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Here’s the main event card for UFC 281.
Saturday marks the fifth time UFC has come to New York City, with Madison Square Garden hosting for the first time since UFC 268: Usman vs. Covington 2. This time the main event features Israel Adesanya vs. Alex Pereira for the Middleweight Championship, but the other title fight could end end stealing the show.
Carla Esparza has really found her footing in the strawweight division following back-to-back losses in 2018. Those fights really represented a crossroads for Esparza, who instead to fading into obscurity fought back to win six straight fights, including reclaiming the strawweight title for the second time when she beat Rose Namajunas in May. It set a UFC record for the longest time between championship reigns, and now she’s back to defend the belt just six months after winning — and it might be the biggest test of her career.
Zhang Weili is coming off her own gut check, with two straight losses to Namajunas making it feel a little like the magic was fading. Then at UFC 275 Zhang made sure the world knew she wasn’t done, winning with a thunderous spinning backfist and putting herself right back in the title picture.
Zhang is a force, with a 22-3 record in MMA, including 11 knockouts and seven wins by submission. This makes it a fascinating matchup of Zhang’s perfectly rounded game, against Esparza’s strong wrestling, which she pairs with a brutal ground game. The end result is a fight that almost feels unfair. Everyone is predicting Zhang to run over Esparza and ruining her return to prominence, but that really undersells just how good the champ’s ground game is.
No matter what happens, Rose Namajunas is waiting to see who comes out on top, and is ready to throw her hat back in the ring to regain the title.
Full UFC 281 card and how to watch
Date: Saturday, November 12th
Time: The Early Preliminary Card begins at 6 p.m. ET, with the Preliminary Card set to start at 8 p.m. ET, followed by the Main Card starting at 10 p.m. ET.
Streaming: ESPN+ has exclusive streaming rights in the United States. It requires a pre-existing ESPN+ subscription, followed by a $75 fee to buy the main card. The prelims will be available for free with ESPN+, and the early prelims are available with UFC Fight Pass.
Main card (ESPN+)
- Middleweight Championship: Israel Adesanya (c) vs.Alex Pereira
- Women’s Strawweight Championship: Carla Esparza (c) vs. Zhang Weili
- Lightweight: Dustin Poirier vs.Michael Chandler
- Bantamweight: Frankie Edgar vs. Chris Gutiérrez
- Lightweight: Dan Hooker vs. Claudio Puelles
Preliminary Card (ESPNews / ESPN+)
- Lightweight: Brad Riddell vs. Renato Moicano
- Light Heavyweight: Dominick Reyes vs. Ryan Spann
- Women’s Flyweight: Molly McCann vs. Erin Blanchfield
- Middleweight: Andre Petroski vs. Wellington Turman
Early preliminary card (ESPN+ / UFC Fight Pass)
- Lightweight: Matt Frevola vs. Ottman Azaitar
- Women’s Strawweight: Karolina Kowalkiewicz vs. Silvana Gómez Juárez
- Featherweight: Michael Trizano vs. Choi Seung-woo
- Bantamweight: Julio Arce vs. Montel Jackson
- Light Heavyweight: Carlos Ulberg vs. Nicolae Negumereanu
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