There are a few cards a year that fans look at on paper and know will be a showstopper, UFC 287 in Miami Florida, is one of those special fight cards. With straight-up exciting fights, to legacy and career-defining fights, this is not only a fun card, but an important one for the structure and future of the sport. So let’s take a deeper look at five of the most important fights on the card.
- Raul Rosas Jr. vs. Christian Rodriguez-The youngest fighter on the UFC roster, 18-year-old Raul Rosas Jr. returns for his biggest test yet against the 8-1 Christian Rodriguez. Rosas was able to make quick work in his UFC debut against Jay Perrin, getting the win by first-round submission in an ultra-impressive performance. But Perrin was 10-6 and thoroughly outmatched, this fight there is a real threat for Rosas as Rodriguez is a very good fighter and only has one loss which came in his UFC debut to Jonathan Pearce who hasn’t lost a fight since 2019. Quite frankly Rosas has got to come in prepared for a tough fight, and if he makes any mistakes or comes in too confident, Rodriguez could make it a long night for Rosas. But if Rosas is able to get the win, especially a finish, it is fair to say he is absolutely the real deal in the 135 lb division.
- Kevin Holland vs. Santiago Ponzinibbio-Kevin Holland has turned into one of the UFC’s biggest stars as of late, and he takes on veteran and long-time contender Santiago Ponzinibbio. Holland’s last two fights have not gone his way with him facing Khamzat Chimaev on short notice and standing virtually no chance. Then next fought Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson and lost in a fight of the year contender due to a corner stoppage because of a broken hand for Holland. Ponzinibbio has fallen off the radar a bit as of late as he has lost two of his last three fights with two of them coming by close split decisions. Ponzinibbio’s last fight against Alex Morono was not going his way in the first two rounds and it looked as if another loss was coming on the way before Ponzinibbio put Morono’s lights out in the third. Holland will look to put together another superstar performance and get back on the winning side of things, while Ponzinibbio with a win could propel his stardom and get himself back in the hunt at 170 lbs.
- Adrian Yanez vs. Rob Font-If you are a fan looking for a barn burner matchup, this is the definition of that as we have the serious fight of the night potential for this 135 lb fight. Adrian Yanez is one of the rising stars in the bantamweight division and has put on showstopping performances multiple times already in his UFC career, his best being in his last fight against Tony Kelley. Yanez knocked out Kelley in a street fighter-like finish, then gave Kelley the double fingers due to their pre-fight beef, in which Kelley flipped off Yanez at the weigh-ins. Rob Font is a veteran and perennial top 10 contender in the 135 lb division. However, Font’s last two fights have shown a major issue in his game being his durability as against Jose Aldo and Marlon “Chito” Vera he was hurt and knocked down multiple times. But when Font wasn’t getting hurt and wobbled, for the most part, he was winning the fights and the exchanges, but against a fighter like Yanez it is likely he gets tagged a bit, and with Yanez’s power that could lead to a long night for Font.
- Gilbert Burns vs. Jorge Masvidal-The Miami crowd is sure to be absolutely losing it for this fight as Miami-Dade-based fighter Jorge Masvidal faces Gilbert Burns. Burns’s fight against Khamazt Chimaev was arguably the best fight of 2022 where Burns showed not only would he fight anyone, but he could compete with anyone as he did lose but he gave Chimaev a run for his money. Burns was able to show off a marvelous performance in his last fight however, easily dismantling Neil Magny in a round, which has given him a lot of good momentum into this fight. Masvidal meanwhile has lost 3 fights in a row, two being to former champ Kamaru Usman, with the second of those losses coming by a devastating knockout. While his last loss came at the hands of arch-rival Colby Covington which arguably was the worst loss of his career due to the stacks leading up to the fight and the dominant fashion in which he lost. But Masvidal has had moments like this in his over a 20-year career before, but this is likely his last opportunity at going for a UFC title, and Masvidal has stated that if he doesn’t win this fight, he may very well hang up the gloves for good.
Alex Pereira vs. Israel Adesayna-Now one of the highest stakes and legacy-defining rematches we have seen in quite some time goes down with Israel Adesayna and Alex Pereira. Izzy lost his belt after being the long-reigning champion of the 185 lb division to Pereira in November. But the story didn’t just start there as Adesayna is 0-3 against Alex with two being in Kickboxing, his second loss in Kickboxing coming by an absolutely vicious knockout. Pereira almost seems like the boogeyman to Adesayna as he chased him all the way to MMA, and now looks to end the rivalry once and for all. Meanwhile, Adesanya has an opportunity to show his mental toughness and perseverance if he were to get the win Saturday. He could get the monkey off his back and possibly if there were another rematch down the line, finally settle the score. But that in itself is forward thinking but it shows the stakes of this match, and it’s going to not only be a great fight, but a great card overall for the fans at home and in Miami Beach for the fights.