The UFC middleweight championship will be on the line on Saturday night when Alex Pereira defends the belt against Israel Adesanya in a battle of old rivals. With two victories in the kickboxing ring and a fifth-round TKO win to capture the title in their meeting at UFC 281, Pereira has had Adesanya's number at every turn.
Despite that history, it is Adesanya who is set to enter the fight as a slight favorite. In their most recent meeting, Adesanya had gotten the better of things for nearly the entire fight, but Pereira's leg kicks eventually slowed Adesanya down and a late flurry of punches ended the title reign of "The Last Stylebender."
The night's co-main event is a battle between Jorge Masvidal and Gilbert Burns. Both men are former title challengers who failed to defeat Kamaru Usman. Now, with Usman having lost the belt to Leon Edwards, a win could move either man into position to again have a crack at becoming world champion.
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With so much happening on Saturday night, let's take a closer look at the full fight card with the latest odds from Caesars Sportsbook before we get to our staff predictions and picks for the PPV portion of the festivities. CBS Sports will also have live coverage of the fight with round-by-round scoring and blow-by-blow updates to keep you up to date throughout the night.
UFC 287 fight card, odds
Odds via Caesars Sportsbook
- Israel Adesanya -135 vs. Alex Pereira (c) +115, middleweight championship
- Gilbert Burns -475 vs. Jorge Masvidal +350, welterweights
- Adrian Yanez -180 vs. Rob Font +152, bantamweights
- Kevin Holland -260 vs. Santiago Ponzinibbio+210, welterweights
- Raul Rosas Jr. -260 vs. Christian Rodriguez +210, bantamweights
- Kelvin Gastelum -125 vs. Chris Curtis +105, middleweights
- Luana Pinheiro -175 vs. Michelle Waterson +150, women's strawweights
- Joe Pyfer -200 vs. Gerald Meerschaert +170, middleweights
- Loopy Godinez -270 vs. Cynthia Calvillo +220, women's strawweights
- Ignacio Bahamondes -350 vs. Nikolas Motta +275, lightweights
- Shayilan Nuerdanbieke -180 vs. Steve Garcia +15, featherweights
- Jaqueline Amorim -270 vs. Sam Hughes +220, women's strawweights
With such a massive main event on tap, the crew at CBS Sports went ahead with predictions and picks for the main card. Here are your pick makers: Brent Brookhouse (Combat sports writer), Brian Campbell (Combat sports writer, co-host of "Morning Kombat"), Shakiel Mahjouri (writer), Michael Mormile (producer) and Brandon Wise (senior editor).
UFC 286 picks, predictions
|Pereira (c) vs. Adesanya||Pereira||Pereira||Pereira||Adesanya||Pereira|
|Burns vs. Masvidal||Burns||Burns||Burns||Burns||Burns|
|Yanez vs. Font||Font||Yanez||Yanez||Yanez||Yanez|
|Holland vs. Ponzinibbio||Holland||Holland||Holland||Holland||Ponzinibbio|
|Rosas vs. Rodriguez||Rosas||Rosas||Rosas||Rodriguez||Rosas|
|Records to date (2023)||12-8||12-8||13-7||15-5||12-8|
Pereira vs. Adesanya
Campbell: Sometimes, even at the elite level of combat sports, certain fighters simply just own specific opponents regardless of the time and place. Even though he has been forced to twice rally late to score stoppages, Pereira has now bested Adesanya on three separate occasions across kickboxing and MMA. In that sense, it may not matter how many of those combined rounds were actually won by Adesanya. From a stylistic standpoint, Pereira simply gives Adesanya hell and, more specific their level of expertise within MMA, hasn't been made to pay by Adesanya for his own lack of grappling skills. Expect Pereira to continue to balance poise and patience with the fact that he's perpetually coming forward against Adesanya, always looking to make him uncomfortable or pay for any slight mistake. Pereira is huge for the division, which negates some of the length advantages Adesanya has owned at times. He also has the chin and stamina to survive rough moments and remain dangerous late.
