Monday, November 28, 2022

UFC 281 Performance Bonus Winners

UFC 281 delivered on fan expectations as one of the best fight cards of the entire year. The event saw a promotional record of seven fights end inside the first round, and there were only three bouts that made it to the scorecards. With so many notable performances to choose from, the UFC elected to award the night’s bonuses to the most significant fights at the top of the card.

Performances Of The Night

The UFC 281 co-main event featured Carla Esparza making the first defense of her strawweight title after claiming the belt for a second time at UFC 274.

“The Cookie Monster” lost the title to Joanna Jędrzejczyk in 2015 after becoming the division’s inaugural champion, but unfortunately her second reign ended the same way when she took on former champion Weili Zhang.

Although Zhang had the clear striking advantage heading into the fight, Ezparza’s UFC career had largely been built on outwrestling larger women. That didn’t end up being the case against Zhang, who used both strength and technical skill to handle the 35-year-old until the Chinese fighter secured a rear-naked choke just a minute into the second round.

Even though she was a sizeable favorite heading into the fight, most fans wouldn’t have expected “Magnum” to defeat Esparza via submission. In addition to reclaiming the strawweight title, the 33-year-old also earned a Performance of the Night bonus.

The main event of UFC 281 had one of the most fascinating storylines for a matchup in recent memory, as Israel Adesanya was defending his middleweight title against former kickboxing rival Alex Pereira.

“Poatan” only entered the UFC in 2021 with a handful of MMA bouts under his belt, leading many to believe that the more experienced Adesanya would get the better of the Brazilian.

Although Pereira had moments of success throughout the fight, things looked to be going the way of “The Last Stylebender” heading into the final round.

Knowing that he was likely down on the scorecards, the Brazilian rocked Adesanya before pouring on strikes against the cage to end things with just under three minutes remaining in the fight.

Winning a UFC title in just your seventh MMA bout isn’t something that happens every day, and it was no surprise when Pereira was awarded an extra $50K for a tremendous performance.

Fight Of The Night

There’s an argument to be made that UFC 281’s Fight of the Night was already decided after just a single round of action.

Fans had already circled the main card bout between Michael Chandler and Dustin Poirier as a can’t-miss fight promising nonstop action, but somehow the lightweights still managed to surpass those expectations.

Those familiar with Chandler know that he typical starts fights very quickly, and this bout with Poirier was no exception. The 36-year-old battered the former interim champion with some big strikes before landing a takedown, but things took a turn in the final minute of the round when Poirier scored a knockdown.

Perhaps looking to fight a bit more tactically, “Iron” went for an early takedown in the second round. The result was a largely dominant five minutes for Chandler where he landed ground strikes while looking for a submission, which set up a third round where both men knew the scores could be even.

Poirier took the initiative early in the final round, but a clearly fatigued Chandler managed to get ahold of one of his legs to land a huge takedown. “The Diamond” refused to have a repeat of the previous round and quickly reversed the former Bellator champion before getting to his back. After a brief struggle for position, Poirier finally secured a rear-naked choke and forced a tap from Chandler.

Most fans had already labeled this matchup as a likely Fight of the Night heading into UFC 281, and considering the back-and-forth action both men provided they more than earned their $50K bonuses.

What are your thoughts on the bonus winners from UFC 281?