Last night (Sat., April 8, 2023), Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) traveled to Miami-Dade Arena in Miami, Florida for UFC 287. In the main event, Alex Pereira sought to defend his new Middleweight crown and finally end the rivalry with Israel Adesanya. Prior to that title contest, Jorge Masvidal attempted to get back in the win column opposite top contender Gilbert Burns, and top prospects like Joe Pyfer, Adrian Yanez, and Raul Rosas Jr. looked to make an impact on the big stage.
Let’s take a look at UFC 287’s standout performances and techniques:
Adesanya Defines Greatness
I don’t know that I would consider myself a huge Izzy fan. Adesanya is an awkward and occasionally off-putting character who says and does weird stuff. Sometimes, it’s endearing, but just as often, you cannot help but shake your head at “Stylebender” and his antics. That’s why it’s odd for me to honestly say I admire Israel Adesanya as much or more than any fighter I can possibly think of.
Pereira is a brutal match up for Adesanya, and he showed it again in the first five minutes. He kicked the s—t out of Adesanya’s legs and walked him down, clearly doing real damage and really making it seem like a fourth victory was quickly en route.
Incredible natural talents like Adesanya aren’t supposed to have such huge pools of resolve. After a miserable five minutes, “Stylebender” bit down on his mouthpiece, committed to the Southpaw stance, and started walking Pereira down. A lot of analysts like myself believed that more forward pressure was necessary for Adesanya to win this fight, but it’s a whole different feel to actually be in the cage with a man who’s knocked you out twice and try to walk him down.
Adesanya started finding success and landing good shots. Several times in the second, he really stood his ground and fired hard combinations, willingly going toe-to-toe with Pereira and engaging him in his most dangerous realm. Towards the end of the second, Pereira connected on a shot that backed Adesanya towards the fence. Rather than slip or move, Adesanya again fired back, and this time, he put Pereira to sleep.
It was truly an incredible moment to watch Adesanya finally get his name on the board in this rivalry in such emphatic fashion. He becomes two-time champion, and he does so in a manner that elevates his legacy massively. Similar to his Jan Blachowicz fight, Adesanya proved himself outrageously brave in his attempts to be great, and this time, his gamble paid off in spades.
Burns Outworks Masvidal
Gilbert Burns did what needed to be done to soundly defeat Jorge Masvidal last night. He landed some heavy right hands and imposed his physicality with takedowns, tiring out his opponent and taking over as the fight wore on. It was largely the performance that was expected, as Masvidal just looked slow and appropriately retired after the loss.
For more on Masvidal’s complicated legacy, click HERE!
Rob Font Pulls It Off
For a couple minutes, Adrian Yanez was beating Font up like the fighting world at large widely expected.
Realistically, that’s what was supposed to happen. Font had lost two straight heading into this one, getting stunned a half-dozen times in the process. Yanez, meanwhile, has bricks in his fists and an incredibly slick boxing game. It’s clear what the UFC wanted to happen, and Yanez was doing his part early by sneaking his clubbing right around the guard with scary consistency.
It only took a few clean lands for Yanez to swell Font’s eye nearly shut.
The problem for Yanez and UFC is that Rob f—king Font is tough like leather. He’s been hurt before, but the hard-nosed slugger has never been knocked out for a reason. He stood up to Yanez’s power and boxing finesse better than anyone previously, continually looking for his openings. The jab proved a game changer, as the second Font’s lead hand started connecting, the dynamic changed immediately.
Font’s jab was snapping Yanez’s head back, and Yanez is a knockout artist riding a hot streak. He wasn’t content to reset; he wanted instant revenge. The Texan started planting his feet and firing heavy counter combinations, but Font kept popping him with that hard jab. Then, he made Yanez miss on a counter shot and blasted him with a huge swing, flooring the talented prospect. His wide shovel hook ended the prettier puncher, a perfect symbol of Font’s grit.
Holland Bounces Back
Santiago Ponzinibbio did a lot of things right last night. First and foremost, he kicked the absolute crap out of Kevin Holland’s legs. Both of them! He did an admirable job of jabbing with the far longer and faster man, and frankly, I felt like he won a lot of the minutes of this fight.
