Once again, the Lioness is queen. For all the questions about her mental state after losing the bantamweight title to Julianna Pena last winter at UFC 269, Amanda Nunes delivered perhaps the most methodical performance of her career at UFC 277.
Did I say methodical? Well, while it isn’t an inaccurate statement to say she put together the most methodical performance of her career, it would be more descriptive to say she delivered the most brutal beatdown of her career on Pena. Nunes never exhibited an ounce of over-aggression, but she did take advantage of just about every opening that presented itself. She secured three knockdowns in the second round alone. In the last three rounds, she took Pena down at will and battered her with punches and elbows on the mat.
To Pena’s credit, she never gave up. She continued to crash into Nunes, looking to catch Nunes with a big punch. She threw up submission attempt after submission attempt, coming close on an armbar attempt in the fourth round. However, by the time the final bell rung, Pena was a bloody mess. I can’t say Nunes was unscathed, but a little bit of makeup will cover up her scratches. Pena won’t be afforded that luxury.
While only a fool would say Nunes’ legacy was on the line, there’s no doubt the performance adds to an already sterling resume. By regaining her belt, she became the first two-time double champion. Plus, the brutal manner in which she beat down Pena eliminated the need to see them throw down for a third time. Nunes stated post-fight that she hasn’t been back to Brazil in three years due to the pandemic, so it may be a while before we see her fight again. Given there isn’t an immediate contender anyone wants to see her fight — in bantamweight or featherweight — an extended absence may not be the worst idea.
As for Pena, she established herself as one of the toughest women on the planet. Yes, she endured a terrible beatdown, but she never gave up. She could have given in to a deep RNC Nunes had her in within the final minute, but she instead fought out of it. If Nunes continues to fight until she’s 40, Pena is going to have to put together a nice streak before getting another fight against the new champion.
- It’s safe to say we’re getting the fourth fight between Brandon Moreno and Deiveson Figueiredo. Kai Kara-France put up a hell of a fight with Moreno, remaining competitive through the first two rounds. Hell, he hurt Moreno bad enough early in the third to get the crowd anxious to believe they were about to see a finish. Moreno recovered, eventually hurting Kara-France with a jab. Kara-France began reeling backwards, only for Moreno to land a perfectly placed kick to the liver. Kara-France dropped like a sack of potatoes, the referee stopping the fight after Kara-France couldn’t fight back from Moreno’s follow up punches. After being awarded the interim belt, Moreno called out Figueiredo as respectfully as anyone has ever made a callout. Figueiredo appeared to agree to fourth fight on one condition: it take place in Brazil. Moreno agreed. Now it’s up to Uncle Dana to make that happen....
- Are we at the end of the line for Derrick Lewis? The heavy-hitting fan favorite only lasted 55 seconds against Sergei Pavlovich. A wild exchange took place, Lewis got hurt, and Pavlovich never let off until the referee stepped in. Lewis argued the stoppage was early, but given he went head first into the mat, it’s hard to blame Dan Miragliotta for stopping the action. It could very well just be that Lewis got caught, but it very well could be we are witnessing the end of the line for Lewis now that he’s dropped three of his last four. As for Pavlovich, there’s no doubt he’s a top ten heavyweight now.
- Alexandre Pantoja wants a title shot. Perhaps the best flyweight in the history of the organization to never fight for the title, he came out to make a statement and did so emphatically. He blitzed Alex Perez with punches before snaking around behind him to backpack him. Perez fought off the choke, but he couldn’t withstand the squeeze on his jaw, eventually tapping. Given Pantoja has wins over both Moreno and Kara-France – even if they were on TUF – he has a strong argument. He’ll be waiting for Figueiredo and Moreno to finish their business if that’s the case.
- After nine consecutive wins – including back-to-back wins over a pair of former title challengers – it’s about damn time Magomed Ankalaev gets a shot at UFC gold. Sure, he’s not the most exciting. Hell, even though he got a stoppage over Anthony Smith, it was due to GnP after Smith’s alleged broken leg proved to be too much to overcome. Then again, it was Ankalaev who broke the leg. Regardless, after so many wins, the man should be getting his due sooner rather than later.
- I get the feeling Alex Morono wants people to continue to doubt him. He seems to thrive on being the underdog. The unathletic wonder outboxed the more athletic Matt Semelsberger for the majority of the night, closing up the eye of Semelsberger to the point it was a shock the doctor didn’t stop the fight. Semelsberger didn’t care, coming thisclose to stopping Morono with a flying knee out of the gate for the third round. Morono recovered, arguably winning the rest of the round to decisively take a judges decision.
- I worry about Drew Dober when his post-fight career begins. The man refuses to engage in a boring fight. Someway, somehow, he continues to take bombs directly on the chin and continues to move forward. Rafael Alves landed more than his share of bombs, but it was ultimately Dober’s continued work to the body of the flashy Brazilian that ended the contest, a body punch dropping Alves in the early half of the third round. It’s debatable whether these two know how to have a boring fight.
- At this point, we’ve all come to expect low level heavyweight action to be the definition of blah. However, there’s always an exception to the rule. Dontale Mayes and Hamdy Abdulwahab delivered that exception for us. Abdulwahab dropped Mayes in the first. Mayes unloaded on Abdulwahab in the second. Abdulwahab sealed the third with a takedown and LOTS of control, but Mayes made a strong effort to end the fight in the closing seconds.
- It’s hard not to appreciate the new version of Drakkar Klose. Long a counter fighter who pushes his opponents into the fence, Klose has taken a more aggressive approach in his recent fights, with mixed results. Though Rafa Garcia made it a hell of a fight, Klose’s aggression made all the difference down the stretch, outpointing a fading Garcia down the stretch. It was a good win for Klose and a respectable showing from Garcia.
- Make no mistake, Adam Fugitt is a gamer. The newcomer took the fight to a heavily favored Michael Morales, arguably taking the first round on the back of his wrestling and doggedness. Morales wised up by the end of the first round, maintaining his distance and picking apart his less athletic opponent. Fugitt hung in there as long as he could, continuing to press forward. Unfortunately for him, he ate too many strikes in the process, eventually succumbing to Morales’ continued attack. Fugitt made a nice first impression, but ultimately it was the potential of Morales that proved to be the fight’s talking point.
- It took a bit for both Joselyne Edwards and Ji Yeon Kim to warm up, but they delivered the goods that were expected of them in the end. For whatever reason, the typically aggressive Kim was content to allow Edwards to dictate the pace early on. It ended up costing her as dropping the first round proved to be the difference-maker in a split decision. Edwards mixed in just enough takedowns and control with her outside attack to narrowly gain the judges’ favor.
- The hype around DWCS products is beginning to wear off. After opening the betting lines as the favorite, Ihor Potieria entered his contest with Nicolae Negumereanu as the underdog. Negumereanu made the betting public very happy, pushing a hard pace on the newcomer, unleashing a flurry of uppercuts and knees to finish of Potieria later in the second round. The win was four in a row in the shallow light heavyweight division. Negumereanu has the look of a dark horse.
- The card opened with Orion Cosce and Blood Diamond throwing down. Well... maybe throwing down is the wrong word. Wary of Diamond’s kickboxing background, Cosce opted to wrestle with Diamond, wearing him out against the cage over the first two rounds before controlling him on the mat in the final round. Diamond had some nice moments when they weren’t in close quarters, but he didn’t seal the deal when he seemed to have the opportunity to do so near the end of the second round, giving Cosce his first win in the UFC.