The greatest of all time has regained her throne.
Amanda Nunes, the most dominant woman in UFC history, added to her legacy by defeating Julianna Peña to regain the bantamweight championship.
Nunes (22–5) lost the title last December in a shocking upset, getting outclassed and outworked by Peña. The sequel featured a new narrative, with Nunes shifting to southpaw and unleashing nonstop punishment over the course of five rounds. Peña wasn’t able to adjust, though the way she endured the punishment was remarkable.
The story of the Nunes-Peña rematch will revolve around adjustments. Unlike their previous bout, Nunes never allowed Peña in too close, refusing to be lured into a battle of fighting with fire. Nunes’s cardio was far better this time, and a calculated approach led to her dominant victory.
The co-main event was also a must-see match, as Brandon Moreno defeated Kai Kara-France to win the vacant interim flyweight title. Whether it was necessary for an interim title to be on the line is worth asking, as this could have just as easily been a No. 1 contender’s bout, but it ultimately will result in a fourth bout pitting Moreno against Deiveson Figueiredo.
Moreno (20–6–2) controlled the pace in the first two rounds, until Kara-France (24–10) seized control in the third with a vicious elbow under Moreno’s left eye. But the advantage didn’t last long, as Moreno won the fight in the final minute of that third round by knocking the life out of Kara-France with a kick to his chest. Figueiredo entered the cage after the match, and his fourth fight against Moreno will be a first in UFC history.
A second flyweight bout was part of the card, as Alexandre Pantoja forced Alex Perez to submit in only 91 seconds. A few early strikes allowed Pantoja (25–5) to get in position to take Perez’s back, and he forced Perez (24–7) to tap to a neck crank. The victory puts Pantoja in position to challenge the winner of the upcoming Figueiredo-Moreno fight.
The one disappointment of the night occurred in the heavyweight fight, as Derrick Lewis’s woes in Texas continued. Sergei Pavlovich gained a largely meaningless victory after referee Dan Miragliotta was premature with his first-round stoppage. Lewis (26–10, 1 NC) took some punishment but he was getting back to his feet as Miragliotta was calling the bout, and he deserved better than such a quick stoppage. Pavlovich (16–1) was awarded the TKO victory, but there should be an immediate rematch between the two.
The card opened with an impressive showing from Magomed Ankalaev, winning his ninth in a row by defeating Anthony Smith. Ankalaev (18–1) took Smith’s back in the second round, and with an injured leg, Smith (36–17) was unable to protect himself or get back to his feet, forcing the fight to end as a TKO. The victory puts Ankalaev in line for a light heavyweight title shot.
With the exception of the heavyweight fight, the 277 card exceeded expectations. It was highlighted by the vintage performance from Nunes, who removed any doubt that she remains the absolute gold standard in women’s MMA.
WOMEN’S BANTAMWEIGHT TITLE BOUT: JULIANNA PEÑA (c) vs. AMANDA NUNES -- 12:13 AM ET
Amanda Nunes is the best in the world.
Nunes (22–5) defeated Julianna Peña by unanimous decision, regaining the women’s bantamweight title and earning a measure of revenge against Julianna Peña, who defeated her last December.
Peña (11–5) took a thorough beating throughout all five rounds, yet somehow endured. She was also a constant threat from her back, coming close to pulling off a submission victory. But Peña never adjusted to Nunes fighting southpaw, which caused repeated problems for Peña.
A measured approach from Nunes shaped the first round. Peña was able to land a few shots, but she was on the defensive for the majority of the round. Neither Nunes or Peña could capitalize after their bigger strikes.
Nunes knocked Peña down three times in the second round, drilling her on multiple occasions. Yet Peña, somehow, finished the round. Nunes landed the first takedown of the fight in the third round, then cut Peña open by her hairline with fists to the head. The fourth round also opened with a takedown from Nunes. Peña continued to attempt a triangle from her back, but she was too low each time. More shots from Nunes completely opened up Peña’s face, then prompted another knockdown as soon as they were back on their feet. The first four rounds favored Nunes, putting Peña in a position where she needed a finish in the final five minutes.
But the fifth round was also controlled by Nunes, who secured multiple takedowns. Peña was a constant threat on her back, never too far removed from a submission victory. But Nunes also played great defense, never allowing Peña to take control.
Once this went to the judges, this was never in doubt. The scores weren’t exactly as predicted, (50–45, 50–44, 50–43), with a 50–43 seeming outlandish, but there is no doubt that Nunes won this fight.
INTERIM FLYWEIGHT TITLE BOUT: BRANDON MORENO vs. KAI KARA-FRANCE -- 11:30 PM ET
Once again, Brandon Moreno is wearing UFC gold.
Moreno (20–6–2) laid out Kai Kara-France in the third round of a fantastic bout for the vacant flyweight title, setting up a fourth fight against reigning champ Deiveson Figueiredo.
