What’s next for the stars of UFC 281?

By Cole Shelton - November 14, 2022

The UFC returned to Madison Square Garden in New York City, New York for a stacked UFC 281 that saw both titles change hands.

Israel Adesanya Alex Pereira

In the main event, Israel Adesanya was looking to defend his middleweight title against Alex Pereira. The co-main event saw Carla Esparza looking to defend her strawweight belt against Zhang Weili. Also on the main card was a lightweight bout between Dustin Poirier and Michael Chandler.

In the end, it was Pereira who won by fifth-round TKO to become the new middleweight champ while Weili scored a second-round submission to reclaim her strawweight belt. On the main card, Poirier earned a third-round submission over Michael Chandler in the Fight of the Night. Now, after UFC 281, here is what I think should be next for the stars of the card.

Alex Pereira and Israel Adesanya

Alex Pereira is now 3-0 against Israel Adesanya in combat sports and has beaten him twice by knockout.

Usually, when someone is up 3-0 in a series, there is no need to see a fourth fight. Yet, two of the fight were in kickboxing and Adesanya was on his way to defending his title before the fifth-round TKO loss at UFC 281. The fight was also very entertaining and with there being no clear-cut contender, Pereira and Adesanya should run it back sometime in the second quarter of 2023.

Zhang Weili

Zhang Weili is once again the strawweight champion of the world after she beat Carla Esparza at UFC 281. After losing her belt and the rematch to Rose Namajunas, she went out and knocked out Joanna Jedrzjeczyk to earn the title shot against Esparza.

On paper, the trilogy with Namajunas makes sense given the fact ‘Thug’ is 2-0 against her. However, Namajunas should need to get a win, so Zhang should defend her belt against Amanda Lemos next time out who’s coming off a TKO win over Marina Rodriguez.

Carla Esparza

Carla Esparza is a two-time strawweight champion but has never defended the belt, as she suffered stoppage losses in her first attempt in defending.

Esparza is in a weird spot as she has defeated most of the top contenders but a logical next matchup after UFC 281 is to rematch Marina Rodriguez. The two fought to a majority decision, in a fight, many thought Rodriguez should’ve won. The winner would be right back in the title mix while the loser would have to fight down in the ranks and defend their spot.

Dustin Poirier

Dustin Poirier Michael Chandler UFC 281

(via Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

Dustin Poirier returned to the win column at UFC 281 with a submission win over Michael Chandler in a very entertaining fight. It also marked Poirier’s return to the Octagon after an 11-month layoff.

Following the win, Poirier is back in the title picture but his next fight should be a number one contender fight against Beneil Dariush. It’s a fight that can headline a Fight Night card or be on the main card of a pay-per-view.

Michael Chandler

Michael Chandler is now 2-3 in the UFC after his UFC 281 loss but remains one of the best lightweights, and arguably the most exciting. ‘Iron’ will likely take some time off and the fight that makes the most sense is to take on Rafael Fiziev in what would be another firefight. Yet, the wild card is Conor McGregor as if the Irishman does return sometime in the first half of 2023, Chandler should be his opponent.

What do you think should be next for the stars of UFC 281?


Alex Pereira Carla Esparza Dustin Poirier Israel Adesanya Michael Chandler UFC Weili Zhang