UFC 277 PPV Main Card On ESPN+ (10 p.m. ET):Embed from Getty Images
135 lbs.: UFC Bantamweight champion Julianna Pena vs. Amanda Nunes – The main-event comes in the Women’s Bantamweight division, as Champion Julianna Pena makes her first title defense in a rematch against former Champion Amanda Nunes. Coming off one of the biggest upsets of all-time, Pena enters the octagon with some newfound respect and a chance to close out the chapter on arguably the greatest female champion of all-time. Having won the last two fights via submission, the former Ultimate Fighter winner’s potential has finally peaked seven years later. Meanwhile, Nunes comes into this fight seeking revenge. Having seen an over five-year title reign end, which included five title defenses and nine consecutive victories, Nunes has been chomping at the bit to get her hands on Pena.
Given how shocking the result of the first fight was, I’d say the anticipation for the rematch has grown over the last seven months. Pena is a fairly well rounded fighter, who’s strength lies within her offensive wrestling and grappling. No slouch on the feet either, as seen in her fight against Nunes, Pena would ideally rather be on the ground. It’s where the Champion has seen the most success throughout her career. Landing a takedown in each of her nine UFC fights, Pena has found little resistance in taking opponents down. From there, she is active with ground-and-pound and will fish for submissions. Looking to avoid become another victim of Pena’s on the ground is Nunes. A ferocious striker, who arguably packs the biggest punch among all females in mixed martial arts. No joke either on the ground, Nunes has shown wrestling and grappling abilities that are capable of winning fights. However, it’s on the feet where she is most dangerous.
I’ll admit, the first fight between the two, I completely dismissed Pena. Not because she wasn’t good enough, but due to the fact that she had faltered in the big fights. Knowing that she is capable of more, perhaps we continue to see Pena continue to tap into the potential we saw when she won the Ultimate Fighter. She’ll need it too, as I believe Nunes is coming into this fight with a massive chip on her shoulder. One that has eaten away at her for seven month’s. While Pena could definitely come out on top again, I don’t see it happening. Nunes was flat on the night of the defeat. She lacked cardio and looked lost on the feet. Two aspects that were refined before this fight. Knowing she is the better striker and has the takedown defense to keep it upright, I predict we see the power of the former Champion rear it’s teeth. So with that said, I predict that Nunes will win via KO.Embed from Getty Images
125 lbs.: Brandon Moreno vs. Kai Kara France for Interim Flyweight championship – The co-main event comes in the Flyweight division, as Brandon Moreno and Kai Kara-France rematch each other in a high stake’s fight. One that will crown the victor, the Interim Flyweight Champion. Moreno, comes into this bout off a loss to Deiveson Figueiredo. Losing his Flyweight title in the process, Moreno is chomping at the bit to regain his throne. First though, Moreno will have to get past Kai Kara-France. A winner of three straight, two of which came via knockout, the Kiwi has stormed his way to the top of the division. While Kara-France would of rather liked to fight the Champion Figueiredo, the Interim Flyweight belt comes with the benefits of higher pay, being distinguished as a Champion and an opportunity to unite the belts.
When these two first met, it was purely a striking contest. This time around, I’m not so certain it plays out the same. The former Champion Moreno is a very well rounded fighter. On the feet, Moreno is crisp, active and has sneaky pop in his hands. Boasting an iron chin, Moreno has proven that he can withstand punishment to dish out his own. However, the strength on the Mexican is within his grappling. A dangerous fighter to tangle with on the ground, Moreno does a good job maintaining control and fishing for submissions. Knowing he will have to keep this fight upright to have any chance to win is Kara-France. A pure striker, who boasts some of the best takedown defense in the division. An important ability, as it allows Kara-France to keep the fight in his wheelhouse. Active on the feet, Kara-France is landing a solid 4.84 significant strikes per minute. Possessing power, Kara-France has won eleven of his twenty-four wins via knockout.
Knowing this fight is bound to be a chess match, I’m going to side with Moreno. Being involved in three straight five round fights, with two of them going the full twenty-five minutes, Moreno has a clear advantage in what it take to go the distance at the highest level. Being the more well rounded fighter, and already proving that he can defeat Kara-France standing, I like the Mexican’s chance to once again defeat the Kiwi. This time around however, I believe that Moreno will eventually penetrate Kara-France’s takedown defense and record submission victory number twelve.
