UFC 281 play-by-play and live results – MMA Junkie

NEW YORK – MMA Junkie is on scene and reporting live from Saturday’s UFC 281 event, and you can join us for live play-by-play and official results.
UFC 281 takes place Saturday at Madison Square Garden in New York. The main card airs on pay-per-view following prelims on ESPNews and early prelims on ESPN+.
In the main event, middleweight champion Israel Adesanya (23-1 MMA, 12-1 UFC) puts his title on the line against challenger Alex Pereira (6-1 MMA, 3-0 UFC), who holds two kickboxing wins over him. In the co-feature, women’s strawweight champion Carla Esparza (19-6 MMA, 10-4 UFC) defends the belt for the first time in her second stint as champ against former titleholder Zhang Weili (22-3 MMA, 6-2 UFC), who is a 4-1 favorite to reclaim the title.
In addition, former Bellator champ Michael Chandler (23-7 MMA, 2-2 UFC) takes on former UFC interim titleholder Dustin Poirier (28-7 MMA, 20-6 UFC) in a key lightweight bout and former 155-pound champ Frankie Edgar (24-10-1 MMA, 18-10-1 UFC) fights for what is expected to be the final time when he meets Chris Gutierrez (18-3-2 MMA, 6-1-1 UFC) at bantamweight.
Follow along with our round-by-round updates and official results beginning at approximately 6 p.m. ET for the early prelims on ESPN+, 8 p.m. ET for the prelims on ESPNews and 10 p.m. ET for the main card on pay-per-view.
To discuss the show, be sure to check out our UFC 281 discussion thread. You can also get behind-the-scenes coverage and other event notes from on-site reporters Mike Bohn (@MikeBohn), Nolan King (@mma_kings) and Ken Hathaway (@kenshathaway) on Twitter.
Enjoy the fights, everyone.
Round 1 – Here we go with the first fight of the night. Ulberg staying on the outside and using a lot of movement here. He hops in and out as he picks his shots. Big leg kicks land for Ulberg. Negumereanu is chasing, growing frustrated, as he’s unable to land him. Solid jabs by Ulberg. Oh! Ulbeg catches Negumereanu with a huge left as he looked to close the distance. The fight is over. Monster performance.
Result: Carlos Ulberg def. Nicolae Negumereanu via knockout (punches) – Round 1, 3:44
Recap: Carlos Ulberg kicks off UFC 281 with a bang, faceplants Nicolae Negumereanu with brutal knockout
Photos: Carlos Ulberg def. Nicolae Negumereanu at UFC 281: Best photos
Records: Carlos Ulberg (7-1 MMA, 3-1 UFC), Nicolae Negumereanu (13-2 MMA, 4-2 UFC)
Division: Light heavyweight
Broadcast: ESPN+
Referee: Kevin MacDonald
Round 1 – And they touch gloves. Jackson closes the distance on Arce and pins him against the cage. Jackson lands knees to the leg and body from the clinch. The crowd is booing. Jackson controlling Arce, but not doing much damage. The referee splits them up and resets the fight. Two minutes left. Arce now pressuring Jackson, landing good jabs. One minute left. Jackson misses a shot, Arce ducks under and gets a takedown in the final seconds. Close round. Not much happened.
MMA Junkie scores it 10-9, Arce.
Round 2 – Just like Round 1, Arce chasing down Jackson here. Arce is not landing a ton, as Jackson is solid defensively, but Jackson has no output so far. Good jab by Arce. Arce continues to press the action here and be the more offensive fighter. Jackson need to up the output here. One minute left. Jackson ties up Arce and presses him against the cage. Good takedown defense by Arce so far. The bell rings, Jackson unable to get the takedown.
MMA Junkie scores the round 10-9, Arce.