After struggling to gain an advantage in the first two rounds, Kara-France (24–10) finally put his stamp on the bout in the third round by splitting open Moreno’s right eye with a vicious elbow. It looked like he’d won the round—until Moreno landed a left kick that won him the fight.
Following that kick, Moreno hit a flurry of strikes before the fight was stopped. The TKO victory sets up a fourth fight against Figueiredo, which will be a first in UFC history. Figueiredo entered the cage during Moreno’s post-fight interview, and the two exchanged mutual respects before agreeing upon their next fight.
One of the most exciting flyweights in UFC history, Moreno adds to his impressive fight portfolio with the win.
HEAVYWEIGHT BOUT: DERRICK LEWIS VS. SERGEI PAVLOVICH -- 11:09 PM ET
Sergei Pavlovich gets the victory against Derrick Lewis, yet he won’t get much credit for it. Referee Dan Miragliotta stopped the fight prematurely, a mistake he will have to live with—and one that hurts both fighters.
Miragliotta stopped the fight after 55 seconds, awarding the TKO victory to Lewis (26–10, 1 NC). But Pavlovic (16–1) didn’t do nearly enough damage to warrant the fight being stopped, and the replay supports Lewis, who was jumping to his feet as Miragliotta was calling the bout.
Unfortunately for Pavlovich, the win holds no value. They’ll need to run this fight back, and it is a waste of what could have been a memorable heavyweight battle.
FLYWEIGHT BOUT: ALEXANDRE PANTOJA VS. ALEX PEREZ -- 10:52 PM ET
Alexandre Pantoja displayed his vicious, impeccable technique, making an emphatic statement by making Alex Perez tap in the opening round.
Pantoja (25–5) opened the fight with his striking, brought Perez (24–7) to the ground, then quickly took Perez’s back and ended the fight with a neck crank.
This was Perez’s first fight since November 2020, a year in which he fought three times, but his return ended in a mere 92 seconds. Pantoja now knows his future, which is a fight (either for the undisputed or interim) flyweight title.
LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT BOUT: MAGOMED ANKALAEV VS. ANTHONY SMITH -- 10:25 PM ET
Magomed Ankalaev won his ninth straight fight, defeating Anthony Smith by TKO.
This was another dominant showing from Ankalaev (18–1). He took Smith (36–17) out of his comfort zone in the first round, then effectively ended the fight when Ankalaev checked one of Smith’s kicks, which Smith later said broke his left leg. Once the second round began, Ankalaev took Smith’s back, and just pummeled him with shots until the fight was stopped.
The victory puts No. 4-ranked Ankalaev one step closer to a title bout, putting him in line for the winner of the Jiri Prochazka-Glover Teixeira rematch.
Amanda Nunes looks to regain her place as the most dominant woman in mixed martial arts. Standing in her way is Julianna Peña, who defends the bantamweight title against Nunes in the main event of UFC 277.
Peña (11–4) produced a shocking victory against Nunes (21–5) last December, outstriking Nunes before making her tap out in the second round. It was a dominant performance, though unlikely to be repeated against a hungry, healthy Nunes. Even more than the title is at stake here. With a victory, Peña will attain an entirely new realm of greatness. But the far smarter bet is that Nunes wins for the thirteenth time in her past fourteen fights, regaining the title in the process.
Another title on the line is the interim flyweight championship, which will be claimed by either Brandon Moreno or Kai Kara-France. This is a rematch from 2019, a bout Moreno (19–6–2) won by unanimous decision. Kara-France (24–9) has never been better than he is at the current moment, yet it will take a herculean effort to defeat Moreno.
A second flyweight bout is also on the card, pitting Alexandre Pantoja against Alex Perez, a meeting of the No. 4 and No. 6 flyweights, respectively. Perez (24–6) is far less proven than Pantoja (24–5), who has exhibition wins on The Ultimate Fighter against both Moreno and Kara-France, and he defeated Moreno in 2018. The winner of this bout is well-positioned for a shot at the title after it is unified.
The 277 card features Derrick Lewis in his first fight since getting knocked out by Tai Tuivasa in February. Lewis (26–9, 1 NC) needs a win against Sergei Pavlovich to stay in the mix among heavyweight contenders, especially since he is angling for a fight against Stipe Miocic. For Pavlovich (15–1), a win tonight will mark the most significant victory of his career.
Magomed Ankalaev opens the main card against Anthony Smith. Despite being side-by-side in the rankings—Ankalaev is fourth in the light heavyweight rankings, with Smith currently at fifth—the odds for this fight are extremely far apart. Ankalaev (17–1) is heavily favored to win, despite Smith (36–16) having won three in a row, including two first-round, Performance of the Night submission victories.
This is a card with stars and depth, and it should be the highlight of the summer for UFC.
More MMA Coverage: