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UFC 277: Pena vs. Nunes 2 - Winners and Losers

The real winners and losers from UFC 277

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Amanda Nunes is the champ-champ again after defeating Julianna Pena at UFC 277.
Amanda Nunes is the champ-champ again after defeating Julianna Pena at UFC 277.
Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

Julianna Pena’s reign as UFC women’s bantamweight champion began with an emphatic win in December. It ended in resounding defeat on Saturday night when the woman she submitted to win that crown, Amanda Nunes, put her through the wringer in the main event of UFC 277.

Pena lasted the full 25 minutes, but she left the octagon bloodied, beaten and in need of surgery. The matchup was one-sided and left no question as to Nunes’ claim as the best fighter in the UFC’s women’s bantamweight division.

In the co-main event, Brandon Moreno surprised everyone — especially his opponent — Kai Kara-France when he landed a perfectly timed and placed liver kick to end their UFC interim flyweight title fight in the third-round.

Before the headlining bouts, Derrick Lewis’ losing skid in his home state of Texas stretched to three straight compliments of Sergei Pavlovich, Alexandre Pantoja ran over Alex Perez and Magomed Ankalaev added another win to his lengthy unbeaten streak.

Read on for the full list of winners and losers from UFC 277, which took place at American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas. The main card streamed on ESPN+ pay-per-view following prelims on ABC and early prelims on ESPN+.

Winners:

Amanda Nunes: From the moment she tapped to Julianna Pena’s rear-naked choke and lost the UFC bantamweight title in December, Amanda Nunes was subjected to questions about her past, present and future.

There were inquiries about what went wrong, her future prospects and her standing as the best women fighter the UFC had ever seen. While Nunes might not have addressed all those matters with her win over Pena in their rematch in the main event of UFC 277, she answered the most important one — and that was her standing in the present. Nunes is once again a two-division UFC champion and she regained that standing the same way she claimed that position, via a dominant beatdown.

Yes, Nunes took some unnecessary risks in her rematch against Pena, but after she faced the level of scrutiny that followed her loss to Pena at UFC 269, it was almost as if Nunes took those risks just so she had more moments to point to after her win. That is, if any of her recent detractors were to be question her about her standing as the two-division queen.

The only thing missing from Nunes’ win at UFC 277 was a finish. Following her four previous losses, Nunes returned to win her next outing via first-round stoppage.

Brandon Moreno vs. Kai Kara-France: The co-main event was incredible. The first two rounds of the interim flyweight contest were incredibly tense. Throughout the first 10 minutes, it felt like the winner would emerge after he capitalized on a mistake from his foe. That thought went by the wayside when Kara-France found his range and timing in the third stanza. Kara-France bloodied Moreno and it seemed as if he was getting the former champ off of his game via his effective striking. The more success Kara-France had, the more it seemed as if Moreno became less technical and more interested in getting some back from his opponent. As the third round progressed, Moreno accomplished that goal, landing a well-timed and even better placed liver kick that crumpled Kara-France to the mat and brought the fight to a close.

There were no questions about the finish. Moreno earned the title and with that his chance to face Deiveson Figueiredo in an unprecedented fourth title fight.

Deiveson Figueiredo: In what could have been an ugly moment of trash talk and chest-thumping, UFC flyweight champion Deiveson Figueiredo entered the octagon during Moreno’s post-fight chat with UFC commentator Joe Rogan. Instead, the two had a rather respectful face-to-face meeting and seemed to agree on a title unification bout in Brazil before the end of 2022.

Sergei Pavlovich: Sergei Pavlovich knocked out Derrick Lewis in the first round. He know has four straight first-round KO wins and with that he’s likely to climb into the top-10 of the division. He was No. 11 in the official UFC heavyweight rankings ahead of UFC 277, while Lewis checked in at No. 5.

Alexandre Pantoja: Alexandre Pantoja ended a nearly one-year absence from the octagon on Saturday and he made a statement. The No. 4 fighter in the official UFC flyweight rankings took the fight right to the No. 6 ranked Alex Perez and dominated the fight in every way, ending things 91 seconds into the contest with a nasty neck crank following an impressive back take. Things could not have gone any better for Pantoja at UFC 277 and depending on how long UFC flyweight champ Deiveson Figueiredo is going to be on the shelf, Pantoja might get his requested matchup against the winner of UFC 277 co-main event.

