What’s Next: UFC 277 Losers

Julianna Pena flexes during the UFC 269 press conference
Julianna Pena flexes during the UFC 269 press conference. Credit: Gabriel Gonzalez/Cageside Press

The American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas was filled to the rafters on Saturday night as over 19,000 people were in attendance to witness one of the most anticipated rematches in UFC history at UFC 277.

Not only was the main event a highly anticipated rematch, but the co-main event of the evening also involved two men who had already gone to war with each other on a previous occasion.

Let’s take a look at what could be next for the losers on the night.

Julianna Pena

“The Venezuelan Vixen” was coming into her UFC 277 rematch with Amanda Nunes with the confidence that despite the changes Nunes had made in her camp, she still had her number.

The question marks over the rematch were whether Nunes’ adjustments would prove fruitful, as Pena was likely going to deploy the same game plan that won her the strap. The beginning of the fight indicated that Pena was in fact going to do more of the same, but what she was met with was a completely different fighter from the last fight.

Nunes stayed on the outside and didn’t allow the champion to get in her face early on, picking her counter shots exceedingly well, causing Pena a magnitude of problems. With Nunes showing a mature composure, Julianna was hesitant to try and get in her face early.

In round two Pena came out with more pressure than in the first five minutes, but she paid for it early on when she was dropped twice with two perfectly timed counter right hands. In the latter rounds Nunes dominated the champion on the mat, and despite some dangerous submission attempts from Pena, she couldn’t retain gold. Nunes now finds herself as the first woman in UFC history to win 10 title fights.

In a post on social media, Pena hinted that she desires a rematch stating that the two are now 1-1. I’m not sure an immediate rematch suits Pena in this case; after losing and being thoroughly dominated, a rematch shouldn’t come next. Although Ketlen Vieira has called for a title shot, I think a fight between herself and Pena should come next while Nunes revisits a trilogy with another champion.

Pena’s next fight: Ketlen Vieira

Kai Kara-France

In the other rematch on the night, Kai Kara-France took on former Flyweight champion Brandon Moreno. In their first meeting, Moreno sailed through to a unanimous decision victory after finding himself losing the first round.

Similar to the main event, the former champion made some changes to his camp to attempt to find a new rhythm to his game. “Assassin Baby” decided to part ways with the Entram team for his rematch with Kara-France, and gained the assistance of highly sought after coach James Krause.

The move paid dividends as Moreno secured the third round finish after an enticingly close first two rounds. Going into the third round, the scorecards were all over the place as Sal D’amato had Moreno winning the first two, Douglas Crosby had the Kiwi winning the first two and Jacob Montalivo had them each winning a round.

There is no denying in rounds two and three, Kara-France began to land some nice shots of his own and just like their first meeting, started to invest in some heavy leg kicks. Despite picking up the pace, towards the end of the round he found himself on the end of a brutal body kick from the Mexican that folded him, subsequently losing the fight.

With Kara-France still on the right side of 30, he can undoubtedly fight his way back up to a title shot in the near future. To restart that pursuit, another rematch may be in the pipeline, but this time with Brandon Royval.

Kara-France’s next fight: Brandon Royval 

Derrick Lewis

“The Black Beast” was fighting in his home state for the second time this year at UFC 277. With his first fight of the year not going as planned, the promotion’s leading knockout artist was hoping to get back into the win column this time out.

Unfortunately for Lewis, Sergei Pavlovich was coming in on a hot streak and he managed to continue his winning ways. Despite Pavlovich coming out with the KO win inside a minute, the stoppage was extremely questionable and received a lot of criticism. The two got involved in a heavy back and forth exchange with Pavlovich landing the more damaging shots, resulting in Lewis backing up. Pavlovich continued to put on the pressure after wobbling the big man and caught him with a sharp uppercut, dropping Lewis face down. Although Lewis fell, as soon as ref Dan Miragliotta stopped the fight, Lewis popped straight back up to his feet issuing his complaints of an early stoppage.

With it being a controversial win, some fans are calling for an immediate rematch between the two, but despite it being a tad early, Pavlovich had Lewis hurt and had him dropped to his knees with a big flurry of ground strikes likely to proceed. I don’t like the sound of an immediate rematch and instead, I’d prefer Lewis to take on Jairzinho Rozenstruik.

Lewis’ next fight: Jairzinho Rozenstruik

Alex Perez

After a one year period of six cancelled bouts, Alex Perez was finally set to re-enter the Octagon against a man he hadn’t previously been scheduled to fight. Perez’ last bout came against the current champion back in 2020, where he was submitted in the first round, coming up short in his title challenge. Alexandre Pantoja on the other-hand was coming in off two impressive wins over Brandon Royval and Manel Kape both in 2021.

The inactivity of Perez proved pivotal as after just 1 minute 30, found himself with “The Cannibal” on his back, sinking in a rear-naked-choke. With Pantoja’s pace having caught Perez off guard, the Californian found himself picking up only his third loss of his five year UFC tenure.

With Perez having only fought once in two years, it is key that he gets back in there as soon as he is able to. A fight that makes sense for both fighters having been booked twice before is Perez vs Askarov.

Perez’s next fight: Askar Askarov

Anthony Smith

Coming into his bout with Magomed Ankalaev, “Lionheart” found himself as a huge underdog to pick up his 4th straight win. There was no doubt that if Smith could put a stop to Ankalaev’s impressive run, he would once again be a contender in the Light Heavyweight division.

The 34-year-old veteran was going into the bout having put on a considerable amount of size compared to his last outings. In the first round, Ankalaev landed a perfect leg kick on the Nebraskan which caused Smith to limp back to his stool in between rounds.

Smith claimed after the fight that the leg kick caused a break, but in the post fight press conference, Dana White confirmed that in a scan, no break was detected. It is yet to be determined what the full extent of the injury is but at this stage of his career, it is an injury that “Lionheart” cannot afford.

Fellow former title challenger Dominick Reyes is still looking for a suitor for his return, and a fight between the two could make a whole lot of sense.

Smith’s next fight: Dominick Reyes