For the second time in the identical calendar month, the UFC will promote a pay-per-view on Saturday, this time with a pair of title rematches atop the marquee from the American Airways Middle in Dallas.
Julianna Pena will make the primary protection of her girls’s bantamweight title inas she faces fellow TUF coach Amanda Nunes in a rematch of Pena’s huge upset in December. Within the co-main occasion, former champion Brandon Moreno welcomes Kai Kara-France for the second time, though this rematch will probably be contested for the interim flyweight title whereas Deiveson Figueiredo recovers from damage.
Though it would not be truthful to name UFC 277 a deep PPV card, the featured bouts nonetheless supply an intriguing combination of storylines to comply with getting into this weekend. Let’s take a better have a look at these now.
1. Julianna Pena is tasked with doing the unimaginable … once more
That is the important thing query getting into this 135-pound title rematch: Is Pena merely a one-hit marvel who caught lightning in a bottle on Nunes’ worst evening since first beginning an unbelievable 12-fight win streak? Or was Nunes, now 34, merely ripe for the choosing as the remainder of the division caught up along with her on the most effective evening of Pena’s up-and-down profession? Someplace inside these contrasting situations is the reality and it might solely be revealed contained in the Octagon as soon as they contact gloves for the second time. Making an attempt to decrease Pena’s accomplishment in any type feels disingenuous contemplating she walked via one large shot after one other earlier than breaking the G.O.A.T. down and ending her off by way of second-round submission. But, on the identical time, Nunes merely seemed off from the beginning, even with the early success she had in Spherical 1. Given how historic and devastating her successful streak had been — which included finishes of Miesha Tate, Ronda Rousey, Cris Cyborg and Holly Holm, to not point out a pair of resolution wins over Valentina Shevchenko — it was alarming to look at Nunes implode in such a disastrous means. How a lot of that was due to Pena? Or did the outside-the-cage drama, which led to Nunes leaving American Prime Group to start out her personal gymnasium, gasoline a backdrop of chaos? Both means, Nunes stays a agency betting regardless of the defeat, which speaks generously to the concept Pena would possibly have to be higher than nice with a view to see lightning strike a second time.
2. Pena ought to count on a way more technical affair within the rematch
Making an attempt to pinpoint the precise purpose for Nunes’ in a single day decline within the first Pena combat is tough. Some questioned whether or not her need was nonetheless the identical after dominating for thus lengthy. Others pointed to the truth that she hadn’t been compelled to chop all the way down to 135 kilos for 2 years earlier than the combat whereas defending her UFC featherweight crown within the interim. However no matter precise purpose, Nunes fought undisciplined sufficient that Pena was in a position to overcome the technical variations between them by luring Nunes right into a brawl with broad, looping pictures and a willingness to take large ones in return. On condition that’s the identical blueprint Nunes had used get Cyborg to eschew her gameplan of their 2018 shootout that resulted in 51 seconds, Nunes ought to’ve recognized higher. “The Lioness,” in spite of everything, went 5 rounds in her rematch in opposition to Shevchenko taking part in in 2017 and gained a (disputed) chess match through which she proved that her stamina and combat IQ have been simply as developed and potent as her energy and ending means. Contemplating Pena had but to indicate a efficiency just like the one she authored in opposition to Nunes previously, and had been completed every time she stepped as much as the elite degree in opposition to Shevchenko and Germaine de Randamie, reserving some grace for Nunes is suitable. But it surely’s laborious to think about a carbon copy of their first assembly taking part in out in Saturday’s rematch. Nunes is just too expert at boxing from the surface and too affected person when she’s dialed in. It is also seemingly that Nunes realized from the errors she made on the bottom of their first combat that led to her gassing out, partly due to the pressure Pena was placing on her arms.
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3. Brandon Moreno is anticipating a much-improved model of Kai Kara-France
As the previous flyweight champion ought to, regardless of having beforehand defeated Kara-France by unanimous resolution in 2019. Since a three-fight stretch that noticed Kara-France lose to Moreno and Brandon Royval, the native of New Zealand has merely change into a brand new fighter. Kara-France scored consecutive knockouts of Rogerio Bontorin and Cody Garbrandt earlier than outlasting Askar Askarov to earn the interim title shot in opposition to Moreno. Kara-France has developed to change into extra of a ending risk offensively and his confidence has blossomed alongside the way in which. Moreno, who misplaced his title again to Deiveson Figueiredo throughout their third assembly in January, might want to put together for a totally totally different fighter, and has mentioned as a lot all through the buildup. A product of the identical Metropolis Kickboxing gymnasium that has produced present champions Alexander Volkanovski and Israel Adesanya, Kara-France seems poised to affix his teammates within the search and seizure of UFC gold.
4. That does not imply an interim flyweight title was needed
Was this a case of UFC hoping to pad a comparatively skinny PPV card — the promotion’s second of the present month — by including a second world title to the highest of the cardboard? All indicators seem like pointing to sure on this one, in a transfer that has change into extra commonplace lately. Technically, Figueiredo is injured and expects to be wholesome once more by fall, however he wasn’t sidelined lengthy sufficient to necessitate a necessity for a rematch between Moreno and Kara-France, a positive combat underneath any circumstance, to be something greater than it’s: a No. 1 contender combat. This gratuitous resolution by UFC brass was rather more consistent with the latest head scratcher at heavyweight the place Cyril Gane and Derrick Lewis fought for an interim strap simply months after Francis Ngannou gained it. Figueiredo has publicly questioned whether or not UFC believes he’s faking an damage and punishing him for not being obtainable. Both means, the cake on this case is just too scrumptious already with out the necessity for additional frosting on high.
5. The logjam at 205 kilos may open door for Anthony Smith-Magomed Ankalaev winner
Who deserves the primary shot at new mild heavyweight champion Jiri Prochazka? That is the query dealing with UFC matchmakers, who seem torn between a right away rematch in opposition to Glover Teixeira or a showdown for Prochazka in opposition to one other former champion in Jan Blachowicz. The truth that neither one appears to carry a stronger case than the opposite may result in the winner of Saturday’s sneaky good pairing between No. 4 Ankalaev and No. 3 Smith to chop the road, offered they’ll win in dominant and/or thrilling trend. Ankalaev, who’s using a powerful eight-fight win streak, has left some believing he is already the most effective fighter within the division. However Smith, who misplaced a title bid to Jon Jones in 2019, additionally enters on a red-hot streak of his personal having gained three in a row by stoppage.