win over Cody Garbrandt that he is also a more than competent wrestler too when he needs to mix things up. Yanez is also a super boxer with fantastic combinations and power, while his takedown defence has passed the test every time it’s been called upon. This is going to be a straight up banger between two studs.
Yanez is the favourite heading into this, but Font is far and away the best fighter he has ever come up against. His ability to box with Yanez shouldn’t be overlooked, but the ability to mix in his wrestling and his strong low kicks can disrupt the rhythm of the younger fighter. I absolutely love Yanez, but Font is no pushover and I think the veteran claims an entertaining win in the fight of the night on the cards.
PICK – Rob Font via Decision
Gilbert Burns (21-5) vs Jorge Masvidal (35-16) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
Welterweight contender bout up next between two hugely popular stars. Burns is 2-2 in his last four having been beaten by Kamaru Usman in a title fight and then losing a razor close decision to Khamzat Chimaev, while he has dominated Stephen Thompson and Neil Magny most recently via a first-round arm triangle submission. Masvidal on the other hand has lost his last three, losing to Usman twice in two title fights before being controlled by Colby Covington most recently over a year ago.
Burns is a Brazilian jiu-jitsu wizard with incredible submission skills, but he has also got hugely improved striking and fantastic power in his hands to go with it. Masvidal is a terrific kickboxer with super boxing skills and a nasty body kick, while his wrestling defence and submission defence have been fairly good in his career. This is arguably the last chance for two legends to make a title run.
Masvidal’s best hope of winning this fight is keeping it standing and getting into a striking battle with Burns. But Burns is no pushover in the stand up exchanges and he has the ability to force Masvidal to the ground with his wrestling and grappling skills. “Gamebred” has the one-punch power most fighters dream of, but Burns is very good at staying safe and also has a granite chin so I expect him to get Masvidal down and control him for 15 minutes to claim the win in Miami.
PICK – Gilbert Burns via Decision
Alex Pereira (7-1) vs Israel Adesanya (23-2) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
A banger in the middleweight division as we find out who the better man is between these two once and for all (maybe?). Pereira is undefeated in the UFC after KO’ing Andreas Michailidis, Sean Strickland and Adesanya last time out, while he also has a decision win over Bruno Silva. Adesanya is one of the best middleweights ever, with his defeat to Pereira last time out ending a 12-fight win streak in the division in the UFC.
Both of these guys are long time kickboxers at a world class level, and both have transitioned exceptionally to MMA with those skills. Adesanya is the more experienced fighter and has shown some more grappling skills than his opponent, and he may need to use that in this fight to finally get one over on his long time rival. The bouts they’ve had previously have seen Adesanya winning until late on when the power of Pereira caught up.
That means Adesanya knows he can hang with him, and by mixing in more takedowns and making Pereira grapple with him throughout the opening 20 minutes it’s likely to wear on him more for that final round where he has proved so dangerous. “The Last Stylebender” is the better fighter in my mind despite the results of their previous bouts and I think he finally gets it done this time around on the scorecards to win his title back and set up a UFC trilogy later in 2023.
PICK – Israel Adesanya via Decision