Here is a look behind some of the key matchups and fighters heading into UFC 287.
We're now just a few days away from UFC 287, which features a highly anticipated rematch filled with bad blood. With no love lost between them, Alex Pereira and Israel Adesanya will once again clash over the UFC middleweight championship in the main event.
Meanwhile, the co-main event will feature the return of Miami's own Jorge Masvidal, who takes on Gilbert Burns in an important welterweight contenders' battle.
UFC 287 will also feature an exciting matchup in the loaded bantamweight division between Rob Font and Adrian Yanez, as well as the pay-per-view debut of 18-year-old top UFC prospect Raul Rosas Jr.
Here’s a rundown of the storylines, facts, and background behind some of the key fights for UFC 287.
Alex Pereira vs. Israel Adesanya: Does Adesanya finally defeat his boogeyman and recapture the gold? Or does Pereira continue his middleweight takeover?
This will be a rematch of the two's fight at UFC 281 in November. While Adesanya was in control for most of the bout and ahead on the scorecards, Pereira wobbled and finished him in the fifth and final round, capturing the UFC middleweight title in New York's Madison Square Garden.
And while this marks the second time that the two face off in MMA, they previously competed against one another in a pair of kickboxing bouts. The first, which took place in April 2016, saw Pereira win via unanimous decision. The second, which took place in March 2017, saw Pereira knock Adesanya out so badly he needed to be stretchered out of the ring.
While Pereira competed in three MMA fights in Jungle Fight between October 2015 and May 2016, it wasn't until 2020 that his full turn to MMA took effect. After a knockout victory at LFA 95, the former GLORY Kickboxing middleweight and light heavyweight champion signed with the UFC.
Pereira's UFC run saw him finish Andreas Michailidis, earn a decision over Bruno Silva and knock out Sean Strickland before his title win over Adesanya. Pereira became the fastest to go from UFC debut to UFC champion since Brock Lesnar (not counting those who came to the UFC from Strikeforce as champions). Pereira has also earned three Performance of the Night bonuses in his four UFC fights thus far.
Adesanya made his UFC debut as a 10-0 fighter at UFC 221. After five fights, Adesanya defeated Kelvin Gastelum at UFC 236 to become interim UFC middleweight champion — in a fight that earned several Fight of the Year honors for 2019 — before unifying the title by finishing Robert Whittaker at UFC 243.
After that fight, Adesanya successfully defended the middleweight title five times against Yoel Romero, Paulo Costa, Marvin Vettori, Whittaker and Jared Cannonier. Adesanya's first MMA loss came at UFC 259, when he stepped up to light heavyweight to challenge then-UFC champion Jan Blachowicz. Adesanya's loss to Pereira at UFC 281 marked the first time in his MMA career that he was finished.
Adesanya has five Performance of the Night bonuses and two Fight of the Night bonuses to his name. He holds the record for most knockdowns in a UFC title fight and the second-longest winning streak and second-most title fight wins in UFC middleweight history.
Gilbert Burns vs. Jorge Masvidal: All or nothing for "Gamebred"
The potential welterweight championship matchups definitely feel refreshed now that Leon Edwards has solidified himself as the man to beat. And one of those who definitely should feel happy is Gilbert Burns, as he's already close to scoring another crack at becoming champion.
Burns previously challenged for the gold at UFC 258, where he lost to then-champion Kamaru Usman. That snapped a six-fight win streak Burns was on at the time, including an unbeaten run Burns was on after moving up to 170. Since the loss to Usman, Burns has defeated Stephen "Wonderboy" Thompson via decision at UFC 264, dropped a close decision to Khamzat Chimaev at UFC 273 and submitted Neil Magny at UFC 283.
The former multiple-time jiu-jitsu world champion has four Performance of the Night honors, and his fight with Chimaev gave Burns his sole Fight of the Night so far.
Meanwhile, for Jorge Masvidal, the veteran of over 50 fights and 20 years in MMA (10 of which now have come in the UFC), this may be a literal win-or-go home bout — something Masvidal has admitted in the UFC Countdown episode en route to UFC 287. With a win, Masvidal propels himself back into welterweight title contention. With a loss, this may be the end of his road.
Masvidal desperately needs a win in this bout, coming in off three straight losses — two in title fights with Usman and one to Colby Covington. Masvidal hasn't been seen in the Octagon since the loss to Covington at UFC 272 last year. This is quite the dip from Masvidal's magical 2019, where he set the UFC record for the fastest knockout ever and won the BMF belt.
In addition to those accomplishments and his longevity in the sport, Masvidal has earned the Fight of the Night three times and has four performance bonuses to his name. But while he's had plenty of wins and his losses have only come to some of the most recognizable of names, his defeats have also prevented him from reaching the top. And now, this is probably his last chance.
Rob Font vs. Adrian Yanez: Is Yanez ready for the upper echelon of the bantamweight division?
This fight marks the first in about a year for Rob Font, and he'll be coming into it trying to avoid a third straight loss. The former CES featherweight champion, who is 9-5 in the Octagon since his 2014 debut, enters off decision losses to Jose Aldo and Marlon "Chito" Vera. These losses followed a four-fight win streak that Font was on between December 2018 and May 2021.