Round 3 – Oh! A jab from Jackson drops Arce in the first seconds of the round. Jackson follows through and is now on top, landing shots. Arce seems to have recovered now and is attacking with submissions from the guard. Arce slaps a brief triangle, but Jackson gets out. Three minutes left. Jackson not doing much damage, just controlling and defending any grappling attack from Arce. Arce gets back to his feet. Two minutes left. Arce attacking here, but not much landing. One minute left. Good right hand by Jackson. Not much action here. The bell rings.
MMA Junkie scores the round 10-9, Jackson. Overall 29-28, Arce.
Result: Montel Jackson def. Julio Arce via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-29)
Photos: Montel Jackson def. Julio Arce at UFC 281: Best photos
Records: Montel Jackson (12-2 MMA, 6-2 UFC), Julio Arce (18-6 MMA, 5-4 UFC)
Division: Bantamweight
Broadcast: ESPN+
Referee: Marc Goddard
Judging: Bryan Miner, Sal D’Amato 30-27. Dough Crosby 29-28.
Round 1 – What! Both fighters connect with left hooks and they both get dropped. They’re back on the feet, and it’s a wild one. Trizano pressuring Choi here. Trizano drops Choi with a clean right hand. Trizano all over Choi. Solid ground-and-pound by Trizano. Choi gets up quickly. He seems to be ok. Three minutes left. Good jab by Trizano. Another one. Choi is bleeding from his nose. Now Choi wobbles Trizano. Oh! Choi is full attack, marching forward and swinging wild. Nothing seemed to connect clean from that follow-up attack. One minute left. Huge left-hand drops Choi. Trizano lands a few follow-up shots and the fight is over. Wow.
Result: Michael Trizano def. Seungwoo Choi via knockout (punches) – Round 1, 4:51
Recap: Michael Trizano KOs Seungwoo Choi to finish off insane one-round war
Photos: Michael Trizano def. Seungwoo Choi at UFC 281: Best photos
Records: Michael Trizano (10-3 MMA, 4-3 UFC), Seungwoo Choi (10-6 MMA, 3-5 UFC)
Division: Featherweight
Broadcast: ESPN+
Referee: Kevin MacDonald
Round 1 – Kowalkiewicz immediately takes on the pressure fighter role. She’s non-stop moving forward. And a takedown for the former UFC title challenger. Kowalkiewicz now takes Juarez’s back. Three minutes left. Juarez tries to scramble out, but Kowalkiewicz maintains position. No ground-and-pound from Kowalkiewicz here. It’s mainly hand fighting. Two minutes left. Kowalkiewicz in complete control here. Juarez is able to get back to her feet in the final 20 seconds, but nothing much transpires before the bell rings.
MMA Junkie scores the round 10-9, Kowalkiewicz.
Round 2 – Again, Kowalkiewicz pressuring here while Juarez stays on the outside. Good combo lands by Kowalkiewicz. Juarez keeping the fight on the feet, taking good angles to avoid being cut off in the octagon, but she’s not landing much. Three minutes left. Oh! Big right hand by Juarez. Kowalkiewicz eats it well. Good jab by Juarez. She’s starting to find her range. Another jab by Juarez. And Kowalkiewicz lands a clean right. Good knee by Kowalkiewicz. Juarez upping her offense here. The bell rings.
MMA Junkie scores the round 10-9, Juarez.
Round 3 – Interesting fight here. Good jab by Kowalkiewicz. Oh and a nice body hook by Juarez. Juarez clearly with the higher output here. Another big right hand connects for Juarez. Kowalkiewicz seems to be slowing down and Juarez is getting an early lead here. Another big right hand by Juarez. Two minutes left. Juarez is out landing Kowalkiewicz here. She also has the bigger shots. One minute left. Kowalkiewicz takes down Juarez. Juarez right back up. She now pressures Kowalkiewicz against the cage. They break off. Final seconds. Nice closing sequence lands for Juarez.
MMA Junkie scores the round 10-9, Juarez. Overall 29-28, Juarez.
