UFC 277: Kara-France Seeks Career Changing Victory While Moreno Chases Former Foe

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Brandon Moreno UFC
ANAHEIM, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 22: Brandon Moreno of Mexico arrives prior to his fight during the UFC 270 event at Honda Center on January 22, 2022 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Cooper Neill/Zuffa LLC)

In a high stakes rematch with championship gold on the line, Brandon Moreno will pursue a bout with a former foe while Kai Kara-France seeks a career-changing victory at UFC 277.

The idea of a fourth consecutive fight between any two fighters is an unprecedented and quite frankly unheard of notion at the highest level.  But that is the state of the men’s flyweight division as Deiveson Figuieredo and Brandon Moreno have entertained the masses with three straight battles.  Following a competitive third in January, even UFC President Dana White kept the door open for a fourth straight bout without another opponent in-between.  Per reports, it would have materialized had Figueiredo not been dealing with persistent injuries that took him off Moreno and the UFC’s timetable.

A large reason for the desire for the bout is because of the breakout star that is “The Assassin Baby.”  After becoming the UFC’s first Mexican born champion in 2021, Moreno became one of the promotion’s most popular fighters.  While his affability has played a part, it was his run in 2019 where he went nearly three years without a loss that cemented his standing.  Moreno recorded wins over the likes of Figueiredo, Brandon Royval, and Jussier Formiga and others in that span to complete one of the most impressive career comeback’s ever seen after being cut from the UFC only to return and claim gold.

One of Moreno’s victories on his way to the belt was his foe on Saturday: Kai Kara-France.  The Australian contender entered the UFC after building a strong resume and wealth of experience on the regional scene in his native country.  Upon entering the Octagon in 2018, his run of success continued as he reeled off victories over Elise Garcia, Raulian Paiva, and Mark De La Rosa to enter the elite conversation in the shallow flyweight division.  At the time, it seemed as if the City Kickboxing product would be the one to carry the torch in the lightest weight class as his teammates Israel Adesanya and Alexander Volkanovski also ascended to the championship level.

Ironically, it was Moreno who cooled his championship aspirations for a time.  Despite a competitive contest, the judges gave the future champion the nod in 2019 and handed “Don’t Blink” his first UFC loss.  Kara-France would bounce back with a win over Tyson Nam, but a first round knockout loss to upstart Brandon Royval in 2020 put him on the outside of the title picture.  Despite the setback, Kara-France strung together the necessary victories to get back in the conversation of the elite as he bested Rogerio Bontorin, former bantamweight champion Cody Garbrandt, and the previously undefeated Askar Askarov.

While both have evolved into better versions of the fighters they were in 2019, they are expected to pursue similar approaches to the rematch.  The biggest x-factor will be the grappling of Moreno and how much he chooses to pursue a takedown to use his prowess on the mat, something he did not use to much effect in the first bout.  On the feet, Kara-France’s counter-striking and distance management was on full display as he kept the bout close and he is expected to hold similar advantages again on Saturday.  That said, the size and physicality of Moreno could force the Australian to take more risks as the former champion has become more comfortable throwing at a higher volume than 2019 and thus force Kara-France to be the aggressor if he is to stay ahead on the scorecards.

A victory will set up a fight with current champion Deiveson Figueiredo in the final month of the year if his recovery goes well or in the first quarter of 2023 should there be any setback.  For Moreno, it would be a historic fourth contest with the same opponent which has never happened before in UFC history.  For Kara-France, it would be a chance to upset a dominant champion who only has the loss to Moreno and to Formiga from earlier in his career.

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