That’s the beauty of “Trailblazer” though. Few men are better at landing weird shots and making them count in a major way. The backfist off the caught kick in the first round? That’s classic Holland magic, and his lunging left that stopped Ponzinibbio in the third was another lovely bit of opportunistic violence.
It’s not my usual lane, but I’d also like to play matchmaker for a brief moment: put Geoff Neal and Kevin Holland in the cage together, lock the doors, and don’t cut to commercial even once!
Rosas Jr. Flies Too Close To The Sun
Raul Rosas Jr. getting beaten up by Christian Rodriguez doesn’t mean that the young talent sucks or still can’t develop to be great. It does, however, demonstrate that Rosas Jr. is very much in the development phase of his journey. Those triple champ dreams were a bit over-the-top — focusing a few years on becoming a top Bantamweight first would be a good idea.
Rodriguez looked sharp last night. He showed off strong defensive wrestling and a lot of great jiu-jitsu tricks. He was never overwhelmed by Rosas Jr.’s early onslaught, remaining calm and understanding fully that the young talent would not be able to maintain that pace.
It was a veteran performance, and his composure really stood out against his opponent’s youthful chaos.
Pyfer Crushes GM3
This fight didn’t last long, but the clear takeaway is that Joe Pyfer hits really damn hard. He made use of the correct game plan, stalking Gerald Meerschaert to limit his left kick and then stepping forward with big combinations to catch “GM3” leaning back.
Here’s the thing about Meerschaert: he’s a known quantity. He may not be the most athletic fighter on the roster, but he’s tough as nails, has a powerful kickboxing game, and is incredibly skilled at snatching submissions on the canvas. He’s good at stretching fights out and giving himself opportunities to score the finish suddenly, which is why it’s so impressive that Pyfer just smashed him so easily.
Meerschaert has survived plenty of knockdowns in the past, but when Pyfer dropped him midway through the first, he was toast. Clearly, those punches had a different level of impact. There was no resistance left in the ultra tough veteran of 50 professional fights, who was too far gone to even try to survive the follow up shots.
“Bodybagz” has all the marks of a special puncher.
What Happened To Calvillo’s Career?
Cynthia Calvillo’s split-decision loss to Lupita Goodinez makes it five straight defeats, which will likely end her UFC stint, one that started with a ton of promise back in 2017. Quite simply, it’s been a brutal slide for the veteran.
What went wrong? Despite being a pretty frequent training partner for Calvillo from 2014-2019, I don’t know that there’s a conclusive answer. She left Team Alpha Male somewhere around that latter year, switching camps to American Kickboxing Academy, various gyms in Thailand, and then Xtreme Couture. I’m not here to blame her losses on switching teams — those are all excellent training options. Between those changes, she jumped up to Flyweight, which certainly backfired in her current losing streak.
More important than all of those circumstances, it really feels like Calvillo simply got away from what was working. Her earlier victories frequently saw her dominate from top position, using opportunistic timing and good wrestling fundamentals to drag her opponents down. Once on top, Calvillo tended to really excel at advancing position, doing damage, and catching strangles — she’s easily the best female scrambler I’ve ever trained with.
In this current skid, there just hasn’t been enough effort spent trying to wrestle. She attempted a single real takedown against Goodinez, and she scored the shot! Then, she spent ten more minutes competing in a close kickboxing match, and the judges went against her. Maybe another takedown or two changes that outcome!
It’s one thing to fail to outwrestle an opponent but another entirely not to try.
- Steve Garcia defeats Shayilan Nuerdanbieke via second-round knockout: Garcia looks like he might be more than just another Featherweight. He took an absolute bomb in the first round, the kind of perfect counter connection that ends lots of people’s nights. Garcia survived, and undeterred, he stayed in Nuerdanbieke’s face. Nuerdanbieke is an impressive physical talent, but the combination of constant pressure and his own big movements quickly tired him out. Garcia poured on the offensive and targeted the body beautifully, securing a lovely stoppage off an uppercut to bread basket that had Nuerdanbieke curled up in the fetal position. Garcia’s striking offense looked really nasty, and he secured his second straight win via stoppage.
For complete UFC 287: “Pereira vs. Adesanya 2” results and play-by-play, click HERE!