Everything you need to know about UFC 277: Pena Vs. Nunes 2

Publish Date
Friday, 29 July 2022, 9:29AM

ACC UFC contributor Felix Heath-Collins with everything you need to know ahead of UFC 277: Pena Vs. Nunes 2.

I'm dying from the flu, but it's not every day that a Kiwi challenges for a championship belt. So, for the sake of MMA history, I'm soldiering through. On to the fights!

Julianna Peña vs. Amanda Nunes

In the main event, the newly-crowned Women's bantamweight champion Julianna Peña defends her belt against the all-time-great of Women's MMA, Amanda Nunes.

Julianna "The Venezuelan Vixen" Peña (12-4) made her UFC debut back in 2013 following her dominant run through season 18 of The Ultimate Fighter reality show. As 2013's Ultimate Fighter winner, Peña had a bright future in the burgeoning popularity of Women's MMA following "Rowdy" Ronda Rousey's popularity explosion. In her early UFC career, Peña defeated top contenders Jessica "Evil" Eye and "Alpha" Cat Zingano via decision, before being submitted by the now-dominant flyweight champion Valentina "Bullet" Shevchenko. Trading wins and losses against Nicco Montaño and the one-time champion of the featherweight division, "The Iron Lady" Germaine de Randamie. Breaking into 2021 with a rear naked choke of Sara McMann, Juliana Peña had finally earned herself a title shot against the Women's GOAT (Greatest Of All Time) Amanda Nunes. Suffice it to say nobody gave Peña a shot in hell. As a +700 underdog, a $100 bet on Peña would've netted $700 upon her winning. And boy did she win! A back-and-forward battle ended in the second round when Peña hurt Nunes on the feet, before finishing the fight via rear naked choke submission. To truly solidify her position at the top of the weight class, Peña must beat the former champion Nunes a second time, back-to-back.

Amanda "The Lioness" Nunes (21-5) is the new Cris Cyborg. She's equal parts violent, dominant, and terrifying, while still being incredibly grounded and down-to-earth. Her impeccable career includes a list of victims like Germaine de Randamie, Sara McMann, Valentina Shevchenko, Miesha "Cupcake" Tate, "Rowdy" Ronda Rousey, Cris Cyborg, and Holly "The Preacher's Daughter" Holm. Up until the Juliana Peña fight, Amanda Nunes was the double champion, holding both Women's bantamweight and featherweight belts. Even following the loss of her bantamweight title, Nunes still currently holds the featherweight belt.

So, how do Juliana Peña and Amanda Nunes stack up in this rematch? Well, Peña is a submission specialist out of Sikjitsu gym with a naturally large frame for a female fighter. Not only has she shown the ability to submit the former double-champion Nunes, but Peña has also demonstrated the striking power to rock (and nearly finish) "The Lioness" on the feet. Amanda Nunes is a terrifyingly powerful fighter herself, who could hold her own against most male fighters and champions. Nunes shocked the world at the end of 2018 by demolishing the former featherweight champion Cris Cyborg with punches in under a minute total. While Peña might have the first fight under her belt, this rematch is totally up in the air. Whoever wins will herald a new era in Women's MMA, and I can't wait!

Brandon Moreno vs. Kai Kara-France

Brandon "The Assassin Baby" Moreno (19-6) is the loveable former champion of the flyweight division, who would still be champion if MMA judging wasn't so wonky. Moreno is the Mexican face of MMA today, and was the first UFC champion born and raised in Mexico (sorry Cain Velasquez). Moreno's run through the flyweight champion saw him choke out Louis "Da Last Samurai" Smolka and Dustin Ortiz, win decisions against the likes of Kai Kara-France, Jussier Formiga, and a TKO against Brandon "Raw Dawg" Royval. And, at the end of 2020, Moreno finally ran into his new nemesis, the flyweight champion Deiveson "Dues Da Guerra" Figueiredo. That first fight was a decision that Moreno should've won decisively, but the fight was ruled a majority draw decision, which allowed Figueiredo to keep his title. In the immediate rematch in mid-2021 Moreno took the judges out of the equation when he demolished Figueiredo, winning via rear naked choke in the third round. Despite winning decisively (in both fights), Moreno offered the former champion another immediate rematch. So, at the start of 2022, Moreno and Figueiredo rematched again. Of course, the judges dropped the proverbial ball and gave the unanimous decision to Figueiredo. And now the terrified Figueiredo has refused to fight Moreno anymore, even though he barely scraped past in a decision after being thoroughly smashed by Moreno previously. Everybody in the world was pissed with Figueiredo, and an interim championship bout was created in the meantime between Moreno and Kara-France while the nominal champion Figueiredo cowers in fear.

Kai "Don't Blink" Kara-France (24-9) is that rare example of a powerful fight finisher in the flyweight division. Throughout his pro-MMA career, Kara-France has earned eight first-round stoppage victories, meaning 33% of Kara-France wins have come via stoppage in the first round. Kara-France didn't truly breakthrough in the UFC until his late 2021 KO stoppage of former bantamweight champion Cody "No Love" Garbrandt. Following that KO up with a unanimous decision over Askar Askarov, Kai Kara-France is finally ready for his first title shot against Brandon Moreno. If Kara-France wins this fight, he'll become the new interim flyweight champion (while Figueiredo grows some balls), the first New Zealand-born UFC champion, and the first Maori UFC champion. Auckland's City Kickboxing gym would then have three different current UFC champions: Kai Kara-France, Israel "The Last Stylebender" Adesanya, and Alexander "The Great" Volkanovski (who cross-trains at City Kickboxing, but whose head coach is Joe Lopez out of Freestyle Fighting Gym in Australia). And, as I always mention, Kai Kara-France has the greatest walkout song of all time: "Poi E" by the Patea Maori Club. What an absolute banger!

So who wins the interim title? Brandon Moreno is an extremely dangerous (former) champion who already has a decision win over Kai Kara-France back in late 2019. But Kara-France has been an absolute force of nature since 2021, winning back-to-back first-round stoppages of Rogério Bontorin, and Cody Garbrandt, plus the unanimous decision over Askar Askarov. From the UFC's perspective, Kai Kara-France is being fed to the former champion Brandon Moreno so that Figueiredo is forced to rematch the Mexican or abdicate his flyweight belt. Kara-France may be underestimated, but he also has a chance to foil the former champion and alter the future of the flyweight division before a unification bout against Figueiredo. Brandon Moreno is incredibly likeable. Upon winning the flyweight belt in 2021, Moreno's immediate response was a massive Lego shopping spree. But Kai Kara-France, on the other hand, is my favourite active fighter. He's got the best walkout song, an insane rate of first-round KO/TKO's, plus he represents Maori culture and New Zealand impeccably. What's not to love?

All this action and more goes down this Sunday. For us in New Zealand, the main card starts at 2:00 PM, while the earliest prelims begin a few hours earlier at 10:00 AM. Enjoy!

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