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UFC 281 predictions: Late ‘Prelims’ undercard preview | Adesanya vs. Pereira

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is bringing more “Prelims” fights to ESPNN/ESPN+ this weekend (Sat., Nov. 12, 2022) when UFC 281: “Adesanya vs. Pereira” storms Madison Square Garden in New York City.’s Patrick Stumberg continues the UFC 281 “Prelims” party with the second (and final) installment of a two-part undercard preview series below.

MMA: JUN 12 UFC 263 Photo by Louis Grasse/PxImages/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Former kickboxing rivals, Israel Adesanya and Alex Pereira, will meet a third time with Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) gold on the line when they headline UFC 281, which will take place inside the hallowed halls of Madison Square Garden in New York, N.Y., this weekend (Sat., Nov. 12, 2022). UFC 281’s pay-per-view (PPV) main card will also see Zhang Weili attempt to usurp current Strawweight empress, Carla Esparza, and Frankie Edgar end his storied career against fast-rising Bantamweight Chris Gutierrez.

Four more UFC 281 “Prelims” undercard bouts remain to preview and predict (check out the first batch here), all of which will air on ESPN’s sister channel, ESPNEWS, in the United States. Let’s dig in ...

LIVE! Watch UFC 282 PPV On ESPN+ Here!

YEAR-END PPV BLOWOUT! Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) closes out its final pay-per-view (PPV) of the year on Sat., Dec. 10, 2022, with a battle for the vacant Light Heavyweight crown between former champion and No. 2-ranked contender, Jan Blachowicz, looking to stop the momentum of No. 3-seeded Magomed Ankalaev. In the co-main event of UFC 282, which will take place inside T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, breakout star, Paddy Pimblett, intends to keep his momentum going at the expense of gritty veteran, Jared Gordon.

Don’t miss a single second of EPIC face-punching action!

155 lbs.: Brad Riddell vs. Renato Moicano

Brad Riddell (10-3) opened his UFC career perfect (4-0), scoring post-fight bonuses for his absolute wars with Jamie Mullarkey and Drew Dober. Subsequent efforts proved less successful, as “Quake” fell victim to a third-round wheel kick from Rafael Fiziev and a 45-second guillotine choke from Jalin Turner.

He faces a four-inch height disadvantage and a one-inch reach disadvantage.

After consecutive defeats to Jose Aldo and Chan Sung Jung sent Renato Moicano (16-5-1) from Featherweight to Lightweight, he worked his way into contention with three submission victories in four appearances. Then came a last-minute main event against Rafael dos Anjos, who overpowered Moicano over five rounds to leave him 3-4 in his last seven.

Nine of his professional wins have come by submission.

If Riddell can take this into deep waters, or even just the second round, he’ll bury Moicano in pressure and power. As tough as Moicano is, he’s been overwhelmed on multiple occasions, even in fights where he had height and reach advantages.

Unfortunately, I don’t think “Quake” lasts that long. He’s been a slow starter throughout his Octagon career, struggling to either get his striking going or stop opponents’ takedowns until the end of the first. Moicano is not shy about implementing his wrestling as quickly as possible, and while Riddell generally survives the early struggle, Moicano is easily the most accomplished submission artist Riddell has yet faced. In the end, Moicano either taps him quick or gets bludgeoned down the stretch ... and I’m guessing it’ll be the former.

Prediction: Moicano via first round submission

205 lbs.: Dominick Reyes vs. Ryan Spann

Six consecutive UFC victories earned Dominick Reyes (12-3) a crack at then-champion, Jon Jones, who handed “The Devastator” his first professional defeat via controversial decision. A second title shot saw him stopped by Jan Blachowicz, after which he succumbed to a Jiri Prochazka spinning elbow in a 2021 “Fights of the Year” candidate.

He fights for the first time in 18 months.

