UFC 277 is set to feature some important battles when the Octagon lands in Dallas on Saturday night. None will be bigger than the women’s bantamweight title rematch between champion Julianna Pena and former titleholder Amanda Nunes. However, there are still plenty of other important matchups set for the American Airlines Center.
Fans will relive the shock of Pena’s massive upset at UFC 269 in December against fellow “TUF” coach Nunes to capture the UFC women’s bantamweight championship. Also atop the card, former UFC flyweight champion Brandon Moreno is on the clock as is former title challenger Anthony Smith and Magomed Ankalaev, who many expect to fight for the light heavyweight crown someday soon.
Take a look below at three fights not to miss at UFC 277.
Brandon Moreno vs. Kai Kara-France
It looked like we were on track for a rare fourth fight in the UFC flyweight championship saga between Deiveson Figueiredo and Moreno. The UFC pivoted to an unexpected interim title fight between Moreno and Kara-France because of an injury to the current titleholder. Moreno and Figueiredo are very much the 1A and 1B of men’s flyweight; Kara-France is primed to complicate the picture. A teammate of UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya and featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski, Kara-France packs a wallop in his fists and finally showed off that power in fights against Askar Askarov, Cody Garbrandt and Rogerio Bontorin. Plus, these two put on a classic performance when they met the first time in 2019 and Moreno earned the unanimous decision.
Magomed Ankalaev vs. Anthony Smith
Ankalaev is considered by many as a future title challenger or champion. The potent striker enters UFC 277 on a seven-fight winning streak that includes wins over Thiago Santos, Volkan Oezdemir, Nikita Krylov and Ion Cutelaba (twice). The aptly named “Lionheart” Smith bounced back from a tough stretch by finishing Ryan Spann, Jimmy Crute and Devin Clark each in one round. A win over Ankalaev likely puts Smith just one fight away from another crack at the world title. Boring fights are an anomaly in Smith’s career, who maintains an absurd 85% finish rate (wins and losses) across 52 professional fights. While it is true that Ankalaev has been more measured in his last few fights, Smith has the style to churn out an exciting fight for as long as it lasts.
Alexandre Pantoja vs. Alex Perez
The flyweight division is showing up and showing out at UFC 277. The days of flyweight being an afterthought are behind us. Three tremendous fights between Figueiredo and Moreno made sure of that. Pantoja and Perez are complimentary components in that image change. Pantoja is 3-1 since losing a 2019 fight to Figueiredo. He has knocked out Matt Schnell, submitted Brandon Royval and outworked Manel Kape. Perez has been a diverse finisher over five years in the UFC. He beat Jussier Formiga via leg-kick TKO, slapped an arm-triangle choke on Jordan Espinosa, knocked out Jose Torres and tapped Carls John de Tomas with an anaconda choke. It may not be Fight of the Night, but expect a solid encounter between Pantoja and Perez.
Honorable mentions: Drakkar Klose vs. Rafa Garcia, Drew Dober vs. Rafael Alvez