UFC 277 will take place on July 30th at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas. Headlining the card will be Julianna Pena, who will defend her UFC Women’s Bantamweight title against Amanda Nunes. A second title fight will take place, as Brandon Moreno and Kai-Kara France throw down for the Interim UFC Flyweight Championship.
While there will be fun fights on the prelims, this fight card is very top-heavy. There aren’t any ranked contenders fighting on the prelims, and each fighter on the main card is ranked quite highly. Therefore, I will be focusing entirely on the main card this time. Here are my picks for Saturday:
Julianna Pena vs. Amanda Nunes 2
Seven months removed from the biggest upset in UFC history, Julianna Pena looks to prove the world wrong again in her rematch against Amanda Nunes. As expected, Pena enters the rematch a heavy underdog, despite her rear naked choke victory from December. Initially slated as a title fight for Nunes to stay busy, most people weren’t taking Pena’s chances of winning seriously. It was her willingness to bite down and throw with the power puncher that got her the victory. Pena will be looking to prove her first win was not a fluke on Saturday.
Talent-for-talent, Amanda Nunes holds every advantage that could be held in this matchup. She is the much cleaner striker and, without a doubt, packs a heavier punch. She showed in her matchup against Holly Holm that she can kick as well. Defensively, she is harder to hit. Athletically, she holds the advantages and is physically stronger. As a grappler, she can wrestle in the clinch and knows what she’s doing on the mat. The problem is that she is a front-runner who fades if her opponent isn’t discouraged by her power. Just like in the first fight, if Nunes starts to gas, Pena will be there to answer the bell and drown her with relentless volume.
Pena’s rugged determination was enough for her to get a victory in their first fight. Despite Nunes’ physical advantages, she was just not willing to dig as deep as Pena was. She looked amazing in round one, but Pena refused to go away and continued to work. This time, I believe the humiliation will motivate Nunes to come back stronger. The rematch will look a lot more like the first round, with Nunes hitting her hard on the feet and controlling the grappling exchanges. Pena is scrappy, competitive, and durable no matter where the fight takes place. However, Nunes will enter the fight mentally and physically prepared, overwhelming Pena and winning her belt back. Nunes via Submission, Round 3.
Brandon Moreno vs. Kai Kara-France 2
The UFC 277 co-main event will also be a rematch, as Kai Kara-France looks to avenge his loss in 2019 against Brandon Moreno. Lately, Moreno has had his horns locked with Deiveson Figueiredo, fighting his Brazilian rival three consecutive times. The last fight was a closely-contested decision, and Moreno found himself narrowly losing on the scorecards. Kara-France has been a man on a mission, winning his last three fights in impressive fashion. Both fighters have had their ups and downs and have gotten better through the process. They now find themselves fighting for the Interim UFC Flyweight Title (thanks to a Figueiredo injury).
The first fight between Moreno and Kara-France took place entirely on the feet. Moreno picked up a unanimous decision, showing off improvements in his overall striking game. Kara-France landed good punches and was competitive in round one, but Moreno’s pressure and kickboxing dictated the final ten minutes of the bout. Moreno constantly landed harder, carving his face up with a high dosage of jabs, straights, and left high kicks.
I expect Kara-France to make the rematch closer than their first fight. He looks more confident, and in his last fight against Askar Askarov, was comfortable defending himself against a skilled grappler. He needs an equally impressive performance against Moreno, who will also test his grappling defense in this fight.
Now that Kara-France is throwing with more confidence on the feet, I expect the stand-up exchanges to look more even this time. Those kicks that Moreno kept landing will be met with counter combinations. His right hand will land hard on Moreno’s chin a few times. But ultimately, I think Moreno’s grappling will help him edge this fight out. He’ll land some takedowns and do enough work on the ground to squeak out this fight. Moreno via Decision.
Rest of the Main Card
Riding on a three-fight win streak, Sergei Pavlovich gets a big step up when he faces Derrick Lewis on Saturday. A quick starter and an accurate puncher, Pavlovich has finished a vast majority of his fights in round one. He’ll find success landing hard on Lewis early as most heavyweights do. But as always, it only takes one right hand for Lewis to turn a fight around. Expect Lewis to hit Pavlovich with a right and put him away as Pavlovich starts getting too comfortable. Lewis via KO, Round 2.
Alexandre Pantoja and Alex Perez square off in what should be a thriller down at flyweight. Pantoja is a fan-friendly scrapper who remains confident wherever the fight goes. He’ll throw down with fearsome strikers, and his BJJ is effective from on top and from off his back. Perez can hit hard, and his wrestling is amongst the best at flyweight, but I see Pantoja getting the win here. Both guys are action fighters who love to throw down, but Pantoja’s BJJ will get the job done against an opponent who will make mistakes during a high-action fight. Pantoja via Submission, Round 2.
Magomed Ankalaev and Anthony Smith open up the main card in a bout with serious title implications. Ankalaev is calm and methodical; he only turns up the pace when his opponent is hurt or coming after him. He throws a hard left hand, his kicks control distance, and he’ll wrestle when he needs to. Anthony Smith’s style is more action-oriented. He’s tall and can strike from distance, but can also punish you in close quarters with knees and elbows. His BJJ could potentially serve as a threat in case Ankalaev decides to lean on his wrestling. But I think Ankalaev will spend most of the fight picking at Smith with his kickboxing. Ankaleav via Decision.
I would like to thank you for taking the time to read through my UFC 277 fight picks. For more sports-related content, head over to Belly Up Sports. We have articles, op-eds, and podcasts available on our website. Disagree with my picks? Want to continue this discussion? You can find me on Twitter @RevKoka.