According to Webster’s Dictionary, to be the best means to be the “most productive of good: offering or producing the greatest advantage, utility, or satisfaction.” With her win over Julianna Peña at UFC 277, Amanda Nunes proved to be just that, the best! Her victory means that she is once again both the featherweight and bantamweight champion in the world’s most renowned mixed martial arts organization. She did so in electric fashion, leaving no doubt as to who the more skilled fighter in the octagon was in front of a packed house at American Airlines Center. There’s a lot to unpack here; without further ado, let’s get into it!
Peña vs. Nunes
Early in round one, Julianna Peña and Amanda Nunes started by trying to land leg kicks against one another while trying to get a feel for the rhythm of the fight. About a minute and a half into the fight, the two women engaged in a brief striking exchange. Peña unwisely dropped her hands for a brief moment, allowing Nunes to take advantage of the opening and land a right hook that sent the champion to one knee. A minute later, the same scenario took place, with Nunes landing squarely on Peña’s jaw and the champion again taking a knee to the mat. By the end of the round, it was clear that Nunes wanted her belt back and would stop at nothing to get it.
In round two, Nunes sent Peña to the mat twice, with right hooks, within the first minute and a half. Then, with about a minute and a half left in the round, she landed and overhand left that again connected with Peña and sent her to the mat. It was clear that Peña was not prepared for Nunes’ strategy of switching from a traditional stance to a Southpaw stance with so much frequency. The move clearly threw her off and allowed the challenger to gain a strategic advantage.
Nunes was able to land vicious elbows in round three that opened a severe cut along the upper forehead of Peña by the end of the round. In round four, Nunes scored a takedown but Peña showed off her grappling skills. She established an arm-bar that came dangerously close to breaking Nunes’ arm and stopping the fight. Nunes was able to escape just in time to prevent a breakage and a loss. Round five was a seesaw battle, but Nunes was able to dominate through ground control time. By the end of the fight, Peña’s blood was all over the mat and Nunes did a slight jig as the final bell sounded, knowing she’d done enough to reclaim her title.
Amanda Nunes was awarded a unanimous decision victory for her dominant performance. Julianna Peña deserves all the respect in the world for her gutsy performance; Amanda Nunes was just the best version of herself on this night, and more often than not that is more than enough for her to emerge victorious. Nunes is now approaching legendary status. Regaining her bantamweight title means that she has been declared a two-division champion for the second time during her UFC tenure. That is truly impressive, truly legendary.
Moreno vs. Kara-France
Flyweight challengers Brandon Moreno and Kai Kara-France fought at UFC 245 in December of 2019. On that night, Moreno was awarded a unanimous decision victory, although Kara-France’s camp was under the impression that he’d done enough to win the fight. Fast forward two-and-a-half years and the two men find themselves matched up against one another again, only this time with the interim flyweight championship belt on the line.
The first two-and-a-half minutes of round one were relatively uneventful outside of a low blow by Kara-France that forced Moreno to take a slight breather. During the second half of the round, Moreno began applying forward pressure and using more strikes; he began the round by being active with his feet and launching a kicking attack. With less than two minutes left in the round, Moreno attempted a takedown but Kara-France exhibited great defense and avoided the maneuver.
In round two, Moreno was able to side step an attempted head kick by Kara-France and maneuver to mount his opponent’s back. He attempted a takedown, but Kara-France again exhibited great defense. Once he freed himself from the maneuver, Kara-France began using low kicks to set up striking attempts. It was a wise strategy, and it allowed him to land a few scoring blows before the end of the round.
Kara-France was able to score a takedown within the first thirty seconds of round three. He then landed a punch that opened up a cut under Moreno’s eye. Moreno eventually fought his way to his feet and landed a left-footed body kick that landed on Kara-France’s right rib cage with a loud “thud.” He was visibly hurt upon impact. Moreno took advantage of the moment and pounced on Kara-France, pummeling him with punches until referee Herb Dean stepped in and stopped the fight. It was a dramatic victory for Moreno; he is now the interim flyweight champion. Most likely, his next bout will be a fourth showdown with Deiveson Figueiredo for the undisputed UFC Flyweight Championship belt.