Brookhouse: Adesanya admitted that Pereira's calf kick attack affected him badly in their last meeting. There's no reason to think Pereira won't lean on that too early and often to try and compromise Adesanya's movement. The rivalry between the two is so unusual, with Adesanya being the "better fighter" for far more of their shared time, but Pereira having his hand raised every time because he's had the biggest single moments. Sometimes, a fighter just has another guy's number. It feels like that's simply the case here.
Mahjouri: The entire rivalry of these two is unusual. Adesanya has consistently been the better of the two fighters across their three fights, but has consistently fallen short in both kickboxing and MMA. Pereira has two come-from-behind knockout wins and one disputed decision over the former UFC champion. That said, boiling down Pereira's success to lucky punches or lucky scorecards is severely misguided. Adesanya will be the first to admit that Pereira's commitment to leg kicks disabled Adesanya and compromised him defensively. Pereira is an intelligent apex predator. Adesanya is the better overall martial artist, but Pereira's power is a difference maker and he should not be denied his flowers after going 3-0 in their combat series.
Burns vs. Masvidal
Campbell: Let's just go on out there and say it: this is a terrible style matchup for the 38-year-old Masvidal, who is currently riding a three-fight losing skid. Yes, the three-round bout serving as Saturday's co-main event offers Masvidal one final shot at title contention considering the history he has with current welterweight champion Leon Edwards stemming from their London backstage fight in 2019. There will be no shortage of motivation for Masvidal and the danger he brings as a striker remains very real. But if Burns showed anything in his February demolition of Neil Magny, it's that his recommitment to grappling -- and doing damage once he has his opponents down -- remains a bad equation for Masvidal to deal with. At 36, Burns remains much closer to his peak prime and simply has more ways to win in this matchup.
Mahjouri: Burns is one of the most well-rounded threats in the welterweight division. He has world-class jiu-jitsu skills to complement his constantly improving boxing. Burns confessed to "Morning Kombat" that he fell a little too in love with his hands. A submission win over Neil Magny in his last fight showed a lot of maturation from Burns as he looks to build a new case for a title shot. If he can continue to improve his offensive wrestling and striking defense, he might be unstoppable. Masvidal has a long going against him and would have benefitted from a lesser challenge while riding his first career losing streak. Kamaru Usman and Colby Covington proved too much for Masvidal and I'm afraid Burns is in the same ballpark.
Yanez vs. Font
Campbell: Talk about great matchmaking in the sport's deepest and most talented division. Riding a seven-fight win streak that dates back to three years before his actual UFC debut, Yanez has looked like a future title contender of late while showcasing his dynamic boxing skill. But he has yet to fight anyone in the UFC who is the same class as his opponent. Even though Font is 35 and enters fresh off both a one-year layoff and a two-fight losing skid against the very elite of Jose Aldo and Marlon Vera, he remains incredibly hungry to maintain his spot in the rankings, which was largely acquired through an impressive four-fight win streak against Sergio Pettis, Ricky Simon, Marlon Moraes and Cody Garbrandt. Font has already predicted a fight of the night and provided he can build behind his impressive jab, the experience edge could be enough to slow Yanez's impressive rise.
Brookhouse: This fight is a nifty little bit of matchmaking. Font has established his place in the UFC, sitting just a bit below the top level of the division. Yanez is in need of a step up in competition and this is a big one. At some point, Yanez's durability is not going to hold up and his style of mixing it up to land big counters will get him caught. Absorbing roughly 5.5 strikes per minute while landing 6.5 is not a long-term recipe for success. For now, it is working for Yanez and Font doesn't have Yanez's ability to absorb strikes without being affected. Yanez should be able to get the job done here with his counters.
Mahjouri: Fans of MMA boxing are in for a real treat. Font and Yanez are two of the best strikers the division has to offer. It's a big step up in competition for Yanez who has earned a performance bonus in each of his five UFC fights. Font has a wealth of experience at the top level and should challenge Yanez, particularly in the first round. Font is the more elusive striker and will need to stick and move. Additionally, it may be wise for Font to mix in some takedowns. Font is durable, but he took a lot of damage against Vera. It's wise that he took an extended break, much like his teammate Calvin Kattar did after the Max Holloway loss. Yanez is a powerful force with a thoughtful approach to MMA striking. This fight can go either way, but I have a hunch Yanez's technique and pressure will win two of three rounds.