Magomed Ankalaev: Magomed Ankalaev was the No. 4 ranked fighter in the UFC’s official light heavyweight rankings ahead of UFC 277. I’m not sure if his TKO win over Anthony Smith on Saturday will move him up those rankings, but the second-round stoppage won’t hurt him.

The 30-year-old Ankalaev is now on a nine-fight winning streak. I still have questions about how Ankalaev will react to a fighter who pushes him out of his comfort zone, but I also have questions about another fighter’s ability to test Ankalaev in that manner.

Unless something happens, Ankalaev’s next fight is probably going to be a title eliminator. He’s earned the opportunity.

Alex Morono: Before UFC 277 I was of the mind that the UFC matchmakers had decided that Alex Morono was going to be a fighter who they used to test rising fighters against. If that was his role at UFC 277, Morono succeeded in turning back the rising Matthew Semelsberger, but he did not do that with ease, as Semelsberger proved he his toughness in grit in fighting most of the contest with a badly damaged left eye. Morono is on a four-fight winning streak, the lengthiest run of victories of his UFC career, which began with a split-decision win over Kyle Noke in 2016.

Matthew Semelsberger: Matthew Semelsberger dropped a decision to Alex Morono, but he showed a lot of heart and toughness in competing with a left eye that was essentially closed for the majority of the fight.

Drew Dober: While Rafael Alves looked to entertain fans by being a whole lot of extra, Drew Dober did the same via toughness and technique. Dober’s approach was more effective as he stopped the lightweight fight with a nasty body punch in the third stanza.

Dober looked excellent in this matchup. He was patient and didn’t let Alves’ antics get in his head. What he did was control the fight on the feet in the second and third rounds and earn himself a second straight knockout win.

The win should get Dober another tough test in the 155-pound division.

Rafael Alves: Rafael Alves is a wild man, but is he too wild? The 31-year-old seemed to tax his cardio a bit before his fight against Drew Dober began. He then spent a great deal of energy during the first round. Alves’ second round was a bit slower and he spent most of that round fighting with his back to the cage until an eyepoke paused the bout. After his vision cleared, Alves was incredibly aggressive — and entertaining.

If Alves paces himself better and fights with a little less recklessness, he will still be entertaining and he might find some success. However, I’m not sure that’s in his nature.

Hamdy Abdelwahab: No one should be sold on Hamdy Abdelwahab as a heavyweight contender, but the 29-year-old put together a nice debut against Don’Tale Mayes.

Abdelwahab had under two weeks to get ready for this short notice matchup and he was ready. He used his superior wrestling, powerful striking and heavy top game to get the win. With less than a year of MMA experience to his name this was the first time Abdelwahab went the distance.

Drakkar Klose: In the lead up to this fight, I felt Klose was going to need a statement win if he was going to use a victory over late replacement Rafa Garcia to make a move in the lightweight division. Klose got a decision win (29-28 x 3) that was not dominant. With that, Klose will probably stay right where he was before the fight.

Klose requested a matchup with Tony Ferguson after his win at UFC 277. That fight doesn’t make sense. However, rebooking Klose opposite Diego Ferreira, who was his initial UFC 277 opponent, seems like a good move.

Michael Morales: Michael Morales is a talented young fighter. The 23-year-old moved to 14-0 on Saturday with a third-round knockout win over Adam Fugitt. The win at UFC 277 should be a turning point in the career in the young fighter.

Morales was one of the biggest favorites on the card, but there were some points where Fugitt gave him problems. Morales is extremely confident in his skills — and he should be — however, as he moves up the ranks and faces more gifted opponents, he’s going to need to close the gaps in his game. Fugitt exposed some of those gaps on Saturday. I hope to see a much improved Morales in his next outing and I look forward to that fight happening as soon as possible.

Nicolae Negumereanu: Nicolae Negumereanu has earned himself a step up in competition. After a KO win over Ike Villanueva and a split decision victory over Kennedy Nzechukwu, Negumereanu destroyed Ihor Potieria on the early prelims of UFC 277. Negumereanu took advantage of a favorable matchup against an opponent with a blown-up record and lit him up. Now 13-1 with eight knockout wins, the 27-year-old Negumereanu needs to move up in competition.

Losers:

Julianna Pena: Julianna Pena and her team seemed to think they could employ the same game plan they did for UFC 269 and it would have success at UFC 277 and when that didn’t work, they had no backup plan.