Result: Karolina Kowalkiewicz def. Silvana Gomez Juarez via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Photos: Karolina Kowalkiewicz def. Silvana Gomez Juarez at UFC 281: Best photos
Records: Karolina Kowalkiewicz (14-7 MMA, 7-7 UFC), Silvana Gomez Juarez (11-5 MMA, 1-3 UFC)
Division: Women’s strawweight
Broadcast: ESPN+
Referee: Marc Goddard
Judging: Mike Bell, Sal D’AMato, David Tirelli 29-28.
Round 1 – Azaitar taking the outside of the cage here, while Frevola pressures. Good jab by Frevola. Azaitar comes in wreckless and gets knocked out clean. He’s out. Massive counter right hand by Frevola. Wow.
Result: Matt Frevola def. Ottman Azaitar via knockout (punch) – Round 1, 2:30
Recap: Matt Frevola steamrolls Ottman Azaitar with three-punch knockout
Photos: Matt Frevola def. Ottman Azaitar at UFC 281: Best photos
Records: Matt Frevola (10-3-1 MMA, 4-3-1 UFC), Ottman Azaitar (13-1 MMA, 2-1 UFC)
Division: Lightweight
Broadcast: ESPN+
Referee: Dan Miragliotta
Round 1 – Petroski and Turman and throwing heat! Big power from both guys. Big right hand by Petroski. Turman with a couple of hard leg kick. Petroski appears to have wobbled Turman with a right hand, but he’s quickly recovered. Hard body kick by Petroski. Petroski shoots for a takedown, he briefly gets it, but Turman gets back up. Petroski now pressing Turman against the cage. Turman breaks free. One minute left. Good exchanges from both. Petroski closes the round with a takedown. Close round.
MMA Junkie scores the round 10-9, Petroski.
Round 2 – Turman with very hard leg kicks to get the round started. Petroski is feeling it. Nice right hand by Turman. And Petroski gets the fight to the ground. Solid control here. Petroski briefly gets the back and attempts a rear-naked choke, but Turman defends well and gets back to his feet in a scramble. Takedown now by Turman. Petroski looks tired. Two minutes left. Petroski back up, but he’s being presses against the cage. Petroski reverses the position and lands on top. He moves to full mount now. One minute left. Petroski controlling from half-guard, but he’s not landing many strikes. Petroski lands a few elbows before the bell rings.
MMA Junkie scores the round 10-9, Petroski.
Round 3 – Petroski shoots for a takedown right off the bat. He takes down Turamn. Turman back up, but gets slammed. Petroski sinks in a guillotine choke. It looks tight. Turman rolls over and Petroski now on mount. Turman gets out, but till mounted. Turman recovers guard. Petroski in full control here. He lands ground-and-pound, but nothing that seems to hurt Turman. Two minutes left. Turman seems to be fading. Turman keeps finding his way back to the feet, but gets slammed back to the ground. One minute left. Petroski maintains top position all the way through.
MMA Junkie scores the round 10-9, Petroski. Overall 30-27, Petroski.
Result: Andre Petroski def. Wellington Turman via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
Photos: Andre Petroski def. Wellington Turman at UFC 281: Best photos
Records: Andre Petroski (9-1 MMA, 4-0 UFC), Wellington Turman (18-6 MMA, 3-4 UFC)
Division: Middleweight
Broadcast: ESPNews/ESPN+
Referee: Keith Peterson
Judging: Bryan Miner 29-28, Doug Crosby, David Tirelli 30-27.
Round 1 – McCann with a one, two. Blanchfield responds with a solid leg kick. McCann is throwing heat right off the bat. Solid jabs by Blanchfield. And Blanchfield lands a takedown, moves to side control. Blanchfield puts McCann in a crucifix and is raining punches and elbows to the head. McCann can’t get out, she’s completely trapped. Two minutes left. Blanchfield attacking the arm with a kimura. It looks tight. And McCann gets out. Again, Blanchfield goes for the kimura, and she gets it! There’s the tap.
