July 20, 2024
UFC 287 Predictions: Bleacher Report Main Card Staff Picks | News, Scores, Highlights, Stats, and Rumors

UFC 287 Predictions: Bleacher Report Main Card Staff Picks

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    Israel Adesanya (left) and Alex Pereira.

    Israel Adesanya (left) and Alex Pereira. Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

    UFC 287 goes down this Saturday in beautiful Miami, Florida. It will be the promotion’s first visit to the city since UFC 42, all the way back in 2003.

    The UFC has put together an exciting-looking card to celebrate the occasion.

    In the main event, middleweight champ Alex Pereira will look to defend the title against the man he took it from with a come-from-behind fifth-round KO last year, Israel Adesanya. It will be the fourth time the two rivals have fought, as Pereira twice beat Adesanya under kickboxing rules, long before their respective dominance in the UFC.

    In the co-main event, popular welterweight veteran Jorge Masvidal—one of Miami’s most successful fighters—will look to mount one last title run, beginning with a win over Brazilian finisher Gilbert Burns.

    Earlier on the main card, fast-rising bantamweight striker Adrian Yanez will look to take a big step up in competition against long-time contender Rob Font, and welterweight action fighter Kevin Holland will meet veteran striker Santiago Ponzinibbio.

    The main card will begin with another bantamweight clash, as unbeaten 18-year-old prospect Raul Rosas Jr. takes on Christian Rodriguez.

    As always, the B/R combat sports squad has you covered for pre-fight predictions. Keep scrolling to see who we’re picking this time around.

Alex Pereira vs. Israel Adesanya II

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    Alex Pereira (left) and Israel Adesanya.

    Alex Pereira (left) and Israel Adesanya.Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC

    Haris Kruskic: On the surface, this feels like very similar circumstances to the last Leon Edwards-Kamaru Usman fight. Heading into it, Edwards’ previous win was questioned. Most people seemed to think it was a fluke.

    Perhaps people aren’t ruling Alex Pereira out as much in this fight, but after rewatching their last encounter, I do feel like Israel Adesanya largely had that fight under control up until an unfortunate checked kick in the fifth round that made him stumble and allowed Pereira to pressure en route to a knockout win.

    Can you say someone who has beaten an opponent three times between kickboxing and MMA is lucky? Probably not. However, I have questions about Pereira’s cardio and the grappling exchanges he struggled with throughout their last fight.

    Izzy finally does it.

    Adesanya by unanimous decision

    Tom Taylor: It feels a bit surprising to pick Israel Adesanya to win this fight because we’ve seen him lose to Alex Pereira three times across two combat sports disciplines, but I’ve got to agree with Haris.

    Contrary to the result of all three of their previous fights, I still believe Adesanya is a more skilled, more versatile mixed martial artist than Pereira—and that he is probably a more refined striker than his rival, too. There’s definitely a reason to question the former champ’s confidence heading into this rematch, but he is an intelligent and logical fighter, which gives me confidence that he can work through any mental hurdles he’s facing.

    My crystal ball shows this fight going almost the exact same as the last one, only this time, Adesanya won’t get knocked out.

    Adesanya by unanimous decision

    Lyle Fitzsimmons: I concede that it could feel like Usman-Edwards, where Leon’s surprise win was devalued, and the ex-champ was still a solid favorite heading into the trilogy. Edwards made me look silly for picking against him, but I was far more accepting of the idea he could win than I am seeing Pereira repeat his upset.

    He won’t.

    Adesanya by unanimous decision

Gilbert Burns vs. Jorge Masvidal

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    Jorge Masvidal

    Jorge MasvidalLouis Grasse/PxImages/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    Haris Kruskic: Jorge Masvidal seems to already have one foot out the door after saying that he could call it quits if he loses to Gilbert Burns. That’s never a good sign, especially against someone as hungry as Burns.

    Masvidal’s run was great, but he is now three years past his prime. Burns is a legitimate title contender and knows he has to win this fight to stay in the picture.

    Burns by unanimous decision

    Tom Taylor: As Haris said, Masvidal seems to be on the cusp of retirement. That makes it hard to pick him in a fight with Gilbert Burns at this stage, but the truth is that I probably wouldn’t have chosen Masvidal to beat Burns at any point in the past, either. On paper, he’s simply outgunned.

    Masvidal has great submission defense—he proved that against Demian Maia—but Burns has the submissions and wrestling to make any fighter’s life miserable on the mat. Masvidal has a great chin, but after watching his last fight with Kamaru Usman, we know he can be knocked out, and Burns is one of the hardest punchers in the weight class. On the flip side, Burns also has a great chin, which should serve him well against Masvidal’s slick striking.

    I don’t know how Masvidal would win this one in the best of times. In 2023, it seems exceedingly unlikely.

    Burns by unanimous decision

    Lyle Fitzsimmons: It’s been fun, Jorge. You’ve drawn fans, made headlines and been part of some interesting fights. But it’s over. Ben Askren was nearly four years ago. And even then, Burns was better. It’s clearer now.

