UFC 281 recap: Better than 280?

By: Dylan Moore

(*NOTE: prelims not included*)

Following the card of the year that was UFC 280, I was one of many people that had to remind myself that not every card could be that exciting top to bottom. In saying that, I was one of many people who was shocked to see the fights of 281 (which we’re overall less high-profile) matching and even surpassing the far more anticipated 280 card.

Dan Hooker vs Claudio Puelles: In this fight, an up and comer in Claudio Puelles (13-3) looked to prove himself against Dan Hooker (22-12). Throughout his respected career, Dan Hooker has had electrifying fights in which his toughness and ability to go to war with a fighter of any caliber has been put on display. Coming into this fight, Dan had lost 3 of his last 4, losing against very difficult opposition like Islam Makachev and Michael Chandler, and was looking to bounce back. He did just that. Puelles was dominated from start to finish, looking to go to the ground all throughout the fight against a lethal opponent. In the second round, Dan Hooker showed why he is so respected with a KO/TKO stoppage.

Frankie Edgar vs Chris Gutierrez: The storyline behind this fight was a young contender looking to prove himself against a legend of the sport in his final fight. Frankie Edgar, a former champion and 15 year veteran of his sport, announced that this would be his last fight. Gutierrez looked to use the notoriety of a fighter like Edgar to make himself more known as a contender in the Bantamweight division. In the first round, Gutierrez scored a highlight reel KO, which knocked Edgar out cold. A sad way to go out for sure, but a very very impressive display from Chris Gutierrez, slightly overshadowed by his opponent’s retirement. 

Michael Chandler vs Dustin Porier: 2 heavily respected and battle hardened lightweight contenders in Michael Chandler (23-8-0) and Dustin Porier (29-7-0, 1NC) duked it out. The first round of this fight was one of the best rounds of a fight seen in a long long time. It showed the versatility and toughness of both fighters. Following a second round that showed that they still had plenty of gas in the tank, Porier got in control of Chandler on the ground and didn’t look back. Porier submitted Chandler on the ground in round 3, and both fighters faces we’re bloodied up from this short-lived war of a fight. Me, along with many other fans, are very excited to see what comes next from both of these fighters. 

Carla Esparza vs Weili Zhang: In the co-main event, the women’s Strawweight title was on the line. Carla Esparza (20-7-0) fought Weili Zhang (23-3-0). While Zhang was seen as a scary contender with an outside shot to win the title, most had confidence in Esparza to keep this title. With that being said, Weili Zhang took it to Esparza and stripped her of her title via a submission early in round 2. This performance put Zhang on the map, giving her much deserved respect in the mainstream MMA world. 

Israel Adesanya vs Alex Pereira: The dominance of Israel Adesanya in the Middleweight dividsion cannot be understated. He defeated all of the contenders in his division in such convincing fashion, his next opponent was the relatively unproven Alex Pereira (6-1 coming into the fight). The reason the champ fought such an unproven fighter was because these 2 had some history. The last time Adesanya lost in his actual weight class was back when he did kickboxing, and guess who he lost to? Pereira. Twice. Once Pereira took up MMA, he beat his opposition in convincing enough fashion that the UFC fast-tracked him to a title shot, to test the seemingly invincible Adesanya. Throughout the first 4 rounds, it was a back and fourth fight, with Adesanya seemingly having the upper hand. Towards the very end of the round, Adesanya had a huge knockdown, in which Pereira was saved by the bell. In the fifth round, Pereira used his control of positioning to his advantage, backing Israel down before landing a series of punches that lead to a stoppage, shockingly giving Pereiera the title and third victory over Adesanya. Their is a lot of controversy over the nature of the stoppage, many fans thinking it came too early. 

Of the 5 events on the main 281 card, all of them lived up to expectations and then some, each fight bringing its own unique storyline and traits to the table. Full of controversies, battles, and shock victories of an all-time caliber, UFC 281 was a great card, and rivals 280 in the actual fights it produced, despite receiving far less media attention and hype then its predecessor.

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