265 lbs.: Derrick Lewis vs. Sergei Pavlovich – We have a pair of knockout artist clash, as Derrick Lewis takes on Sergei Pavlovich. A loser of two of the last three fights, Lewis comes into this bout needing to get back on track. Not quite out of the title picture, Lewis though will have to protect his fifth spot in the rankings against the eleventh ranked Pavlovich. A Russian slugger, Pavlovich comes into this bout on a three-fight win streak. While that streak started back in 2019, Pavlovich has peaked the interest of the UFC and has a huge opportunity to climb into the top ten of the division.
Not a fight expected to go to the scorecards, we should be in store for a vicious finish. Lewis is a heavy handed striker, who’s thirteen knockouts inside the octagon are the most in UFC history. Boasting physical strength, Lewis has utilized that by escaping bad positions and landing a takedown once in awhile. An area where he can be downright scary, as his ground-and-pound is devastating. The few holes in Lewis’ game that has hindered him though is his takedown defense, lack of grappling and cardio. However, against a fellow knockout artist in Pavlovich, I don’t see the Russian initiating any wrestling. Especially considering he has yet to land a takedown in the octagon and has won all twelve of his knockout victories in round one. With only one loss on the ledger, which was against Alistair Overeem, it’s to assume that his weakness is on the ground. Other than that, it’s hard to tell.
In a fight that could end on a dime, I’m going to side with the veteran in Lewis. Having the strength and sneaky wrestling abilities in his back pocket, as well as knowing that Pavlovich’s lone loss came when he was taken down, perhaps we see Lewis approach this fight smartly. Otherwise, it’s anyone’s guess who falls first. With that said, hinging on the hope that Lewis looks to wrestle, I predict that the “Black Beast” will win via TKO.
125 lbs.: Alexandre Pantoja vs. Alex Perez – We have an important fight in the Flyweight division, as Alexandre Pantoja takes on Alex Perez. A winner of two straight and three of the last four, Pantoja has jumped up to fourth in the rankings. Inching closer and closer to a title shot, with a victory here, Pantoja will position himself to at worst, a number one contender’s fight next. Meanwhile, Perez comes into this fight with a huge opportunity. Having not fought since challenging Deiveson Figueiredo for the Flyweight title in November of 2020, due to six fight cancellations, Perez has a chance to re-enter the title mix with one victory.
This should be a highly entertaining fight, as both men bring it when they step inside the octagon. Pantoja is a well rounded fighter, who is dangerous wherever the fight goes. However, on the ground is where Pantoja is strongest. Boasting excellent grappling, Pantoja has won nine of his twenty-four wins via submission. Among the all-time leaders in sixteen categories in the Flyweight division, Pantoja is truly one of the best Flyweight’s on the planet. Looking to take the Brazilian’s spot in the rankings though is Perez. A well rounded fighter himself, Perez has proven that can win a fight on the feet or with his wrestling. With six stoppages in his last eight wins, four of which came via submission, Perez is a fighter that is evolving into a more dangerous version of himself each fight.
In what I expect to be a battle, I’m going to side with Pantoja. While Perez brings forth more output and overall activity than the Brazilian, he has historically struggled with grapplers who have dangerous submission abilities. As evident by four of his six losses coming via submission. Given Pantoja’s grappling and submission prowess, I like the Brazilian’s chances at getting this fight to the ground and eventually locking up a submission victory.Embed from Getty Images
205 lbs.: Magomed Ankalaev vs. Anthony Smith – We have a pivotal fight in the Light Heavyweight division, as Magomed Ankalaev takes on Anthony Smith. A winner of eight straight, which ties Lyoto Machida for the second longest win streak of all-time at 205 pounds, Ankalaev is closing in on a title shot. Checking in at fourth in the rankings and having defeated back-to-back former title challengers, Ankalaev will look to add a third in Smith to the resume. Meanwhile, the aforementioned Smith comes into this bout on a three-fight win streak. Having stopped all three foes during the streak, Smith has made it known that he is still a contender. Should he be able to put a halt to Ankalaev, there is no doubt that he will find himself in a number one contender’s fight next.
This is a big fight to kick off the main card. Since being submitted with one second left to Paul Craig, Ankalaev has rattled off eight straight. A striker, who is calm and composed, Ankalaev has often lulled fighters on the feet. A tactic, that has seen the Russian land with precision. In fact, Ankalaev’s 54.3% striking accuracy is the tenth highest all-time at 205 pounds. Boasting excellent takedown defense, Ankalaev has only been taken down once in the last eight fights. Which will likely stay that way, as Smith, while dangerous on the ground, has lacked the wrestling necessary to get the fight to mat. However, Smith is no slouch on the feet. Dropping Ryan Spann twice in his last fight, as well winning six fights via knockout inside the octagon, Smith has the power to put away anyone. What’s most impressive about Smith though, is his ability to weather storms and comeback. Of late though, Smith has broken that slow start notion and has brought about his own early storm.
