UFC 287 from Miami: Kligman picks Alex Pereira vs Israel Adesanya, Gilbert Burns vs Jorge Masvidal, more
After a week off, the UFC is back in Miami for UFC 287 and the immediate rematch between middleweight champion Alex Pereira and Israel Adesanya at Kaseya Center this Saturday, Apr. 8.
From title implications to undefeated fighters to the youngest fighter ever to pick up a win in the UFC, this card has as much as you can hope for.
Continue reading for more surrounding UFC 287, including picks and a preview of one of the most anticipated rematches ever. In 2023, my picks are 28-12-2.
Middleweight: Alex Pereira vs. Israel Adesanya
Welterweight: Gilbert Burns vs. Jorge Masvidal
Bantamweight: Rob Font vs. Adrian Yanez
Welterweight: Kevin Holland vs. Santiago Ponzinibbio
Bantamweight: Raul Rosas Jr. vs. Christian Rodriguez
Middleweight: Chris Curtis vs. Kelvin Gastelum
Strawweight: Michelle Waterson-Gomez vs. Luana Pinheiro
Middleweight: Gerald Meerschaert vs. Joe Pyfer
Heavyweight: Karl Williams vs. Chase Sherman
Strawweight: Cynthia Calvillo vs. Loopy Godinez
Catchweight: Ignacio Bahamondes vs. Trey Ogden
Featherweight: Shayilan Nuerdanbieke vs. Steve Garcia
Strawweight: Jaqueline Amorim vs. Sam Hughes
Alex Pereira (7-1) vs. Israel Adesanya (23-2)
The immediate rematch is on as Alex Pereira will make his first title defense against kickboxing foe Israel Adesanya.
The two are no strangers to each other, with this being the fourth time they’ve fought: twice in Glory Kickboxing and now twice in the UFC. Pereira has been the victor in the past three contests, finishing two by knockout. He’s the first and only double champion in Glory and might have the most powerful left hand in the UFC. Surprisingly, per DraftKings Sportsbook, the official sportsbook of the UFC, Pereira is a +115 underdog.
Adesanya has never been an underdog in his UFC career, and if he dodged Pereira for three more minutes would still be the undisputed middleweight champion. But, it’s really hard to dodge Pereira for 25 minutes. Adesanya has been known as a runner but he needs to keep his distance from Pereira if he wants to reclaim his middleweight throne. The real question is, has Adesanya changed since the last fight? If not, why should we have any reason to believe he can win now?
As stated before in my UFC 286 preview, history favors the champion in the immediate rematch. UFC fighters trying to win back their title in immediate rematches are 3-12 in UFC history.
My pick: Alex Pereira
Gilbert Burns (21-5) vs. Jorge Masvidal (35-16)
Two south beach residents collide in the co-main event between Gilbert Burns and the self-proclaimed “king of Miami” Jorge Masvidal.
Both fighters fought for the title against former champion Kamaru Usman, each falling victim and getting knocked out. That said, Masvidal and Burns could very well be a win away from getting another title shot.
Since his loss to Usman in 2021, Burns has fought three times, and to be honest, his loss against undefeated Khamzat Chimaev might’ve been his most impressive showing in the octagon. That’s not to distract from a recent first-round finish earlier this year.
Masvidal has only fought once since back-to-back losses to Usman, making a new public enemy in the process between the last fighter he stepped in the cage with, Colby Covington. The former street fighter is making his first appearance in over a year and is looking to get a win for the first time since 2019.
Per DraftKings Sportsbook, Burns is over a four-to-one favorite at -450, while Masvidal is a +360 underdog. Don’t be fooled though, this is a much closer fight than the betting lines indicate, and with Masvidal hinting at retirement, it's do or die.
My pick: Jorge Masvidal
Rob Font (19-6) vs. Adrian Yanez (16-3)
The bantamweight division continues to put together fantastic fights, and this matchup looks no different when Rob Font takes on rising star Adrian Yanez.
Two active fighters enter the cage, combining for ten fights in three years. Yanez enters a perfect 5-0 in the UFC after graduating from Dana White’s Contender Series (DWCS), finishing all but one of his opponents. His hardest fight to date was undoubtedly against Davey Grant, who Yanez edged in a split decision.
Font comes into the fight six rankings higher than Yanez but is a +155 dog. Despite dropping two fights in a row, Font has faced title-worthy talents like featherweight legend Jose Aldo and former champion Cody Garbrandt. During Font’s losing streak, he's considerably outstruck both opponents landing 175 more strikes.
Although Yanez is a dangerous contender, Font will provide a significant challenge and is undisputedly his toughest matchup to date. Either fighter has the potential to win this fight, but the experience for Font might be the deciding factor.
My pick: Rob Font
Kevin Holland (23-9) vs. Santiago Ponzinibbio (30-6)
Two of the most experienced welterweights divide the main card as Kevin Holland and Santiago Ponzinibbio step inside the octagon.
Holland comes in on a two-fight losing streak, but one of those fights against Chimaev should have an asterisk as Holland took the fight on day’s notice. His last fight against Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson headlined a fight night in December - which did not disappoint - earning fight of the night honors. The two refused to wrestle even as one got knocked down, so expect Holland to stay on his feet and box.
Ponzinibbio hails from a kickboxing background and will have his hands full with a desperate Holland. Ponzinibbio faced his own two-fight losing streak, but his last fight finished Alex Morono in the third round. He showed resilience after getting knocked down, but getting knocked down is an issue in itself.
Holland has heavy, hard-hitting hands. If Ponzinibbio decides to stay on his feet, this should be a slugfest.
My pick: Kevin Holland
Raul Rosas Jr. (7-0) vs. Christian Rodriguez (8-1)
Raul Rosas Jr. makes his pay-per-view debut in what should be an entertaining bout with Christian Rodriguez.
Rosas Jr. leads the main card after becoming the youngest fighter in UFC history to win his debut match. Since he arrived from DWCS in September, the 18-year-old Rosas Jr. has picked up plenty of fans, especially after his first-round submission finish at the end of 2022. What's certain is Rosas Jr. is looking to take things to the ground, totaling five takedowns in his UFC debut and DWCS appearance.
Another DWCS grad, Rodriguez, has a chance to spoil Rosas Jr. and his unbeaten streak and is being looked over a little too much for my liking. Rosas Jr. enters as the clear fan favorite, possessing superior grappling skills, but Rodriguez could be a test on the feet.
We haven’t seen Rosas Jr. get in a boxing match, but if he can put Rodriguez on his back, another win should be in store.
My pick: Raul Rosas Jr.
You can watch the early prelims (6 PM EST) on UFC Fight Pass and ESPN+, the prelims (8 PM EST) on ESPN and ESPN+, and order the main card (10 PM EST) on ESPN+.