Lewis vs. Pavlovich
Heavyweight challengers Derrick Lewis and Sergei Pavlovich are both known for their power. Coming into this fight, no one believed that this fight would go the distance; inevitably one of these two behemoths would land a punch that knocked the other one out.
Early in the fight, Lewis attempted several low leg kicks that did little-to-no damage. Pavlovich responded with a crisp left jab that landed on Lewis’ jaw and stunned the big man from Houston Texas. Taking advantage of the moment, Pavlovich reigned down a series of punches that forced Lewis to fall to the mat. He got up quickly but the referee ruled that he was too inactive and stopped the fight.
This was a very controversial stoppage. Instant replay showed that a lot of the punches Pavlovich threw did not even land. While some of them did find their target, it appeared that Lewis may have fallen due to the momentum of the attack and his efforts to backpedal away from the punches in defense. Lewis bounced right to his feet after falling down and appeared to be able to continue. Immediately following the replay, the crowd began chanting “Ref you suck!” A chorus of boos rang down from the rafters during Pavlovich’s post-fight interview. Controversy or no controversy, this was a good win for Pavlovich and he should see a boost in his ranking when the new numbers are released early next week.
Pantoja vs. Perez
Flyweight prospect Alexandre Pantoja stated during fight-week press conferences that he wanted to make a statement against Alex Perez. As soon as the opening bell sounded, he made it a point to do just that. He rushed at Perez and engaged in a heated striking exchange immediately. He then attempted a takedown that was unsuccessful, but which allowed him to mount Perez’s back. Perez was able to stand to his feet, but Pantoja established a standing rear naked chokehold. With his air supply cut off, Perez was left with no choice to but to tap out. It was an emphatic victory for Pantoja; he is a fighter to keep an eye on in the flyweight division.
Ankalaev vs. Smith
Magomed Ankalaev has been stating his case to be next in line for a matchup with current light heavyweight champion, Jiří Procházka, for quite some time. After his impressive performance at UFC 277, it will be hard to deny him that opportunity.
In the early stages of round one, both men attempted to feel one another out with low kick attacks. Smith then began attempting high kicks and body kicks, all of which were blocked by Ankalaev. In the latter portions of the round, Ankalaev unleashed a left high kick that landed on the right temple of his opponents. Smith fell to the mat with a little over thirty seconds left in the round; he attempted to fight from his back but was largely ineffective.
Smith was visibly limping from the onset of round two. He unwisely attempted a takedown but Ankalaev exhibited great defense. Ankalaev then gained the dominant position on the mat and began pummeling Smith with punches. Eventually, Smith rolled over to his stomach to avoid the onslaught. Once he realized Smith was no longer defending himself, the referee stopped the fight. Magomed Ankalaev made his case to be next in line for a title shot with this emphatic victory; only time will tell if his wish is granted.
Overall, this was one of the most entertaining events in recent memory. The main event of the evening between Amanda Nunes and Julianna Peña more than lived up to the hype. The co-main event between Brandon Moreno and Kai Kara-France also did not disappoint. The fans in Dallas are some of the best sports fans in the world; they are always raucous and they were very involved throughout the entire event. Overall, this was the type of event that would hook any first-time viewer and make them a UFC fan for life. Kudos to Dana White and his staff for continuing to put on great events.
On a side note, a future fight between Magomed Ankalaev and Jiří Procházka would be an absolute must-see event for any fight fan. Ankalaev is only 30-years old and Procházka is 29; they are both at peak physical condition and are undoubtedly two of the best athletes in the entire organization. A showdown between these two for the light heavyweight championship could result in an instant classic. This is a fight the UFC should start to negotiate terms for immediately.
The UFC returns next week with another edition of Fight Night from The Apex Center in Las Vegas. The main event will feature light heavyweight Thiago Santos versus Jamahal Hill in a battle of ranked contenders. As always, we’ll have all the latest updates about the outcomes of the fights, as well as in depth analysis, available right here at World in Sport!
Until next time, take care of yourselves, and each other.