In many ways, UFC 277 set the MMA world straight once again. Considered to be the women’s GOAT, Amanda Nunes regained the women’s bantamweight title, avenging her shocking loss to Julianna Pena from last winter in absolutely brutal fashion. Nunes beat Pena from pillar to post in every aspect of the fight. The standup. The wrestling. The grappling. You name it, Nunes was superior. Some may argue Pena was the better grappler given she threw up submission attempt after submission attempt, but Nunes easily avoided the majority of those efforts and even had the closest successful submission attempt when she had a deep RNC late in the fight. Making more right with the MMA world was Brandon Moreno getting Deiveson Figueiredo to agree to a fourth fight between the two, settling their rivalry once and for all. Of course, it took him winning the interim flyweight title to do – did we really need to create that? — but all feels right with that. Of course, those are only the biggest stories to come out of an impactful event. Let’s get to the rest of the important happenings with my Unofficial Awards….
For a different perspective, click here. For an audio recap of the event, click here.
Biggest Jump in Stock: It came down to Alexandre Pantoja and Sergei Pavlovich. Ultimately, I had to go with Pavlovich given he was lesser known of the two, entering the fight with Derrick Lewis as a largely unknown product amongst the majority of viewers. Those in the know knew Pavlovich had the power to put Lewis away if the opportunity presented itself, but doing it and knowing he can do it are two different things. Now, with four straight first round KO’s, it’s hard to ignore the current run that he’s on. Securing the most recent win over not just an established name in Lewis, but a massive fan favorite, is a big feather in his cap.
Biggest Fall in Stock: Lewis received a little bit of consideration, but not a lot. It has to be Alex Perez. Perez’s 6-3 record within the UFC is more than respectable. The problem is, only one of those six wins came over an opponent who left the UFC with a winning UFC record. Hell, none of the guys he has a win over are on the roster anymore. Every time he’s had an opportunity against one of the top contenders in the division, Perez has not only fallen short, he’s been finished in the first round every time. Perez is probably going to need a lengthy win streak before he gets another crack at the best the division has to offer again.
Best Newcomer: Hamdy Abdelwahad was the only one of the three newcomers who found success in their debuts, but credit goes to Abdelwahad for also making it a memorable debut. It seemed like a long shot anyone would remember it given Don’tale Mayes hasn’t exactly been a memorable fighter, but the two big boys threw down for one of the more entertaining scraps of the evening. Abdelwahad proved he can not only throw with power, but he can take a hell of a shot too. Plus, his wrestling made an appearance as well. There’s plenty of polish that can be applied to the Egyptian, but there’s more than enough talent to work with for him to be worth keeping an eye on.
Saved Their Job(s): Given he missed weight, I have no doubt Orion Cosce needed the win to keep his job with the organization. It wasn’t the cleanest performance – I expected him to be more dominant on the mat than what he was – but it was enough for him to secure a win over Blood Diamond. I’m still wary about his UFC future – unless he gets another low-level opponent like Diamond, I struggle so see Cosce picking up another win – but at the very least, he’ll get the opportunity to prove me wrong.
Start Typing a Resume: It’s plausible the weight miss from Joselyne Edwards will give Ji Yeon Kim one more opportunity to prove she belongs in the UFC. Not only was the weight miss a factor, but Kim being willing to move up a weight class so she could stay on the card was a real gamer move. But four losses in a row is an ugly number, especially when they aren’t all against top competition. Kim’s always fun to watch, but results have to follow… unless you’re Sam Alvey.
I wasn’t a fan of the UFC signing Diamond in the first place. With just three wins against a low level of competition, Diamond didn’t look like he was ready for the UFC in the least. I understand he has a kickboxing background, but it’s not like he was an established kickboxing champion in the vein of Alex Pereira. Diamond has potential, but more seasoning was needed before he made the jump. Rather than give him a third fight, I’d rather see the UFC cut him loose and give him an opportunity to gain more experience.
Biggest WOW Moment: There were a LOT of moments that had me wanting to leap out of my seat. Lewis faceplanting. Rafael Alves dancing in the middle of his fight with Drew Dober. Moreno’s liver kick to Kara-France. However, I’m going with the third knockdown Nunes delivered to Pena. I’ll admit it wasn’t the most visually appealing of all three of them, but given all the knockdowns came in the same round, it just cemented how much better Nunes was than Pena on the feet. One knockdown can happen by chance. Two knockdowns is hard to argue against with regards to who the better striker is. Three knockdowns are impossible. In other words, we know for a fact the first fight was a fluke at this point. The sequence also proved how tough Pena is. She was quickly in a position of defense after hitting the mat once again, refusing to give in when 99.99% of the world would accept they weren’t going to win at that point. It’s rare both dominance and toughness are solidified so strongly in a single moment.