Font, who is currently the No. 6 bantamweight in the UFC rankings, has three Performance of the Night bonuses and two Fight of the Night bonuses to his credit. Font's fight with Vera saw him set UFC bantamweight records for most strikes landed and attempted in a fight (both significant strikes and total strikes), as well as the pair landing the second-most combined strikes in the history of UFC fights.
Adrian Yanez has simply been on fire since entering the UFC through his 39-second finish of Brady Huang on Dana White's Contender Series (DWCS). Since then, Yanez has quickly made a rise up the ranks, scoring impressive finishes of Victor Rodriguez, Gustavo Lopez, Randy Costa and Tony Kelley, as well as a split-decision win over Davey Grant.
Yanez has earned a bonus in every fight he's been in thus far in the Octagon. His split decision over Grant earned both men Fight of the Night honors, while each of his finishes earned him a performance bonus.
Kevin Holland vs. Santiago Ponzinibbio: A must-win for both?
The last couple of years haven't been the greatest for Kevin Holland. He was the star for the UFC in 2020, scoring five wins in the Octagon that ultimately culminated with a knockout of Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza. Since the start of 2021, however, Holland is 2-4 (1 NC).
Last year did see him pick up finishes of Alex Oliveira and Tim Means. And you can argue there were dubious circumstances to his most recent two losses (the extreme late-notice nature of his fight with Khamzat Chimaev and the broken hand suffered in his loss to Stephen "Wonderboy" Thompson). Regardless, he'll have to prove himself worthy of getting back into the top-15 contention he had at the peak of his rise with a win over the hard-hitting Santiago Ponzinibbio.
Holland's five wins in 2020 earned him the most wins in a calendar year in UFC middleweight division history and tied him for the most wins in a calendar year overall in the UFC with Roger Huerta and Neil Magny. Holland's fight in April 2021 against Marvin Vettori also marked his seventh fight in a 12-month period, which broke the record held by Magny. In addition, Holland owns five Performance of the Night bonuses, and his fight with Thompson earned him his first Fight of the Night honor.
One can argue, however, that Ponzinibbio also needs a win in this fight. After returning to the Octagon at the start of 2021 from a two-year layoff, Ponzinibbio has been knocked out by Li Jingliang, beat Miguel Baeza by decision and dropped split decisions to Geoff Neal and Michel Pereira before his knockout of Alex Morono at UFC 282.
The 36-year-old Ponzinibbio has earned both the Fight of the Night and Performance of the Night bonuses three times.
Raul Rosas Jr. vs. Christian Rodriguez: The UFC strapping a rocket to the 18-year-old prospect?
Taking an 18-year-old and having them open a UFC pay-per-view — in just their second Octagon bout at that — might be questionable. This is especially more so when you've got fight veterans like Kelvin Gastelum, Chris Curtis and Michelle Waterson on the preliminary card.
But this is the reality that we're in. Raul Rosas Jr. is a young, highly-talented prospect, and it seems the UFC machine is fully behind him. And it may seem like the UFC sees a future star with his placement.
After five fights with UWC Mexico between November 2021 and June 2022, Rosas made an appearance on DWCS, where he scored a unanimous decision over Mando Gutierrez. Rosas then made his UFC debut during the preliminary card of UFC 282, defeating Jay Perrin via submission.
His opponent, Christian Rodriguez, is an 8-1 fighter who trains out of Roufusport. The seven fights "CeeRod" had prior to the UFC have taken him around the circuit, competing in Bellator, LFA and the CFFC. Rodriguez even made an appearance on DWCS in his own right, where he defeated Reyes Cortez Jr. via unanimous decision.
Rodriguez's UFC debut in February 2022 saw him drop a decision to Jonathan Pearce (his only loss in MMA to date) but he rebounded in October a first-round submission of Joshua Weems.
Chris Curtis vs. Kelvin Gastelum: Gastelum's last stand?
Hey, remember when Chris Curtis retired from MMA after that whole bizarre thing that happened to him at PFL 7 in 2019? I know this point can be run into the ground, but that's beside the point.
Ever since then, Curtis has been on a heck of a run, with nine wins in his last 10 fights. That's led him to the UFC, where he currently holds a 4-1 record in the Octagon. He'll enter UFC 287 off a second-round knockout of Joaquin Buckley at UFC 282 in December. This win helped him rebound from a loss to Jack Hermansson in July that snapped his winning streak.
Curtis's finishes of Buckley and Brendan Allen have earned him his two UFC Performance of the Night bonuses.
The momentum of Kelvin Gastelum, however, has been the opposite kind of trend. Things have not been the same for him since losing the previously mentioned interim middleweight title fight with Israel Adesanya at UFC 236. That loss started his current run where he's lost five of his last six.
Gastelum comes into this fight off back-to-back decision losses to Robert Whittaker and Jared Cannonier in 2021, halting any momentum he could have gained that year after starting it with a win over Ian Heinisch. Over the past year or so, fights with Nassourdine Imavov and Dricus du Plessis never came to fruition.
Gastelum, who won season 17 of The Ultimate Fighter, has previously earned four Fight of the Night and three Performance of the Night bonuses. He also enters this fight as the No. 15 ranked middleweight, but a loss, combined with his current downward trend, could be devastating for him.