UFC 281 Sleeper Picks

By Jeff Stinger

After the immense success of UFC 280, UFC 281 arguably has an even better card on tap with two title bouts and superstars in each of the main event’s five matches. Not only is this week’s entire card going to be stacked, but it’s also ripe with underdog-winning potential across the board.

Nitrobetting is here to train bettors in the realm of combat sports with in-depth coverage of the latest UFC events. This time, let’s take a closer look at the three best sleeper candidates to win their respective bouts in UFC 281: Adesanya vs. Pereira, as well as their corresponding MMA odds to win the latest premium live MMA event set to take place in Madison Square Garden.

Top UFC 281 Sleeper Picks

READ MORE: Adesanya vs. Pereira UFC 281 Odds and Preview

Carla Esparza vs. Zhang Weili // Women’s Strawweight Title Bout

  • UFC 281 Odds: Carla Esparza (+276) // Zhang Weili (-333)

Rarely do we have an incumbent champion come into a title fight as an underdog, but that is the case for Women’s Strawweight champion Carla Esparza. The UFC’s inaugural strawweight champ is on a six-win tear that was capped off with her stunning upset of Rose Namajunas in May to signal the beginning of her second title run. Many consider China’s Zhang Weili to be the better fighter in this matchup, although it’s worth noting that Zhang’s two defeats in the UFC came against Namajunas herself.

UFC 281 Betting Pick: Michael Chandler

Michael Chandler vs. Dustin Poirier

  • UFC 281 Odds: Michael Chandler (+185) // Dustin Poirier (-217)
There’s a lot of animosity between Michael Chandler and Dustin Poirier leading up to their fight in MSG this Saturday. Poirier is a crowd favorite with tons of epic UFC matches under his belt already and enters his fight against “Iron” Mike with a chip on his shoulder having lost his title fight against Charles Oliveira. Chandler, meanwhile, only has four bouts in the Octagon with a 3-2 record. However, he’s the one with more momentum after picking up a victory over former lightweight champ Tony Ferguson this past May. In hindsight, Poirier’s last three wins aren’t as convincing, either, with a pair of wins over an over-the-hill Conor McGregor and a victory over the similarly declining Dan Hooker. Bantamweight Bout: Frankie Edgar

Frankie Edgar vs. Chris Gutierrez

  • UFC 281 Odds: Frankie Edgar (+189) // Chris Gutierrez (-233)

Consider this as a sentimental sleeper pick for the great Frankie Edgar who, at 41 years of age, is on borrowed time in the UFC. “The Answer” has been befuddled by his opponents for the past three years, going just 1-4 during this stretch near the twilight of his celebrated career. Boston native Chris Gutierrez, on the other hand, has six victories and one draw since his first official UFC fight in 2019. Gutierrez has 10 fewer years of wear and tear on his body as well, but maybe Edgar still has one surprise win up his sleeve before calling it quits; similar to his split-decision victory over Pedro Munhoz back in August 2020 as Frankie’s bantamweight debut that also earned him Fight of the Night honors.

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*All odds stated are subject to change without prior notice