Former two-division UFC champion turned broadcaster and analyst Daniel Cormier gave an in-depth breakdown of the UFC 281 main event on Thursday.
UFC 281 takes place at Madison Square Garden in New York City on Saturday and his headlined by a middleweight title bout between champion Israel Adesanya and Alex Pereira. Pereira holds two wins over Adesanya in kickboxing, including by knockout in their second fight.
Adesanya enters the bout as the favorite and is the more experienced mixed martial artist. Saturday’s main event will be Pereira’s eighth professional MMA fight. Cormier gave his thoughts on the matchup during Thursday’s UFC New York City Media Day.
“Generally, you’re telling Izzy’s opponents, as an analyst, I’m like, make it boring because when you make it boring you’re in the fight. it’s that simple,” Cormier said.
“Yoel Romero made it boring and he lost three rounds to two,” continued Cormier. “There has never been a more clear indicator of how you should fight Israel Adesanya than Robert Whittaker between fight one and two. Kelvin Gastelum is the only person that survived when he’s been a bit reckless, and then, by the end of the fifth round, he was about to get finished.
“You can only do so much against Adesanya. You have to be patient. You have to be okay with the crowd not really enjoying the fight because if you do too much you end up like Robert fight one where he got destroyed in two rounds. In fight two he fought more patient, lost three rounds to two … If you fight a lot you end up like Paulo Costa. It’s not on Izzy. It’s on his opponents, and the smart opponents need to be in a boring fight with Adesanya. He’s too good a counter striker.”
Pereira is also a counter striker, and a very high level kickboxer that’s been in the ring with Adesanya twice. Cormier believes Pereira can defeat Adesanya but he’s going to have to change the strategy that he had in the kickboxing bouts.
“He’s a counter striker himself, so it’s going to be who can set the trap. I think for Pereira, what’s important for Alex is winning the moments that aren’t necessarily big,” Cormier said. “Just those big explosive moments is kickboxing, that’s where Pereira has won. He knocked him out, but if you look at over the entirety of those fights Adesanya has a lot of success.
“If you’re not winning those in-betweens, you’re losing the fight. I think Alex needs to have made some adjustments to win those moments where big things aren’t happening so Izzy isn’t just kind of going away with rounds.”