I’ll give Pena credit for toughness and her refusal to quit, but she was outmatched for the entire 25 minutes of the fight and

Derrick Lewis: Derrick Lewis fell to 1-3 in his past four outings with his knockout loss to Sergei Pavlovich. If there is a bright spot for the defeat for Lewis it’s that the UFC matchmakers might agree with him that the stoppage was early. If that is the case, Lewis could avoid relegation to heavyweight gatekeeper status.

Alex Perez: Alex Perez had not fought since Deiveson Figueiredo submitted him in a UFC flyweight title fight in November 2020. That fight lasted 1:57. Perez returned to action at UFC 277 and Alexandre Pantoja never gave him a chance to get into the fight. Pantoja overwhelmed Perez from the start of the bout and earned the submission win at 1:31 of the first round. The loss is an enormous setback for Perez’s hopes of getting back to the UFC flyweight title picture.

Anthony Smith: Anthony Smith complained of an injured leg between the first and second rounds. That injury left Smith compromised and seemed to keep Smith from mounting much defense once the fight went to the ground.

Don’Tale Mayes: I know this was a heavyweight fight, but facing a short-notice opponent with less than a year of MMA experience and losing under the UFC banner is not a good look. That’s what happened in the Don’Tale Mayes vs. Hamdy Abdelwahab matchup. Any momentum Mayes had generated with his two previous UFC wins disappeared on Saturday night.

Ihor Potieria: In the lead up to the light heavyweight bout between Nicolae Negumereanu vs. Ihor Potieria, I noted that Potieria’s record looked inflated. Turns out that might have been true, as he had nothing at all to offer Nicolae Negumereanu, who ran over Potieria.

Mike “Blood Diamond” Mathetha: Mike “Blood Diamond” Mathetha fell to 0-2 in the UFC with a loss to Orion Cosce in the opening fight of the UFC 277 fight card. Mathetha is an excellent striker, however he is not a good wrestler and that gap in his skill set is the main reason his record is 0-2 with the UFC.

Mathetha should have spent more time outside the UFC getting wrestling and grappling reps, but his affiliation with UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya and the City Kickboxing gym got him moved to the UFC before he was ready to compete at an elite level. The UFC is not supposed to be the MMA organization where you learn on the job - not in 2022.

Referee Dan Miragliotta and Texas Athletic Commission Doctor: At the start of the third round of the fight between Alex Morono and Matthew Semelsberger, referee Dan Miragliotta called the doctor in to look at the left eye of Semelsberger, which was badly swollen quickly closing. Before the doctor could get close, Miragliotta offered his thoughts on the damage, “it doesn’t look bad.” Meanwhile, UFC commentators Joe Rogan and Daniel Cormier wondered if the damage was worth a stoppage — they agreed that it was. However, the doctor, perhaps picking up on Miragliotta’s language, offered only a cursory check on the fighter before allowing the contest to continue.

UFC commentary team during main event: I can’t say that I expect biased commentary from the UFC’s announcing team, but when it happens — and it happens much more than the UFC and its fans should be comfortable with — I tend to accept it with a shrug, or at most, a raised eyebrow.

During tonight’s main event, Julianna Pena got beat up for five rounds and lost decisively. If you listen to the UFC commentary team, Pena was just a millisecond away from turning things around and ending the fight. As far as incorrect commentary during a UFC fight goes, the main event of UFC 277 misrepresented the reality of what was happening in the cage on an almost comical level.

Joe Rogan: I know people love Joe Rogan on UFC commentary. I also know the days of Rogan even trying to appear interested in the job outside of fight night are in the past. During the co-main event, Rogan asked if Kai Kara-France had ever fought in a five-round fight before. Knowing the answer to that question beforehand seems like the lowest bar of pre-fight preparation.

The above is just another example of why I think someone who actually prepares and takes the job seriously — as more than a one-night a month, eight hour, part-time gig — should replace Rogan. Rogan had his time and he served an important role. That time has passed.

Neither:

Orion Cosce: Orion Cosce missed weight for his scheduled welterweight bout opposite Mike “Blood Diamond” Mathetha. That weight miss is the main reason he ended up as a “neither” and not a winner.

Cosce fought well against Mathetha. He tested his striking against his opponent, who was superior in that aspect of MMA, and when that failed he went to his wrestling, where he held the advantage, and battled to a decision win. This was a good bounce back victory for Cosce, who suffered his first professional loss in his UFC debut opposite Phil Rowe in July 2021.