    Burns by TKO, Rd. 3

Rob Font vs. Adrian Yanez

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    AUSTIN, TX - JUNE 18: Adrian Yanez (back) knocks out Tony Kelley in their bantamweight bout during the UFC Fight Night: Kattar v Emmett event at June 18, 2022, Moody Center on in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Louis Grasse/PxImages/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

    Louis Grasse/PxImages/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    Haris Kruskic: I’m so high on Adrian Yanez. It’s hard to tell what his ceiling is in a monstrous bantamweight division, but he can strike with the best of them and usually ends his fights in dramatic fashion.

    Rob Font’s No. 6 ranking is a bit inflated, considering his last two wins are against Cody Garbrandt and Marlon Moraes, fighters well past their prime. This seems like a perfect opportunity for Yanez to soar up the rankings.

    Yanez by unanimous decision

    Tom Taylor: Rob Font and Adrian Yanez are two of the best boxers in the bantamweight division, so this should be a really fun fight for as long as it lasts. Still, it’s hard to imagine Font winning. He’s already 35, and he took a lot of punishment in his two recent decision losses to Jose Aldo and Marlon Vera—both five-rounders.

    Yanez, meanwhile, is seemingly just entering his prime—if he’s even reached it yet—and has a ton of momentum behind him. This one looks like a fight between a guy on the way out and a guy on the way in. I know who I’m picking. Yanez succeeds where Aldo and Vera failed and gets it done inside the distance.

    Yanez by TKO, Rd. 3

    Lyle Fitzsimmons: You’ve got to be something more than a casual fan to recognize Adrian Yanez’s name. But if you know, you know. The guy is entertainment money in the bank. Font provides a legit possibility of a sixth straight performance bonus. A higher grade of foe than he’s been fighting? Certainly. But if he is what his resume suggests he is, he’ll win.

    Yanez by unanimous decision

Kevin Holland vs. Santiago Ponzinibbio

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    Kevin Holland taunts Stephen Thompson.

    Kevin Holland taunts Stephen Thompson. Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

    Haris Kruskic: This is a toss-up in my eyes. I’ll go with Kevin Holland just because his recent losses have come against some of the best in the world in Stephen Thompson, Khamzat Chimaev, Marvin Vettori and Derek Brunson. He’s won fights against opponents on his level, though.

    Santiago Ponzinibbio’s last performance against Alex Morono scared me a bit. He was well on his way to losing before catching Morono with an overhand right very late.

    This has Fight of the Night potential.

    Holland by unanimous decision

    Tom Taylor: You never really know what you’re going to get from Kevin Holland. It could be a highlight reel knockout, an embarrassing loss that suggests he has never trained grappling in his life, or a wild war like his recent fight with Stephen Thompson. His inconsistency makes it very difficult to predict his fights, but I’ve still got to give him the edge over Ponzinibbio.

    The Argentine veteran is an excellent striker but seems to be losing a step in terms of speed and durability. That suggests to me that he will try to stand with Holland and that he will eventually get caught.

    Holland by KO, Rd. 2

    Lyle Fitzsimmons: Remember a while back when Holland was suggesting he’d be a worthwhile opponent for Adesanya when Izzy was unbeaten and still ruling the middleweights? Ah, good times.

    He’s 2-4 with a no-contest since the end of his breakout in 2020, and the losses indicate his level is quite a way beneath Adesanya’s. But that doesn’t mean he can’t win here. He’ll be busier, sharper and flashier to the judges.

    Holland by unanimous decision

Raul Rosas Jr. vs. Christian Rodriguez

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    Raul Rosas Jr.

    Raul Rosas Jr.Carmen Mandato/Zuffa LLC

    Haris Kruskic: I’ll hop on the hype train, but I don’t think Christian Rodriguez will be an easy out. He’s a step up in competition for Raul Rosas Jr.

    El Niño Problema is just so well-rounded and developed for an 18-year-old. The sky’s the limit on his quest to become the youngest UFC champion of all time. Unlike many prospects who tried and failed while chasing that same goal, Rosas Jr. looks like he already has the tools to challenge some of the world’s best.

    Rosas Jr. by unanimous decision

    Tom Taylor: Again, I agree with Haris: This is a solid test for Rosas Jr. That’s a bit surprising given the fact that the UFC clearly has big plans for the 18-year-old. Luckily for the promotion, I think he will get the job done this Saturday, even if it’s not quite as breezy as his debut submission win over Jay Perrin. He’ll have to work harder for the tap, but eventually, he’ll get it. Call it a rear-naked choke.

    Rosas Jr. by submission, Rd. 2

    Lyle Fitzsimmons: Indulge me while I rifle through a drawer to sort out my Hype Train tickets. OK, here it is. Rosas. Yeah, I’m in. This kid’s the goods. Rodriguez may not be the splash jobber that Jay Perrin was in December, but he’ll probably not go too much farther. Rosas is simply better—in all phases.

    Rosas Jr. by submission, Rd. 2