Ryan Spann (20-7) battled his way to a mint (4-0) UFC start, scoring finishes of Antonio Rogerio Nogueira and Devin Clark along the way. “Superman” now sits at 2-2 in his last four with performance bonuses for his first-round finishes of Misha Cirkunov and Ion Cutelaba.

Seventeen of his wins have come inside the distance, including 12 via submission.

This is a wellness check for Reyes. Spann’s incredible physical gifts are hamstrung by poor durability and a tendency to fall apart in the face of adversity, which should hypothetically make him a prime target for a sniper like Reyes. In addition, Reyes’ historically stout takedown defense also figures to take Spann’s dangerous submission game off the table, and the way “The Devastator” kept pace with Jiri Prochazka suggests that Spann can’t just blitz him.

This is all assuming Reyes is still in peak condition after two brutal knockout losses, though. I’ll be optimistic and say the rest does him some good, allowing him to catch Spann with a straight left for an early finish.

Prediction: Reyes via first round technical knockout

125 lbs.: Erin Blanchfield vs. Molly McCann

Erin Blanchfield (9-1) put together a 5-1 record in Invicta — the sole loss coming to Tracy Cortez — en route to the Octagon. She’s proven similarly successful in the world’s largest mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion, winning three straight and most recently choking out J.J. Aldrich.

She’ll enjoy a six-inch reach advantage over “Meatball.”

Molly McCann (13-4) bounced back from an unsuccessful UFC debut by winning three straight, but proved unable to keep the momentum going against Taila Santos and Lara Fritzen. Undaunted, she went on to win another three fights and secure “Performance of the Night” bonuses for her spinning elbow finishes of Luana Carolina and Hannah Goldy.

All six of her professional stoppages have come by knockout.

The last couple times McCann stepped up to this level of competition, things went poorly for her. A big part of that is her wrestling; though she’s developed some decent takedown chops, her defense has consistently failed her at the highest levels. That’s a massive issue against a ground artist as decorated as Blanchfield, who has a history of mauling opponents on the mat.

Though McCann does have her aggressive stand up to lean on, Blanchfield’s no slouch there, either, and the persistent threat of a level change figures to narrow that gap even further. With enough striking skills to hold her own in McCann’s wheelhouse and the option to take it to the mat whenever things get hairy, expect Blanchfield to dominate.

Prediction: Blanchfield via unanimous decision

185 lbs.: Andre Petroski vs. Wellington Turman

Andre Petroski (8-1) — Team Ortega’s top Middleweight pick on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 29 — saw his run cut short in the semifinals thanks to a Bryan Battle guillotine. He’s since found his footing with three straight UFC stoppages, among them a 76-second submission of Nick Maximov.

His eight professional finishes are split evenly between knockouts and submissions.

Wellington Turman (18-5) struggled his way to a 1-3 UFC start, highlighted by knockout losses to Andrew Sanchez and Bruno Silva. He subsequently returned to the win column with a narrow decision over Sam Alvey, then tapped Misha Cirkunov with a bonus-winning armbar for his first Octagon finish.

“The Prodigy” gives up one inch of reach to Petroski.

With all due respect to Turman, I’m just not seeing how he wins this. He’ll struggle mightily to impose his grappling on a wrestler of Petroski’s caliber, and the latter has also shown off the technical striking needed to bring his considerable power to bear. Turman can often rely on being the superior athlete to make up for his shortcomings, an advantage he decidedly does not have in this matchup.

Turman’s best chance lies in tapping Petroski off of his back, but that assumes Petroski won’t physically overwhelm him from the top like Bruno Silva did or just keep it on the feet. Having said that, odds are that Petroski just blasts him into oblivion in the first two minutes.

Prediction: Petroski via first round technical knockout

UFC 281’s main event could carry this card by itself, but plenty of additional depth make this a must-watch PPV show. See you Saturday, Maniacs.

Prediction Record for 2022: 158-81-2

Remember that will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 281 fight card right here, starting with the early ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard (on ESPNEWS/ESPN+) at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+ PPV.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC 281: “Adesanya vs. Pereira” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.

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