Result: Erin Blanchfield def. Molly McCann via submission (kimura) – Round 1, 3:37
Recap: Erin Blanchfield torques Molly McCann into nasty submission to finish off one-sided performance
Photos: Erin Blanchfield def. Molly McCann at UFC 281: Best photos
Records: Erin Blanchfield (10-1 MMA, 4-0 UFC), Molly McCann (13-5 MMA, 6-4 UFC)
Division: Women’s flyweight
Broadcast: ESPNews/ESPN+
Referee: Kevin MacDonald
Round 1 – Big fight here at light heavyweight. Oh! And Spann hurts Reyes with a right hand. Reyes is wobbled. He appears to have recovered. And Spann knocks out Reyes with a jab. Unreal. Devastating finish.
Result: Ryan Spann def. Dominick Reyes via knockout (punch) – Round 1, 1:20
Recap: Ryan Spann destroys Dominick Reyes with vicious 80-second knockout
Photos: Ryan Spann def. Dominick Reyes at UFC 281: Best photos
Records: Ryan Spann (21-7 MMA, 7-2 UFC), Dominick Reyes (12-4 MMA, 6-4 UFC)
Division: Light heavyweight
Broadcast: ESPNews/ESPN+
Referee: Marc Goddard
Round 1 – Nice jab by Moicano gets things started. Moicano pressing Riddell here. Big head kick connects by Moicano. Riddell seems stunned. Riddell now closes the distance and presses Moicano against the cage, but Moicano breaks away. Riddell is bleeding from his nose. Stiff jab lands by Moicano. He’s looking sharp tonight. Another jab by the Brazilian. Moicano takes the fight to the ground and gets Riddell’s back. He sinks in the rear-naked choke, and it’s over! There’s the tap.
Result: Renato Moicano def. Brad Riddell via submission (rear-naked choke) – Round 1, 3:20
Recap: Renato Moicano quickly submits Brad Riddell, cuts all-time promo in expletive-filled Joe Rogan interview
Photos: Renato Moicano def. Brad Riddell at UFC 281: Best photos
Records: Renato Moicano (17-5-1 MMA, 9-5 UFC), Brad Riddell (10-4 MMA, 4-3 UFC)
Division: Lightweight
Broadcast: ESPNews/ESPN+
Referee: Dan Miragliotta
Round 1 – And the main card is underway. Hooker with a couple of leg kicks early on. Both fighters very tentative. Puelles has yet to open up with his striking. And Puelles rolls to a heel hook. He’s got the leg. Hooker surviving. Puelles still fishing for the submission. Two minutes left. Puelles is still attacking the legs. Puelles gets out and gets back to his feet. Hooker connects with a right hand. Puelles drops to his back in the final seconds to spark grappling, and the crowd boos. The bell rings.
MMA Junkie scores the round 10-9, Puelles.
Round 2 – Good body kick Puelles. Hooker connects with a clean right hand. Puelles with a couple of failed takedowns. Hooker clearly the much better striker here. He’s connecting often on Puelles. Puelles keeps going to his back and the crowd boos. Good left hook by Puelles. Hooker connects with a good body kick. Puelles seems tired. A body kick drops Puelles and he stays down. The referee waves off the fight.
Result: Dan Hooker def. Claudio Puelles via TKO (leg kicks) – Round 2, 4:06
Recap: Dan Hooker avoids Claudio Puelles’ awkward ground attacks, scores stiff body kick TKO finish
Photos: Dan Hooker def. Claudio Puelles at UFC 281: Best photos
Records: Dan Hooker (22-12 MMA, 12-8 UFC), Claudio Puelles (12-3 MMA, 5-2 UFC)
Division: Lightweight
Broadcast: Pay-per-view
Referee: Keith Peterson
Round 1 – Gutierrez right off the bat looking to land leg kicks. Gutierrez connects on Edgar with a spinning back-fist. Edgar eats it well. Hard leg kicks by Gutierrez. Edgar chasing down Gutierrez here. And Edgar eats a flying knee, and he’s out cold. Brutal KO by Gutierrez.