In what is an important fight for the division, I have Ankalaev winning. While things could get interesting should this hit the mat, given Ankalaev’s takedown defense, I don’t see that happening. On the feet, Ankalaev is too technical and cerebral. He is also excellent with distance management and should be able to pick apart Smith. With that said, I predict that Ankalaev win his ninth straight via decision.
UFC 277 Preliminary Card On ABC/ESPN/ESPN+ (8 p.m. ET):Embed from Getty Images
170 lbs.: Alex Morono vs. Matthew Semelsberger – The preliminary card headliner comes in the Welterweight division, as Alex Morono takes on Matthew Semelsberger. A winner of three straight and seven of the last nine fights, Morono has quietly been climbing the Welterweight totem. Already six years into his UFC career, Morono has won ten times inside the octagon. Even with a knockout victory over Donald Cerrone on the resume, Morono is still searching for some respect and notoriety. Meanwhile, Semelsberger has been excellent since debuting in the UFC in late 2020. Winning four of five fights inside the octagon, Semelsberger has positioned himself in a fight against an opponent teetering on cracking the division’s top fifteen.
This should be a fun scrap that may even have implications on the rankings. Morono is a striker, who has a gas tank to match his high output. Landing 5.21 significant strikes, which ranks ninth all-time in the Welterweight division, Morono has often out landed his opponents. In fact, of Morono’s fifteen UFC fights, only twice has an opponent landed more significant strikes than him. The problems that Morono has often had, is against wrestlers and superior grapplers. Given Semelsberger is neither of those, expect the majority of this fight to take place on the feet. An area where Semelsberger has excelled. With good cardio, output and durability, Semelsberger can go a hard fifteen. However, boasting power too, Semelsberger has laid waste to two opponents in the UFC in sixteen seconds or less.
In a fight that could end on the dime or go the full fifteen, I’m going to side with Morono. A forgotten fighter in this Welterweight division, Morono has been on a tear of late. Always active on the feet and with a good gas tank, I believe we should be in store for an action packed fight. Yet, with Morono having some wrestling in his pocket, there is a chance that he could mix in a round defining takedown or two. While I’m not entirely banking on that, it’s not something that is out of the realm of possibility. Especially considering Semelsberger just got taken down four times in his last fight. So with that said, I predict Morono to win via decision.
155 lbs.: Rafael Alves vs. Drew Dober – We have a scrap in the Lightweight division, as Drew Dober takes on Rafael Alves. A veteran of the game, Dober recently ended a two-fight skid with a stoppage victory over Terrance McKinney. An important win for Dober, who was at risk of falling completely off the map in the Lightweight division. With the victory, Dober picked up his seventh victory since 2017. Meanwhile, Alves comes into this fight off his first UFC victory. An impressive one at that, as he submitted Marc Diakiese. The victory was his sixth in the last seven fights, with the lone loss coming in his UFC debut against Damir Ismagulov. Which is no shame, given Ismagulov hasn’t lost since 2015 and is on a nineteen fight winning streak.
A definite frontrunner for “Fight of the Night”, I expect this fight to feature several brawls. Dober, a striker with an iron chin, has turned himself into a must watch fighter. Always looking to finish the fight, Dober invites opponents into a brawl. Knowing how well he can eat a strike, if that invitation is accepted, more often than not, Dober has put his opponents down. What has been his crux however, is wrestling. Being taken down thirteen times in the past four fights, Dober has always given an opponent an avenue to defeat him. One that Alves might take, as the Brazilian boasts excellent BJJ. Then again, known to be a wild man on the feet, who has a diverse attack, Alves may entertain slugging it out with Dober.
In what I expect to be a entertaining fight, I’m going to go with Dober. Nervous about Alves’ sneaky trips, as well as his BJJ on the mat, there is concern in this prediction. However, knowing that Alves is a fast starter and is wild, I see an opening for Dober to land something worthwhile. With that said, I predict that Dober wins via TKO.
265 lbs.: Don’Tale Mayes vs. Hamdy Abdelwahab – We have a clash in the Heavyweight division, as Don’Tale Mayes takes on promotional newcomer Hamdy Abdelwahab. After dropping his first two UFC fights, Mayes tenure in the UFC was looking bleak. Given a third crack, Mayes made good on that, defeating Roque Martinez. Following that victory up with a stoppage victory over Josh Parisian, Mayes picked up his first winning streak in the UFC. On the rise and looking to continue his climb up the totem, Mayes will have to hold off a UFC debutant in Abdelwahab. A former Greco-Roman Olympic wrestler, who is a perfect 3-0 in mixed martial arts. With five amateur fights, as well as two bare knuckle bouts, Abdelwahab has dabbled in other avenues to gain experience. Believing in the potential clearly though is the UFC, who has been looking for future talent over experience of late.
