Best Bets for UFC 277: Amanda Nunes vs. Julianna Pena 2
What: UFC 277
Where: American Airlines Center, Dallas
How to Watch: ESPN+ PPV
What's at Stake: In a word, revenge.
The two bouts atop the octagonal conglomerate's next pay-per-view show are rematches of encounters that happened eight and 31 months ago, respectively.
The reintroductions will take place on a main card that gets underway at 10 p.m. ET.
Women's bantamweight champ Julianna Pena will reengage with Amanda Nunes after toppling her in one of the sport's all-time upsets last December, and ex-flyweight kingpin Brandon Moreno is back at it with rival Kai Kara-France after beating him in an early preliminary bout at UFC 245 in December 2019.
Nunes, who still holds the promotion's featherweight championship, is Pena's No. 1 contender at 135 pounds. Moreno and Kara-France are ranked Nos. 1 and 2 at 125 pounds behind champion Deiveson Figueiredo, with whom Moreno has gone 1-1-1 in three bouts.
The B/R combat and betting teams got together to assess the entire 13-bout show, how the fights are likely to end and where some possibilities for profit might be found.
Julianna Pena vs. Amanda Nunes
It seems out of context now, but the mere suggestion that Pena would defeat Nunes as their fight approached last December was typically met with a raised eyebrow.
The champ hadn't lost in more than seven years, and across 12 fights in that span had only one result other than a finish or a unanimous-decision victory.
And if you'd taken bets halfway through the first round of the initial match with Pena, it would have been tough to find anyone who'd have backed the "Venezuelan Vixen."
So even though Pena rallied and scored the stunning stoppage in that fight, it's not as if the competitive and wagering scales are suddenly in balance. Thus, Nunes is a solid -280 favorite (bet $280 to win $100) on the DraftKings moneyline, while Pena, even as a defending champ, is a +235 underdog (bet $100 to win $235).
But the opportunities for profit lie elsewhere.
The signature moments of the first fight occurred when Nunes appeared to run her gas tank dry after a frenetic first round and Pena began controlling the Round 2 exchanges.
Assuming the Brazilian challenger shores up the cardio a bit, such a crash isn't likely to repeat itself, especially considering she'd gone 5-0 in fights lasting more than two rounds during her 12-fight streak.
A more measured Nunes means a prolonged rematch in which the favorite sustains her energy into the second half against a foe who's never seen the so-called championship rounds.
A finish there yields a double-digit rate of return, so that's where the B/R needle points.
The B/R Pick: Amanda Nunes to Win by KO/TKO/DQ in Round 4 (+1600).
Brandon Moreno vs. Kai Kara France
These guys fought in late 2019, with Moreno winning a three-round decision.
And he's made the most of the victory since then.
The Mexican-born flyweight was in with division champ Figueiredo 364 days later and went five rounds in a stirring draw that yielded a rematch and a title win the following June.
Fight No. 3 in January brought the reign to an end by a narrow decision, but the 28-year-old remains at the top of the list of contenders while Figueiredo recovers from hand injuries.
As for Kara France, it's been a longer road to relevance.
He was choked out by Brandon Royval nine months after the Moreno loss but has rebounded with three straight wins, stopping Rogerio Bontorin and Cody Garbrandt in 2021 and beating Askar Askarov on the scorecards last March.
The first go-round with Moreno was spent entirely on the feet and went to the judges based exclusively on striking, with neither attempting a takedown across 15 minutes. Moreno landed more strikes in two of three rounds and finished with a 91-82 advantage overall while winning margins of 30-27, 29-28, and 29-28 on the scorecards.
It's a slight shift from the ex-champ's MO, which has resulted in 11 submissions across 19 career wins, but it wouldn't be a shock to see these two follow their original script across 25 minutes with perhaps a takedown or two thrown in for good measure.
No one's getting rich, but it's a safe place to put a few bucks.
The B/R Pick: Brandon Moreno to Win by Decision (+140)
Derrick Lewis vs. Sergei Pavlovich
It's step-up time for Sergei Pavlovich.
The 30-year-old Russian has gaudy numbers that include a 15-1 record as a pro and a 3-1 mark in the UFC, with all three wins coming since he was starched in a round by veteran Alistair Overeem in his 2018 octagonal debut.
And playing the role of step?
It's Derrick Lewis.
The "Black Beast" is no stranger to followers of the sport, having plied his trade in multiple promotions since 2010 and in the UFC exclusively since 2014.
He's 17-7 in that octagonal stretch but has become the go-to gatekeeper for surging prospects lately, having fallen to Ciryl Gane in August 2021 before beating Chris Daukaus four months later and losing again to Tai Tuivasa in his last fight in February.
At age 37, he's still as powerful as they come with one shot and still able to punish an opponent on the ground. In Pavlovich, though, he has a foe who's longer and faster and not without ground chops of his own, though his MMA successes have come via striking.
It's a fight that career arcs suggest the younger man will win, though Lewis has been more than happy to disrupt similar plans in the past as evidenced by wins over Daukaus, Curtis Blaydes and reigning heavyweight titleholder Francis Ngannou.
Plus-money options are many when it comes to betting lines, and given that we're envisioning a match where Pavlovich uses his tools and stays safe, it makes sense to look long and cross fingers when it comes to the result.
The B/R Pick: Sergey Pavlovich to Win by Decision (+900)
Worth a Shot!
You've made it this far, so you're clearly into the concept of risk vs. reward.
And while favorites and moneylines are worthwhile options, a lofty prop or parlay is nice too.
This card isn't hurting for options, even outside the top three bouts.
Here are a few we'd suggest you take a look at:
Adam Fugitt (Moneyline) +450
There's plenty of reason to like Michael Morales in his early-prelim bout.
The Ecuadorian is 13-0 as a pro and 1-0 in the UFC, having graduated from Dana White's Contender Series to handle Trevin Giles in one round at UFC 270 in January. Meanwhile, Fugitt is taking the fight on short notice.
But the 33-year-old underdog is no soft touch. He's 8-2 in a pro, has won four straight and arrives to the UFC with four KOs and three submissions. He's a southpaw, too, which could give Morales just enough trouble to make taking a flier worthwhile.
Rafael Alves (To Win by Submission) +400
There's nothing like a battle of rugged 30-somethings to liven up the prelims.
Drew Dober is a veteran of the UFC wars, having debuted with the promotion on The Ultimate Fighter in 2013 and gone 10-6-1 in 17 subsequent bouts. He's a predictable commodity and is often in entertaining fights that end in KOs or decisions if he's successful.
Alves, though, presents an interesting challenge. He's split two UFC fights after a long career in other promotions and has earned eight of 20 career wins (including his one in the Octagon) by submission. Dober, conveniently enough, has been submitted four times in the UFC and as recently as 2021. Good enough for us.
Alex Perez (To Win by Decision) +350
Not that long ago, Perez was one of the elites.
In his last fight, in fact, he was atop a pay-per-view show facing Figueiredo in a match for the flyweight championship. But he's been inactive since that loss at UFC 255 in November 2020 and gets the division's No. 4 contender, Alexandre Pantoja, as a return foe.
The Brazilian is 8-3 in his five-plus years in the promotion and has faced high-level opponents, including both Moreno (W UD 3, 2018) and Figueiredo (L UD 3, 2019). So he's no joke. But Perez is slightly busier with both strikes and takedowns and we're figuring returning to a PPV main card slot will be enough to combat the ring rust element well enough.
Stats via UFC Stats.
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