Result: Chris Gutierrez def. Frankie Edgar via knockout (knee) – Round 1, 2:01
Recap: Frankie Edgar suffers brutal knockout loss to Chris Gutierrez in final MMA fight
Photos: Chris Gutierrez def. Frankie Edgar at UFC 281: Best photos
Records: Chris Gutierrez (19-3-2 MMA, 7-1-1 UFC), Frankie Edgar (24-11-1 MMA, 18-11-1 UFC)
Division: Bantamweight
Broadcast: Pay-per-view
Referee: Kevin MacDonald
Round 1 – Here we go! Chandler with a big right. Poirier with a big left. A couple of consecutive body kicks land for Chandler. Oh! Big right hand by Chandler. Chandler is putting on the pressure here. So far, Poirier taking it well. Chandler wobbles Poirier with a right! He backs him against the cage. He’s going all out on Poirier. Chandler now shoots for a takedown and gets it. Things cooling down a bit as they battle for position. One minute left. Poirier gets back to his feet. Oh! Poirier wobbles Chandler. Poirier all over him. He’s hurt. The bell rings. What a round.
MMA Junkie scores the round 10-9, Chandler.
Round 2 – Chandler hits a combo, closes the distance and takes down Poirier. Chandler working with ground-and-pound from guard. Chandler is bleeding a lot from his nose. Poirier with a triangle attempt, but doesn’t get close. Chandler gets the back now from turtle position against the cage. Three minutes left. Chandler working the rear-naked choke, but doesn’t seem to have it tight. No submission. Chandler in complete control here, but not causing much damage. Chandler is now in Poirier’s guard. One minute left. Chandler landing big shots from the top. Solid ground-and-pound. Chandler controls the action until the bell.
MMA Junkie scores the round 10-9, Chandler.
Round 3 – Final round. Here we go. Good leg kick by Poirier. Poirier is chasing down Chandler here, but nothing landing clean. Chandler goes for the takedown, lifts Poirier, slams him, but gets reversed. Now Poirier has Chandler’s back. Three minutes left. Poirier locks in the rear-naked choke. An there’s the tap! What a comeback.
Result: Dustin Poirier def. Michael Chandler via submission (rear-naked choke) – Round 3, 2:00
Recap: Dustin Poirier caps off instant classic against Michael Chandler with third round submission
Photos: Dustin Poirier def. Michael Chandler at UFC 281: Best photos
Records: Dustin Poirier (29-7 MMA, 21-6 UFC), Michael Chandler (23-8 MMA, 2-3 UFC)
Division: Lightweight
Broadcast: Pay-per-view
Referee: Dan Miragliotta
Round 1 – Esparza pressuring the champ here early. Good jab by Esparza. Esparza staying on the outside, as Weili chases. Weili throwing big leg kicks. Big right hand and then big body kick by Weili. Esparza goes for the takedown, gets it, but gets reversed. Weili has Esparza’s back. She loses it. Now Esparza on top landing ground-and-pound. One minute left. Weili back on her feet. Big body kick by Weili. Esparza goes for the takedown, but gets out scrambled. Weili is on top landing big shots. Esparza finds her way back to the feet and the bell rings shortly after. Fun round.
MMA Junkie scores the round 10-9, Weili.
Round 2 – Good jab by Weili. A big right-hand now by Weili. Esparza shoots for a takedown. They scramble. Weili ends up on the bottom but in a crucifix, trapping Esparza’s arms. Weili going for the rear-naked choke. There’s the tap!