This is an intriguing fight, and a stylistic clash. Mayes is a striker, who has a diverse attack. With good footwork and power too, it’s no surprise that Mayes has won five of his nine victories via knockout. Showing off improvement in his wrestling against Parisian, landing 6 takedowns, Mayes is beginning to evolve inside the octagon. The concerns though with Mayes, has been his defensive wrestling and grappling. It’s what cost him in his first two appearances in the UFC and will certainly be tested in this fight against Abdelwahab. With an excellent wrestling background and immense physical strength, Abdelwahab is going to be a problem for many Heavyweight’s. While his striking needs work, often throwing one punch at a time and loading up with the right hand, with more experience, the Egyptian could turn himself into a formidable threat on the feet.
I’m a little wary in this prediction, but I’m going to side with Abdelwahab. Knowing Mayes has clearly worked on his wrestling, it’s a definite sign in the right direction for him. However, defensively speaking, I’m not sure he will be able to keep this fight upright. Abdelwahab is a tank, who is exceptionally strong and will bully many fighters to the mat. Hard to shake off in top control, Abdelwahab has the ability to grind out opponents or land some vicious ground-and-pound. With that said, I predict that Abdelwahab will win via TKO.Embed from Getty Images
155 lbs.: Rafa Garcia vs. Drakkar Klose – We have a pivotal fight in the Lightweight division, as Drakkar Klose takes on Rafa Garcia. Coming off an impressive knockout victory over Brandon Jenkins, which came after a two-year layoff, Klose will look to notch his second victory in 2022. A veteran of the game, Klose has nabbed six victories inside the octagon. With another, Klose could be knocking on the division’s top fifteen. Meanwhile, Garcia has found his stride of late. After dropping his first two fights inside the octagon, Garcia has turned it around with two wins. The last being the most impressive, as he dismantled and finished Jesse Ronson. Looking for three straight, Garcia will have to get by the toughest test he’s faced to date.
This is excellent matchmaking, as both gentleman are very good in their own right. Klose, is a wrestler by trade. Looking to control foes, whether against the cage or on the ground, Klose is no stranger to grinding out fights. Active on the feet, Klose brings output and accuracy on the feet. Some newfound power too apparently, as Klose recorded his first knockdown and stoppage victory in UFC appearance number eight. Having never been stopped though is Garcia. A wrestler, who has fifteen takedowns in the last three fights, Garcia has made it a priority to get the fight to the ground. With eight of his thirteen wins coming via submission, the mat has been a dangerous place to be with Garica.
In what is bound to be a competitive fight, I’m going to side with Klose. Having seen Garcia dominate with his wrestling over the last two fights, it’s possible that he may see some early success. However, Klose being a wrestler himself, with good grappling abilities, should be able to thwart off Garcia’s takedowns attempts eventually. On the feet, Klose offers more output and is the more comfortable striker. With all that said, I predict that Klose wins via decision.
UFC 277 Early Preliminary Card On ESPN/ESPN+ (6 p.m. ET):Embed from Getty Images
170 lbs.: Michael Morales vs. Adam Fugitt – We have a showdown in the Welterweight division, as Michael Morales takes on newcomer Adam Fugitt. Coming off an impressive knockout victory over Trevin Giles in his UFC debut, Morales returns to the octagon looking to replicate his performance. Undefeated and only 23 year old, Morales is a definite prospect to keep an eye on. Meanwhile, Fugitt comes into his UFC debut on short notice. Having won four straight, all inside the distance, Fugitt enters this fight with excellent momentum.
Despite the lack of name power coming from this fight, it’s an early contender to win “Fight of the Night”. Morales is a well rounded fighter, who has the tools to become a legitimate contender in this division. Flashing legitimate power on the feet and excellent grappling on the ground, Morales has shown comfortability wherever the fight goes. Physically strong and excellent at utilizing his length, Morales is far more polished than your average 23 year old. Looking to spoil the party is Fugitt. A well rounded fighter himself, Fugitt often looks to get the fight down to mat. With good grappling and submission abilities, he can be a handful to deal with on the ground. No slouch though on the feet, Fugitt likes to throw leg kicks. In his last fight alone, which lasted less than a minute, Fugitt threw thirteen leg strikes – most of which were high kicks.
In what is bound to be a frantic and action packed fight, I’m going to side with Morales. Looking like a future contender in the Welterweight division, expect Morales to show out in this fight. While I don’t doubt that Fugitt will get off some of his offense, I’m not certain he will be able to withstand Morales’. So with that said, I predict Morales to win via TKO.