Never Seen That Before: There’s a good chance somewhere deep in the recesses of my mind that I’ve seen a double spinning back fist before, but it isn’t coming to mind. To open the card, Cosce and Diamond did just that towards the end of the second round. Diamond appeared to get the better of the exchange as Cosce stumbled halfway across the cage, but the sequence also gave Cosce enough distance that he had the time to regain his composure. Even if it didn’t produce the highlight result, it was still a hell of a visual sequence.
Can’t Catch a Break: For Anthony Smith, it turned out to be good news he didn’t catch a break. The former title challenger thought he broke his leg in the midst of his fight with Magomed Ankalaev. That wasn’t the case, but he did jack up his leg badly enough that it took him out of the fight, eventually leading to his downfall. However, it also took away the opportunity for Ankalaev to secure a highlight reel moment that would have been so beneficial for him in his quest to secure a title shot. Yes, he got a stoppage, but it was about as anticlimactic as a stoppage gets. Obviously, there’s no guarantee Ankalaev would have picked up that moment, but I get the feeling he would have rather not have Smith suffer the injury and be allowed the opportunity to deliver a more impactful finish to the fight. After all, he was firmly in control even before Smith’s injury occurred.
Most Fan-Friendly Division: MMA fans have long lamented the lack of love the flyweight division has received from the UFC brass. For whatever reason, the UFC couldn’t figure out how to promote Demetrious Johnson properly to make one of the most dominant champions the sport has ever seen a star. When they couldn’t get that to fly, they wanted to eliminate the division, cutting away at nearly the entirety of the division – including Brandon Moreno — before finally being convinced otherwise. Even when they decided not to get rid of the division, they would continue to look at the division as an afterthought. Remember when the UFC put a heavyweight contest between Chase Sherman and Jake Collier as the co-main event ahead of top ten flyweights Brandon Royval and Rogerio Bontorin? That was just in January. Well, the UFC has finally been showing the division some love and they’re being rewarded. Pantoja, Moreno, and Kara-France nabbed three of the four Performance bonuses from the event. It wasn’t like it was a fluke either. It was Pantoja’s fourth performance in his last six appearances, the fourth in a row for Moreno, and fourth in the last five for Kara-France. Here’s hoping the love the UFC is showing the division isn’t an aberration; the division has routinely been the most fan-friendly in the organization.
Most Controversial Stoppage: A lot of people – including Uncle Dana – weren’t happy with the stoppage of the Pavlovich-Lewis fight. Lewis did pop right up immediately after the referee pulled Pavlovich off him after all. However, I’m of the opinion it was justified. Lewis fell headfirst to the mat after Pavlovich unloaded a lethal flurry of punches on the big man. Plus, Pavlovich was still landing punches when Dan Miragliotta stepped in. Given the dangers we all acknowledge come with the sport, I would think it is uncontroversial to say I’d rather see the referee’s jump in a little bit early as opposed to a little bit late. That isn’t to say I don’t understand the argument, but given all the angles in which the stoppage was shown, I’m willing to give Miragliotta the leeway many others don’t want to.
Best Underdog: In six out of his eleven UFC victories, Alex Morono entered the contest as the betting underdog. You’d think we’d all learn our lesson, but MMA prognosticators can be stubborn about their reads. Morono isn’t a great athlete, doesn’t hit with an exceptional amount of power, and rarely wrestles. And yet, he continues to find a way to outwork opponents who are better athletes, tend to hit harder, and have a better history of dictating where the fight takes place. That was the case with Matt Semelsberger… and Morono walked out with another win. Morono knows what the judges are looking for and he knows the holes in his opponent’s defenses. Perhaps someday myself and my fellow prognosticators will learn. Then again, perhaps not….
Most Disrespected: You’d think three consecutive wins in the UFC would keep a fighter from welcoming a newcomer to the organization. Sure, injuries happen and a short-notice opponent gets the call, but I’m talking about when that’s the scheduled fight from the very beginning. That was the case with Nicolae Negumereanu. I’m not saying Negumereanu beat a bunch of world-beaters coming into his fight with Ihor Potieria, but they were good enough to be on the UFC roster. If Potieria were some hyped signing, it would make some sense, but he was a standard DWCS signing. Negumereanu just bowled over him. With four consecutive wins – the second longest winning streak in the division – perhaps the UFC will begin to show Negumereanu some respect and give him a step up in competition.
Most Gnarly Injury: The gash in Pena’s forehead was something else. I have no doubt about her needing some cosmetic surgery for it as Uncle Dana stated. Perhaps the leg injury suffered by Smith deserves some consideration. However, the manner in which the human eye can swell shut always amazes me. Thus, I have to go with Semelsberger having his left eye completely swollen shut. Credit to him as he continued to fight and even came thisclose to winning with a flying knee. At the very least, he’ll always have that visual associated with him at this point. After all, can anyone think of Marvin Eastman without remembering the gash Vitor Belfort opened on him? I won’t say won’t Joe Rogan thought it looked like, but we’ll just say it was one of the more colorful descriptions I’ve ever heard….