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UFC 281 Picks & Preview: Adesanya Takes on Pereira for Middleweight Title

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On Saturday, the UFC will be live from Madison Square Garden in New York City. UFC 281 is packed full of action, with some great matchups to keep an eye on. The main event is a middleweight title bout featuring Israel Adesanya vs. Alex Pereira, and the co-headliner is a women’s strawweight title bout between Carla Esparza and Zhang Weili. Below are some MMA DFS picks with the help of Stokastic’s UFC DFS projections. Let’s see what’s on tap for UFC 281.

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MMA DFS Picks: UFC 281 Adesanya vs. Pereira

Julio Arce $7,200 vs. Montel Jackson $9,000

Julio Arce

  • Age: 33
  • Height: 5-foot-7
  • Weight: 137 lbs.
  • Reach: 70 ins.
  • Record: 18-5-0
  • Striking Accuracy: 41%
  • Betting Odds: +162

Arce is a well-rounded fighter with solid kickboxing and a background in jiu-jitsu. He is a slow starter who can at times be overly patient, which in turn has caused him to drop rounds. Arce, once a featherweight and now a bantamweight, is big for the division. He has shown aggressiveness, solid striking and big power once the fight gets into the second and third rounds. Getting Arce to the mat is no easy task, as he has an impressive 94% takedown defense and a tricky submission game. Expect Arce to be patient at the start of the first round but come out banging in the second.

Montel Jackson

  • Age: 30
  • Height: 5-foot-10
  • Weight: 136 lbs.
  • Reach: 75.5 ins.
  • Record: 11-2-0
  • Striking Accuracy: 65%
  • Betting Odds: -210

Jackson’s skillset and fight IQ are extremely impressive. He is a high-level wrestler, averaging 4.5 takedowns per fight and a 79% success rate. He is one of the biggest bantamweights and packs power in his hands that can stop anyone in the division. Jackson will have a three-inch height and five-inch reach advantage over Arce. Expect the massive size advantage, power, speed and cracking combinations to be too much for Arce to overcome.

The pick on DraftKings and FanDuel is Jackson. His sharp striking, size advantage and durability will be too much for Arce to withstand. Jackson has 65.2% win odds and a 30.9 % chance for a knockout, according to Stokastic’s UFC DFS projections.

UFC DFS Pick: Montel Jackson via First-Round KO/TKO

Dominick Reyes $9,300 vs. Ryan Spann $6,900

Dominick Reyes

  • Age: 32
  • Height: 6-foot-4
  • Weight: 205 lbs.
  • Reach: 77 ins.
  • Record: 12-3-0
  • Striking Accuracy: 51%
  • Betting Odds: -230

Reyes will be looking to regain his success inside the Octagon and potentially climb the rankings for a third title shot. He has been idle since suffering a second-round knockout loss to Jiri Prochazka 18 months ago at UFC Vegas 25, which extended his current losing streak to three. Reyes was a dangerous finisher early in his career, tallying first-round finishes in nine of his first 12 fights. It will be tough to gauge how much of an impact his recent injury, extended layoff and three straight losses have had on his fight game. Reyes is a huge favorite for a fighter who has not competed in over a year.

Ryan Spann

  • Age: 31
  • Height: 6-foot-5
  • Weight: 135 lbs.
  • Reach: 79 ins.
  • Record: 20-7-0
  • Striking Accuracy: 46%
  • Betting Odds: +176

Ryan Spann is coming off a first-round submission win over Ion Cutelaba in May, which also won Spann Performance of the Night. Overall, Spann has seen 15 of his professional career wins come inside of five minutes. He has shown great composure in his recent fights, but if he gets the Reyes that faced Jon Jones in a controversial decision loss, then expect Spann to wilt under the pressure. Spann should come out fast and furious looking for any opportunity to end Reyes’ night early.

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The lean on DraftKings and FanDuel is Spann. He will work fast, looking for any openings to put Reyes on the mat.

UFC DFS Pick: Ryan Spann via Second-Round KO/TKO


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Dustin Poirier $8,900 vs. Michael Chandler $7,300

Dustin Poirier

  • Age: 33
  • Height: 5-foot-9
  • Weight: 154 lbs.
  • Reach: 72 ins.
  • Record: 28-7-0
  • Striking Accuracy: 54%
  • Betting Odds: -230

Poirier is coming off a disappointing submission loss to Charles Oliveira at UFC 269. Prior to that, he looked well polished in his last three bouts, using nasty calf kicks to set up the knockout win over Conor McGregor and a decision win over Dan Hooker. This is a huge spot for Poirier, especially if he can defeat Michael Chandler via finish. Expect Poirier to use his devastating calf kicks, stiff jab and solid boxing to disrupt Chandler’s heavy pressure and rhythm.

Michael Chandler

  • Age: 36
  • Height: 5-foot-8
  • Weight: 156 lbs.
  • Reach: 67 ins.
  • Record: 23-7-0
  • Striking Accuracy: 52%
  • Betting Odds: +176

Chandler is coming off an impressive knockout over Tony Ferguson at UFC 274. Prior to that, Chandler faced off against Charles Oliveira for the vacant lightweight belt in May, losing via knockout in Round 2. Then he lost to Justin Gaethje in November via decision in an electrifying bout that earned Fight of the Night honors. Chandler is a well-rounded fighter with explosive power and a high-pressure style. He will throw one-two punch combinations and can damage his opponent in a hurry. Chandler’s explosiveness and physical talent are his best attributes inside the Octagon.

The lean on DraftKings and FanDuel is Poirier, as his boxing, timing and ability to read his opponent will seal the victory. Stokastic’s UFC DFS projections give Dustin Poirier 65.4% odds to win and a 44.9% chance for a knockout.

UFC DFS Pick: Dustin Poirier via Third-Round KO/TKO

Israel Adesanya $8,600 vs. Alex Pereira $7,600

Israel Adesanya

  • Age: 33
  • Height: 6-foot-4
  • Weight: 183 lbs.
  • Reach: 80 ins.
  • Record: 23-1-0
  • Striking Accuracy: 53%
  • Betting Odds: -210

Adesanya is regarded as one of the top fighters in mixed martial arts today. He is a high-level striker with speed, footwork, head movement and feints that force his opponents into awkward positions. Adesanya continues to pick off top contenders and heads to New York to make his fifth defense of his middleweight title. The only blemish on his record is when he jumped up to light heavyweight to challenge Jan Blachowicz. That said, if Adesanya can land something early, he could possibly negate Pereira’s heavy-pressure style. Accuracy will be a key role in this fight for Adesanya, as Pereira is extremely durable and usually offers few to no openings for his opponent.

Alex Pereira

  • Age: 35
  • Height: 6-foot-4
  • Weight: 184 lbs.
  • Reach: 79 ins.
  • Record: 6-1-0
  • Striking Accuracy: 69%
  • Betting Odds: +184

Pereira is coming off an impressive knockout victory over Sean Strickland at UFC 276. He is the only fighter in the top six that Adesanya has not beaten. Pereira has faced Adesanya twice in a kickboxing match, and both times Pereira was victorious, once via knockout and via decision. His most dangerous weapon is his incredibly powerful left hook that can put anyone’s lights out in a flash. Expect Pereira to push forward early to land his powerful left hook and end Adesanya’s reign at middleweight.

The lean on DraftKings and FanDuel is Pereira winning via knockout, though that is a risky pick. Another likely scenario is a unanimous decision victory for Adesanya, as he has shown pure dominance throughout his middleweight reign.

UFC DFS Pick: Alex Pereira via Second-Round KO/TKO

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