Result: Zhang Weili def. Carla Esparza via submission (rear-naked choke) – Round 2, 1:05 – to win strawweight title
Recap: Zhang Weili wins back title with unusual rear-naked choke submission of Carla Esparza
Photos: Zhang Weili def. Carla Esparza at UFC 281: Best photos
Records: Zhang Weili (23-3 MMA, 7-2 UFC), Carla Esparza (19-7 MMA, 10-5 UFC)
Division: Women’s strawweight
Broadcast: Pay-per-view
Referee: Keith Peterson
Round 1 – Main event time! Both fighters being very cautious here. Big leg kicks from Pereira. A good jab by Adesanya. Both landing single shots here. Big straight right by Adesanya, it backs up Pereira. A complete chest match here. Pereira is mainly the one moving forward and pressuring. One minute left. Pereira letting loose now. Several big shots come close to landing. Adesanya briefly clinches with Pereira, They break away. Oh! Adesanya tags and wobbles Pereira with a two punch combo just as the bell rings. He looks in bad shape.
MMA Junkie scores the round 10-9, Adesanya.
Round 2 – Pereira looks to be ok. He’s marching forward. Good body shot by Pereira. Stiff jab lands by Adesanya. Now Pereira connects with a left! It seems to have tagged Adesanya. Pereira now clinches Adesanya against the cage. Adesanya reverses the position. Adesanya attempts a takedown but fails. Good right hand by Adesanya in the break. Two minutes left. Good series of jabs by Pereira. They land hard on Adesanya.  Beautiful knee by Pereira. Adesanya clinches him against the cage. One minute left. Very close round. Adesanya trying to take down Pereira, but unable to. Pereira gets a double leg in the final seconds. Wow.
MMA Junkie scores the round 10-9, Pereira.
Round 3 – Very competitive stuff here. These two are exchanging beautifully. Big right by Adesanya. Pereia with a good body shot, followed by a good body kick. Now Adesanya takes down Pereira. He’s got top control from turtle position. Three minutes left. Adesanya landing some good shots from top. Pereira seems to be bleeding from his ear. Good control by the champion. Two minutes left. Pereira goes for a leg lock, but then bails. Adesanya still on top, but now in guard. Decent shots from top by Adesanya. One minute left. Pereira pushes off Adesanya. Adesanya standing over him, not letting him back up. Adesanya hits a nice axe kick from the top as the bell rings.
MMA Junkie scores the round 10-9, Adesanya.
Round 4 – They trade leg kicks. Stiff jab by Adesanya, then a right. Adesanya with another right hand and then a body kick. Pereisa seems to have slowed down a bit. Adesanya with a much higher output. Adesanya ties up Pereira and presses him against the cage. Two minutes left. They break away. Pereira is now upping the attack. Good leg kick by Pereira. They clinch again. Adesanya attempting a takedown, but unable to. They break away. Pereira back with the pressure looks to land a big bomb in the final seconds, but misses.
MMA Junkie scores the round 10-9, Adesanya.
Round 5 – Pereira is coming on with heat. Big right hand by Pereira. He’s back to pressing Adesanya. Adesanya closes the distance and pins Pereira against the cage. Adesanya throws a leg kick, Pereira blocks it and Adesnaya falls to the canvas. He immediately gets up. He seems ok. Huge left hook by Pereira! Adesanya is wobbled bad! Pereira all over him. He smells blood. The referee jumps in. It’s over. Standing TKO for Pereira.
Result: Alex Pereira def. Israel Adesanya via TKO (punches) – Round 5, 2:01 – to win middleweight title
Recap: Alex Pereira comes from behind, finishes Israel Adesanya again for middleweight title
Photos: Alex Pereira def. Israel Adesanya at UFC 281: Best photos
Records: Alex Pereira (7-1 MMA, 4-0 UFC), Israel Adesanya (23-2 MMA, 12-2 UFC)
Division: Middleweight
Broadcast: Pay-per-view
Referee: Marc Goddard
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