Saturday’s UFC 281 event is in the books, and now that the dust has settled in Las Vegas, it’s time to go to the scorecard to see who the big winners were at T-Mobile Arena.
1 – Alex Pereira
By the fifth round of last weekend’s main event between Alex Pereira and Israel Adesanya, I can’t say I saw that ending coming. Adesanya had taken some of Pereira’s thunder, but he was still standing and could have coasted to a decision win. The best fighters all have an ego, though, and Adesanya kept dipping his toes into the fire in the final round, and eventually, he got burned. Kudos to the new champ for continuing to fight what was shaping up to be a losing battle, and to the former champ for not sitting on a lead. So yes, Pereira is a scary dude, but Adesanya remains just as scary, and I can’t wait to see them get after it again real soon.
2 – Zhang Weili
There was a sense of inevitability in the air at Madison Square Garden as Zhang Weili began her challenge for Carla Esparza’s strawweight title, and at 1:05 of the second round, she had the 115-pound belt back. That’s not a knock on Esparza, but the reality that with the way Zhang has looked since her second loss to Rose Namajunas, no one is going to touch her anytime soon. She’s that good. But…does Thug Rose have her number? It will be interesting to find out.
3 – Dustin Poirier
Before his Saturday bout with Michael Chandler, Dustin Poirier and I discussed how some fighters are remembered not just for titles and a win-loss record, but for how they made you feel. Against Chandler, Poirier added another chapter to a career that won’t be forgotten, because he showed up and went to war once again with a top-level opponent who is carving out a similar legacy for himself. And yeah, Poirier wouldn’t turn down another crack at the lightweight crown, but whatever happens from here on out, he’s built a Hall of Fame resume.
4 – Renato Moicano
“I only lost to the best, but today I’m the best.” If you weren’t on the Renato Moicano bandwagon before his UFC 281 win over Brad Riddell and his memorable post-fight interview with Joe Rogan, you have to have your seatbelt on tight for the ride right about now. That’s what one great performance can do, and when you add in Moicano’s body of work and his new status as a fan favorite, 2023 is going to be quite interesting for the Brazilian veteran, especially if he keeps doing interviews in the first person.
5 – Erin Blanchfield
Rising flyweight star Erin Blanchfield wanted a flawless victory over Molly McCann last Saturday night, and she hit her marks with flying colors as she scored a first-round submission victory over the popular Brit in MSG. That made it four in a row in the Octagon for “Cold Blooded,” and with the last two wins coming by submission and the buzz getting louder and louder, Blanchfield could find herself in a title fight next year if she keeps going the way she is.
UFC 281: Adesanya vs Pereira took place live from Madison Square Garden in New York City on November 12, 2022. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards, and Who Won Bonuses - and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass!