UFC 277: Previewing Julianna Pena vs. Amanda Nunes II and the Rest of the Card
We're still a few weeks out from UFC 277 on July 30 in Dallas, Texas, but it's never too early to start previewing the promotion's pay-per-view offerings.
UFC 277 will be topped by a women's bantamweight title fight between reigning champion Julianna Pena and challenger Amanda Nunes, who holds the promotion's featherweight title. Nunes used to hold the bantamweight title but lost it to Pena via second-round submission in a gargantuan upset in December 2021. Was it a fluke, or does Pena have the former bantamweight queen's number?
Fans will also be treated to an interim flyweight title fight between Brandon Moreno and Kai Kara-France. Moreno, the division's former champion, lost the title to his archrival Deiveson Figueiredo earlier this year but will battle Kara-France for interim gold, while the reigning champ sorts out a contract gripe with the UFC.
Of course, that's not all UFC 277 has to offer. The 13-fight card features some of the UFC's most popular and talented fighters, from flyweight all the way up to heavyweight.
Keep scrolling for a preview of the action to come.
Julianna Pena (12-4) vs. Amanda Nunes (21-5)
As we covered at the top of this article, the UFC 277 main event is all about answering questions.
When Amanda Nunes first met Julianna Pena at UFC 269 last December, she held the promotion's featherweight and bantamweight titles, had soundly beaten every other woman to hold the title in either division and was generally considered the greatest female fighter of all time.
Then Pena, just 2-2 in her last four fights, walloped Nunes to a second-round submission victory that frankly didn't look all that difficult and upended everything we thought we knew.
In the time since Nunes and Pena first met, we've heard plenty of chatter from both camps about the outcome of their fight, and fans are equally divided on what happened that night and why.
There are those who believe Pena simply caught Nunes on a bad night or that the former bantamweight queen had gotten complacent as a product of her dominance. There are others who believe that Pena has Nunes' number.
DraftKings has Nunes as a -285 favorite to reclaim the title and prove her supporters right. But as Pena showed late last year, no outcome is certain in this most perilous of sports.
One way or the other, we should get some answers later this month.
Brandon Moreno (19-6-2) vs. vs. Kai Kara-France (24-9)
Things have gotten a little complicated in the men's flyweight division.
The saga began when Mexico's Brandon Moreno challenged the division's newly-crowned champion Deiveson Figueiredo in December 2020. The pair battled to a draw in one of the year's best fights, forcing an immediate rematch, which went down last year in June.
Moreno decisively won that rematch, totally out-fighting Figueiredo to a third-round submission win. That probably could have been the end of their rivalry for the time being, but the UFC elected to book the pair for a third fight. And of course, because nothing can ever be simple in MMA, Figueiredo defeated Moreno by unanimous decision in another close fight.
We were all hoping for closure on Figueiredo and Moreno's thrilling rivalry, but it will have to wait because the former is currently tied up with some management and contract issues. The good news is that the UFC has created an interim title to keep the division moving in the champion's stead, and it will be up for grabs when Moreno takes on Kai Kara-France in the UFC 277 co-main event.
Kara-France, who trains alongside middleweight king Israel Adesanya in Auckland, New Zealand, has been floating on the cusp of title contention for a long time. However, he only recently became a serious contender with a pair of knockouts over Rogerio Bontorin and former bantamweight champ Cody Garbrandt and a decision defeat of fellow contender Askar Askarov in his last three appearances.
Moreno and Kara-France have actually met once before, back in December of 2019. Moreno won the first encounter by unanimous decision, but it was a close fight, and the DraftKings odds suggest the rematch could be too, as Moreno is just a modest -195 favorite.
One way or the other, the fight should provide some good entertainment while we wait for Figueiredo to get his professional situation sorted.
Other Attractions: Derrick Lewis (26-9) vs. vs. Sergei Pavlovich (15-1)
Houston's Derrick Lewis is one of the most popular fighters in the UFC for a few reasons.
The No. 5-ranked heavyweight contender holds the record for most knockouts in the promotion's history, at 13. He has a very entertaining personality and has given us some of the most memorable one-liners in MMA history. And he's down to fight pretty anybody, any time, which he will once again prove at UFC 277 when he steps into the cage with a fighter ranked six spots below him in Russia's Sergei Pavlovich.
The fight offers little in the way of rewards for Lewis. A win over the division's No. 11 fighter just won't do much to improve his standing in the division. At the same time, it's also extremely risky. Pavlovich, the former Fight Nights Global heavyweight champ, has been beaten just once in MMA.
That loss occurred when he was stopped by former Strikeforce and K-1 champ Alistair Overeem in his UFC debut, which to this day stands out as one of the cruelest matchmakings in MMA history. Make no mistake, he can win this fight, and if he does, he'll become an instant title contender.
Lewis better hope that doesn't happen. A loss would push the 37-year-old to 1-3 in his last four—including a jarring KO loss to Tai Tuivasa in his last appearance—and most likely dash his championship dreams for good.
Best of the Rest
Alexandre Pantoja (24-5) vs. Alex Perez (24-6)
Brandon Moreno and Kai Kara-France aren't the only world-class flyweights competing at UFC 277. Earlier on the main card, the division's fourth-ranked Alexandre Pantoja and sixth-ranked Alex Perez will collide.
Pantoja and Perez were clearly put on the card, so there is somebody to call upon if Moreno or Kara-France doesn't make it to the cage, but their fight is plenty significant too. The winner will be one of the top contenders for the title once Moreno, Kara-France, and the absentee champion Deiveson Figueiredo have sorted out their complicated situation.
Magomed Ankalaev (17-1) vs. Anthony Smith (36-16)
Things have gotten very interesting in the light heavyweight division. With Jon Jones out of the picture, Jiri Prochazka has usurped the throne, and a host of dangerous contenders are waiting for title shots. Chief among them is Russia's Magomed Ankalaev, who, after losing via last-second submission to Paul Craig in his UFC debut, has rattled off eight-straight wins to become his division's No. 4 contender.
He'll look to take a final step into title contention on the UFC 277 main card when he battles former title challenger Anthony Smith, who, after a trio of stoppage wins over Devin Clark, Jimmy Crute and Ryan Spann, is once again in reach of the belt.
Michael Morales (13-0) vs. Ramiz Brahimaj (10-4)
Ecuadorian welterweight Michael Morales looked like a fighter to watch when he picked up a first-round knockout win over the tough Trevin Giles in his UFC debut in January. Of course, there are still some big questions about the 23-year-old, who has now won 10 fights by KO. One of the most pressing is how he will fare when faced with a good grappler. We should get an answer to that question on the UFC 277 undercard when he takes on New York's Ramiz Brahimaj, who has won 10 fights by submission.
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