UFC 277 turned out to be a highly entertaining card that moved a number of divisions forward. Amanda Nunes reclaimed her bantamweight title, and double champ status in the main event. Brandon Moreno reclaimed gold, albeit of the interim variety, in the co-feature. What’s next for these champions and the other key players on the card? Read on.
“The Lioness” stalked her prey on Saturday, then chose to play with her food rather than devour it. There was a real sense that Amanda Nunes could have finished Julianna Pena at several points in their rematch, only to decline to engage on the ground when the champ was hurt. In particular, a round that saw Pena knocked down three times seemed like a good opening to pounce, but Nunes stayed patient instead. And can you blame her? When she did go to the ground with Pena, she had to contend with a very active fighter who threw up a whole lot of submission attempts.
Ultimately, Nunes won a one-sided decision with scores of 50-45, 50-44, and 50-43. That may quell any desire for a third fight, at least temporarily, though Pena is already petitioning for one. Nunes, meanwhile, has suggested defending her 145 lb title next, but against who? The UFC failed to sign Kayla Harrison, and through their own failure, they don’t even have a featherweight division for women — that second belt is a straight up marketing ploy. Gone are Felicia Spencer (retired) and Megan Anderson (currently a free agent), two legit 145’ers that could have been used to help build the division. No one was screaming for a Norma Dumont title shot, and with Macy Chiasson having beat Dumont, no one is screaming for that fight either. No, 145 needs some time to produce a contender, and in the meantime, it’s the perfect opportunity to book Nunes vs. Shevchenko 3.
Nunes’ next fight: Valentina Shevchenko
People will remember the finish more than anything else, but it’s worth noting that Brandon Moreno had to overcome a fair bit of adversity from Kai Kara-France on Saturday. Kara-France was piecing Moreno up at points, with the evidence stenciled on the Mexican’s face: the former flyweight champ had a nasty cut opened under one eye, on top of miscellaneous bumps and bruises. A body kick in the third round changed everything, however: Kara-France folded, Moreno piled on, and claimed an interim title, setting up a fourth fight with Deiveson Figueiredo.
During the UFC 277 post-fight press conference, Dana White espoused some regrets about having Figueiredo enter the cage for a face-off immediately after Moreno’s win. Forget that. What transpired was one of the most memorable moments the flyweight division has produced: an apology from Moreno for alleged racist comments he made about Brazilians, a show of respect from both men, and a promise of a fourth fight. Possibly in Brazil.
There’s no other fight to make. The fourth fight may not even be the last for these two. If ever there was a 1A and 1B in terms of talent in a weight class, it’s Figueiredo and Moreno. Gretzky and Lemieux. Jordan and Johnson. Years from now we may just debate who was truly better.
Moreno’s next fight: Deiveson Figueiredo
If one claims that Derrick Lewis was the victim of an early stoppage at UFC 277, as the popular opinion suggests, then how much does this quick KO win actually raise the stock of Sergei Pavlovich? Dana White said following the event that the loss won’t diminish Lewis at all; conversely, that makes it hard to suggest that the win will boost Pavlovich’s standing in the heavyweight division much.
This is a win on paper, to be sure. But it’s White and the matchmakers that matter moving forward. Which means in our attempt at playing matchmaker here, we’re not about to book Pavlovich into a title shot.
Ranked #11 in the division to start the night, it might be an opportune time for some Russian on Russian violence. Alexander Volkov picked up a win over Jair Rozenstruik in June, and is ranked #7 in the weight class. That’s a couple spots back of Lewis, but it feels like Pavlovich will be taking the long road.
Pavlovich’s next fight: Alexander Volkov
In a perfect world, it would be a title shot next for Alexandre Pantoja. Especially after a statement victory against Alex Perez at UFC 277.
We’re not in a perfect world. Deiveson Figueiredo vs. Brandon Moreno 4 must happen next, leaving Pantoja the odd man out. Sitting and waiting is an option, but the UFC has never been a fan of fighters who do that. This might be the point where the UFC books Pantoja into a rematch with Askar Askarov, who holds a win over the Brazilian. But there’s another option: Kai Kara-France. Though coming off a loss, Kara-France looked good in his interim title fight against Brandon Moreno on Saturday. The timing works out superbly well assuming neither is injured, and this might be the rare flyweight non-title fight that could headline a Fight Night event.
Pantoja’s next fight: Kai Kara-France
We’re paraphrasing here, but Magomed Ankalaev basically asked what he had to do to fight for the damn title already following his win over Anthony Smith at UFC 277.
Some will dock points in this case as Smith suffered a leg injury in the fight, but that’s the sport. Smith was himself the beneficiary of a similar injury suffered by Jimmy Crute not too long ago. Beyond that, Ankalaev has won nine straight in the UFC light heavyweight division. That’s impressive.
The problem here is that champ Jiri Prochazka is looking to run it back with Glover Teixeira, and their first fight was flat-out fantastic. That’s probably enough reason to book the second one, especially as Teixeira isn’t getting any younger. Ankalaev might as well be booked against another former champ, Jan Blachowicz, to sort out who is next.
Ankalaev’s next fight: Jan Blachowicz