The most anticipated women’s MMA rematch of all time as Julianna Pena defends her bantamweight title for the first time against Amanda Nunes at UFC 277 in the main event.
Pena completed one of the biggest upsets in the history of the sport last time out, and now she looks to prove it wasn’t a fluke by beating her again.
In the co-main event we also have an interim flyweight title fight as former champion Brandon Moreno takes on Kai Kara-France in a rematch of their own, with the winner setting themselves up to take on injured champion Deiveson Figueiredo once he’s healthy.
Last time out at UFC London we had great fun live at the event, and we had a decent night with our picks too. We went 9/14 with five perfect picks to move to 673/1046 (64.34%) with 289 perfect picks (42.94%). You can check out our full picks history here.
Magomed Ankalaev (17-1) vs Anthony Smith (36-16) – (Light Heavyweight/205lbs)
An absolute banger in the light heavyweight division opens up the main card in this one. Ankalaev is one a mission to the title, and is on an 8-fight win streak currently with a win over Thiago Santos last time out in an underwhelming main event. Smith on the other hand is on a three-fight win streak after stopping Devin Clark, Jimmy Crute (UFC 261) and Ryan Spann in his last bout.
Ankalaev is an absolute demon wherever the fight goes, with brilliant striking and kickboxing to go with his one-punch power and dominant wrestling skills. Smith is a former golden gloves boxing champion who also has great kicks and is a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Stylistically this is a really fun fight, but Ankalaev just seems to have an edge wherever this fight goes.
On the feet his slow pacing usually means he is able to pick and choose when to hurt his opponent, while his explosive and masterful wrestling means Ankalaev always has another option if his striking isn’t working. His top game is solid too, which should be enough to neutralise Smith’s jiu-jitsu if it gets there. With that said, I expect the fight to stay standing and while Smith will come forward plenty Ankalaev should be able to pick him off and claim a win on the scorecards.
PICK – Magomed Ankalaev via Decision
Alexandre Pantoja (24-5) vs Alex Perez (24-6) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
An amazing flyweight fight next between two guys who could easily be in the title fight happening later in the night. Pantoja has won his last two with a decision over Manel Kape at UFC Vegas 18 before a submission win against Brandon Royval last time out. Perez hasn’t fought since UFC 255 where he was stopped by Deiveson Figueiredo in the first-round of his flyweight title shot.
Pantoja is a brilliant striker on the feet who uses great counters and excellent low kicks, while also having brilliant grappling skills on the mat too. Perez on the other hand is a very impressive grappler with fantastic cardio and submission skills, earning seven wins via tap out in his career. The issue here is he’s matched in that department by Pantoja, and he’s more than bettered on the feet.
“The Cannibal” will stay patient and his lack of output could be a problem in the early rounds on the feet, but he will be confident of being able to land bigger and better in the striking while also holding his own in the grappling. It’ll be a fast-paced, fun fight and I expect Pantoja to claim the victory on the judges’ scorecards.
PICK – Alexandre Pantoja via Decision
Derrick Lewis (26-9) vs Sergei Pavlovich (15-1) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
Big boys take centre stage once again in this heavyweight banger. Derrick Lewis has gone 2-2 in his last four, earning KO wins over Curtis Blaydes (UFC Vegas 19) and Chris Daukaus (UFC Vegas 45) and losing to Ciryl Gane (UFC 265) and Tai Tuivasa (UFC 271) most recently. Pavlovich has won his last three all via first-round knockout, beating Marcelo Golm, Maurice Greene and Shamil Abdurakhimov.
Lewis is your traditional heavyweight who has limited skills but incredible power, with the most knockout wins in UFC history. His takedown defence has improved but on his back he relies on explosiveness rather technique to get back up. Pavlovich is a savage with great knockout power too, earning 12 KO wins from 15 career victories. Power for power Lewis will win, but Pavlovich has more than just power.
The Russian has got solid kicks, is a decent wrestler and also has power in the hands. Pavlovich has got a reach advantage and Lewis hasn’t looked himself in recent fights, looking unmotivated and less powerful (?). That said, he’s easily the best fighter Pavlovich has ever fought. This is a fight he should win, but don’t be surprised if he gets put down again.
PICK – Derrick Lewis via Knockout, Round 2
Brandon Moreno (19-6-2) vs Kai Kara-France (24-9) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
An interim title fight in the flyweight division up next in a rematch from 2019. Moreno is 1-1-1 in his last three all against Deiveson Figueiredo at UFC 256, UFC 263 and UFC 270 where he won the title then lost it again. Kara-France has been on a tear winning three in a row, KO’ing Rogerio Bontorin (UFC 259) and Cody Garbrandt (UFC 269) and then earning a decision over Askar Askarov back in March.
Moreno is a superbly well-rounded fighter, with much improved striking and an elite grappling game on the ground where he also has brilliant scrambles to get back up to the feet when he gets taken down. Kara-France is a striker with great power in his hands, but he proved against Askarov that he’s got excellent wrestling defence and good grappling skills too. This is a super fun match up stylistically but I would be quite surprised to see Kara-France come out on top, especially after the way their first fight went.
Moreno controlled him the first time around and his grappling is still just as good, but his striking is much improved in that time. Kara-France has also improved since that first fight but the level of competition and lack of five-round experience goes against him in comparison to Moreno. The Mexican is one of the most durable fighters in flyweight history and his grappling game is a huge advantage in this fight. It will be 25 minutes of hell and excitement, but Moreno gets the belt at the end of it.
PICK – Brandon Moreno via Decision
Julianna Pena (12-4) vs Amanda Nunes (21-5) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
We’re running it back this weekend after the biggest upset in the history of the sport last time. Pena made it two wins in a row at UFC 269 when she submitted Nunes in the second-round to win the belt, ending the “Lioness”‘s 12-fight win streak.
Nunes is the best ever for a reason. She has abnormal punching power on the feet, is a tremendous boxer with great combinations and has the ability to wrestle and submit opponents with a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt to her name too. Pena on the other hand is a jiu-jitsu fighter with good wrestling herself and she looks to secure top position and work from there. What she showed in the first fight though was a willingness to get in Nunes’ face to wear her out.
Pena will likely try to do the same again. She’ll use that jab effectively before looking to secure a takedown, but Nunes will be more patient. She won the first round comfortably before getting carried away in the second and chasing the finish. I doubt she does that again and eventually the leg kicks and power punches will add up and the GOAT will reclaim her throne with a finish to set up a trilogy.
PICK – Amanda Nunes via Knockout, Round 3