Amanda Nunes regained her status as a two-division champion on Saturday night, putting together a dominant five-round unanimous decision win to defeat Julianna Pena and start her second reign as UFC Bantamweight Champion.
Nunes’ win headlined UFC 277 from the American Airlines Center in Austin, Texas, USA.
Nunes had a near one-sided performance throughout. In early rounds, she was able to connect with right and left hooks that stunned and even dropped Pena numerous times.
The fight went to the ground more in the later rounds, although Nunes continued to succeed. She earned dominant positions on the ground and cut Pena open with strikes to make the fight bloody.
Pena’s few bright moments in the fight saw her search for submissions on the ground. However, she never had the chance to go far with any of the holds.
Nunes took all rounds on the judge’s scorecards and was able to earn at least one 10-8 round on every scorecard.
Pena scored one of the biggest upsets in UFC history late last year, submitting Nunes in the second round of a bout to become champion.
Now on the second time around, Nunes was able to put on a dominant performance that erased the sour taste that the first bout caused.
“When the Lioness doesn’t get the prey the first time, I set the trap better and get the prey the second time,” said Nunes in her post-fight interview.
Nunes’ previous run as titleholder lasted nearly 2,000 days in total. She first earned the title in 2016 and defended the belt five times in total.
Moreno Earns Interim Flyweight Belt, Sets Up Fourth Fight Against Figueiredo
Brandon Moreno was crowned the interim UFC Flyweight Champion in Saturday’s co-main event, securing a third-round finish against Kai Kara-France to earn the title.
Moreno dropped Kara-France in the third round with a kick to the body. This clean shot elicited a delayed reaction from Kara-France, eventually causing him to drop and cover up on the ground.
Moreno then landed a few ground and pound shots on Kara-France before the fight came to an end.
In earlier rounds, Moreno succeeded on the fight against Kara-France with sharp striking skills.
The victory for Moreno set him up for another fight against current UFC Flyweight Champion Deiveson Figueiredo.
Prior to the bout this weekend, Moreno had a trilogy of fights against Figueiredo from 2020 to 2022. While Moreno earned a win during this time and was briefly an undisputed champion, the last meeting between the two flyweights saw Figueiredo win via unanimous decision.
Moreno and Figueiredo faced off inside the UFC cage after the fight on Saturday night. At the end of the exchange, both fighters sounded game to compete on a December card in Brazil.
Kara-France found himself in a title fight this weekend after scoring three wins since early 2021. He previously stopped former champ Cody Garbrandt and handed Askar Askarov his first pro loss recently.
Pavlovich Earns Quick Finish Against Vet Lewis
Rising heavyweight Sergei Pavlovich added another quick win to his record on Saturday, stopping experienced talent Derrick Lewis in the first round.
Pavlovich rocked Lewis just moments into the fight, landing a series of punches to the head that hurt him. Lewis eventually fell forward because of these shots, collapsing onto the canvas. This allowed Pavlovich to go to the ground with punches.
After Pavlovich landed a couple of strikes on the ground, the referee stepped in to end the bout.
Lewis sprung to his feet while the referee was in the process of ending the fight, causing many to wonder if the bout was stopped too early. The English commentary team considered the bout an early stoppage, and the live crowd roared with boos during Pavlovich’s post-fight interview.
Lewis was fighting in front of his home state of Texas. His previous bout, a knockout loss to Tai Tuivasa in February, also came within the state.
Pavlovich has now won four consecutive fights via first-round stoppage. In his prior outing, he stopped Shamil Abdurakhimov with ground and pound shots.
Pantoja Submits Returning Perez Early
Alexandre Pantoja scored a quick, high-profile win at flyweight on Saturday night, submitting the returning Alex Perez in the opening round with a rear naked choke.
Pantoja mounted the back of Perez in the opening round to search for a choke. Being able to remain in this position for some time, Pantoja was able to eventually aggravate Perez with the choke enough to force a tap.
Pantoja was hot out of the gates before the finish, springing forward at the start of the fight to pressure Perez with strikes.
Pantoja has now earned a three-fight winning streak. He spoiled the UFC debut of Manel Kape last year, and also earned a submission victory over Brandon Royval.
Perez was making his long-awaited return with this fight. He had been absent from competition for most of 2021 and 2022, with numerous fights falling through during that time.