125 lbs.: Ji Yeon Kim vs. Joselyne Edwards – Outside the main event, this Bantamweight clash between Ji Yeon Kim and Joselyne Edwards represents the only other women competing on the card. Kim, comes into this fight needing to right the ship. Having lost three consecutive fights and four of the last five, the South Korean is in jeopardy of seeing her UFC tenure end. Meanwhile, Edwards recently ended a two-fight losing streak. Picking up an important win in her Featherweight debut, Edwards will drop down back down to 135 pounds looking to notch her first UFC winning streak.
Having largely fought at Flyweight during her UFC tenure, Kim will look to rejuvenate her career up a weight class. An active striker, who fights behind her jab, Kim has often racked up high strike totals. In the last two fights alone, Kim landed 292 significant strikes. However, the South Korean’s defense has been her demise. Absorbing 229 significant strikes in those past two fights, as well as 5.64 per minute throughout her career, Kim has often been a punching bag. One that Edwards will look to beat on, as she is purely a striker. An active and accurate one at that, who is landing 5.33 significant strikes per minute at a 57% clip. Having not to worry about wrestling, given Kim has never landed a takedown, Edwards should be able to look her best.
Despite coming into this fight on short notice, I’m siding with Edwards. The biggest gripe of the Panamanian is that she is susceptible to being controlled by wrestlers and grapplers. Given Kim is none of those, has porous striking defense and the fact that Edwards just put up 164 significant strikes in her recent victory – gives me reason to believe Edwards puts on a show in this fight. With that said, I predict that Edwards win via TKO.
205 lbs.: Nicolae Negumereanu vs. Ihor Potieria – We have a scrap in the Light Heavyweight division, as Nick Negumereanu takes on promotional newcomer Ihor Potieria. Since dropping his UFC debut, Negumereanu has quietly rattled off three consecutive wins. Nearing a top fifteen fight, Negumereanu will have to first hold off a young upstart. Meanwhile, Potieria makes his UFC debut on the heels of a seventeen-fight win streak. Having defeated opponents with a combined record of 60-66 over that span, it remains to be seen if the Ukrainian has what it takes to fight at this level.
This should be an intriguing fight, and one that the judges may not be required. Negumereanu is a fairly well rounded fighter, who came into the UFC with some wrestling and Judo chops. However, it’s largely been his striking that has gotten the job done. Backed by immense durability, Negumereanu has somehow managed to absorb 5.92 strikes per minute, yet win three fights. A definite concern moving forward, especially considering his striking defense is 38%. Looking to test that chin is Potieria. A striker, who boasts power and output, Potieria has won ten of twenty victories via knockout. No slouch on the ground either, Potieria has some vicious ground-and-pound and is a submission threat. What is concerning, other than his lack of competition throughout his career, is the Ukrainian’s defense. Often leaving himself open to get countered and tag, as well as taken down, Potieria will have to improve upon those abilities fast if he wants to be a champion in the UFC.
Knowing that this fight could end on a dime, it’s somewhat tough to predict. However, knowing Negumereanu has an iron chin and has already absorbed 274 strikes in four UFC fights, I’m not as certain that he will be the one who gets stopped. With experience inside the octagon and given Potieria’s lack thereof competition outside of it, I’m going to predict that Negumereanu wins this fight via knockout.
170 lbs.: Orion Cosce vs. Blood Diamond – The curtain jerker comes in the Welterweight division, as Orion Cosce takes on Blood Diamond. Coming off an unsuccessful UFC debut, which was also his first professional loss, Cosce returns to the octagon looking to get back on track. Known for his finishing prowess, Cosce comes into this fight with a 100% finishing rate. Meanwhile, Diamond too will look to move on from an unsuccessful UFC debut. One that quite frankly showed his inexperience, as one could expect from a fighter with only three mixed martial arts fights.
This should be an entertaining fight for as long as it last, as only Diamond has seen the scorecards once. A kickboxer, who has transitioned into mixed martial arts, Diamond has a wealth of striking experience. What Diamond lacks however, is the wrestling and grappling, which he found out the hard way in his UFC debut. Seeing how Cosce has a wrestling background and will certainly test Diamond’s takedown defense, it’s hard not for me to side with the American. My only concern is Cosce’s cardio. Should he expend too much energy and fail to put away Diamond early, I could definitely see the Zimbabwe native pull off a comeback. However, ignoring Diamond’s lack of mixed martial arts experience and deficiencies within his game would be foolish. With that said, I predict Cosce will win via TKO.