Perez lost a title fight in his prior bout, getting stopped within a round by Deiveson Figueiredo in late 2020.
Ankalaev Injures, Finishes Veteran Smith
Magomed Ankalaev picked up another big win in his rise up the light heavyweight ranks, stopping veteran Anthony Smith in the second round.
Ankalaev unloaded punches on a shelled-up Smith in the second round from a ground position. After Ankalaev landed a long string of shots from the back, the referee stepped in to end the fight.
Ankalaev did damage on the feet earlier in the fight as well, notably hurting the lead leg of Smith with kicks. After the stoppage on the ground, Smith noted that he felt an injury around his left ankle.
Smith remained seated for numerous minutes after the stoppage and wasn’t able to be in the middle of the cage for the official decision. He eventually exited the cage, leaving while being partially carried by two others.
Ankalaev is now on an impressive nine-fight winning streak in the UFC. He prevailed in his first-ever UFC main event earlier this year, going five rounds against Thiago Santos for a unanimous decision win.
After the fight, Ankalaev expressed frustration with not being in a title position yet.
“How many more fights do I have to win [before] I can start fighting for a championship?” said Ankalaev through a translator in his post-fight interview.
Smith, a veteran of the UFC, entered this weekend on a three-fight winning streak. His previous appearance was in September 2021, stopping Ryan Spann in the first round of a main event fight.
The Rest of the Card
The prelims wrapped up with Alex Morono taking a hard-fought unanimous decision win over a tough Matthew Semelsberger.
Drew Dober earned a rare body punch finish on Saturday night, ending his close back-and-forth battle against Rafael Alves in the third round with a left cross to the body.
Hamdy Abdelwahab made a splash in his UFC debut, stepping in on short notice to win a close split decision over Don’Tale Mayes. Abdelwahab now has a short but flawless pro record of four wins as a pro.
Drakkar Klose earned his second win since his return on Saturday night, taking a unanimous decision victory over Rafa Garcia.
Undefeated welterweight Michael Morales scored his second UFC win on Saturday night, catching short-notice opponent Adam Fugitt late with strikes. Despite the win, Morales definitely had to overcome early adversity against a tough opponent.
Short-notice opponent Joselyne Edwards picked up her second win of the month on Saturday, working toward a decision victory over Kim Ji-yeon. Kim, usually a flyweight, suffered her fourth consecutive loss on Saturday night.
Nick Negumereanu spoiled the UFC debut of Ihor Potieria, stopping him in the second round with a long string of punches.
Orion Cosce picked up his first UFC win in the opening bout of the night, using clinch and ground positions to earn a unanimous decision victory over Blood Diamond.
Main Card (10:00PM EDT / 9:00PM CDT) (PPV)
Bout 13: Amanda Nunes def. Julianna Pena via Decision, Unanimous (UFC Bantamweight Championship)
Bout 12: Brandon Moreno def. Kai Kara-France (RD 3, 4:34) (Vacant Interim UFC Flyweight Championship)
Bout 11: Sergei Pavlovich def. Derrick Lewis via TKO, Strikes (RD 1, 0:55)
Bout 10: Alexandre Pantoja def. Alex Perez via Submission, Rear Naked Choke (RD 1, 1:31)
Bout 9: Magomed Ankalaev def. Anthony Smith via TKO, Strikes (RD 2, 3:09)
Preliminary Card (8:00PM EDT / 7:00PM PDT) (ABC / TSN 2)
Bout 8: Alex Morono def. Matthew Semelsberger via Decision, Unanimous
Bout 7: Drew Dober def. Rafael Alves via TKO, Strikes (RD 3, 1:30)
Bout 6: Hamdy Abdelwahab def. Don’Tale Mayes via Decision, Split
Bout 5: Drakkar Klose def. Rafa Garcia via Decision, Unanimous
Early Prelims (6:00PM EDT / 5:00PM PDT) (ESPN / UFC Fight Pass)
Bout 4: Michael Morales def. Adam Fugitt via TKO, Strikes (RD 3, 1:09)
Bout 3: Joselyne Edwards def. Kim Ji-yeon via Decision, Split
Bout 2: Nick Negumereanu def. Ihor Potieria via TKO, Strikes (RD 2, 3:33)
Bout 1: Orion Cosce def. Blood Diamond via Decision, Unanimous