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UFC 277 recap: Amanda Nunes reclaims champ-champ status

Nunes, Julianna Peña engaged in a thoroughly entertaining bout for the bantamweight crown, with Nunes ultimately exacting her revenge.
amanda-nunes

The greatest of all time has regained her throne.

Amanda Nunes, the most dominant woman in UFC history, added to her legacy by defeating Julianna Peña to regain the bantamweight championship.

Nunes (22-5 MMA, 15-2 UFC) lost the title last December in a shocking upset, getting outclassed and outworked by Peña (11-5 MMA, 7-3 UFC). The sequel featured a new narrative, with Nunes shifting to southpaw and unleashing nonstop punishment over the course of five rounds. Peña wasn’t able to adjust, though the way she endured the punishment was remarkable.

The story of the Nunes-Peña rematch will revolve around adjustments. Unlike their previous bout, Nunes never allowed Peña in too close, refusing to be lured into a battle of fighting with fire. Nunes’s cardio was far better this time, and a calculated approach led to her dominant victory.

The co-main event was also a must-see match, as Brandon Moreno defeated Kai Kara-France to win the vacant interim flyweight title. Whether it was necessary for an interim title to be on the line is worth asking, as this could have just as easily been a No. 1 contender’s bout, but it ultimately will result in a fourth bout pitting Moreno against Deiveson Figueiredo.

Moreno (20-6-2 MMA, 8-3-2 UFC) controlled the pace in the first two rounds, until Kara-France (24-10 MMA, 7-3 UFC) seized control in the third with a vicious elbow under Moreno’s left eye. But the advantage didn’t last long, as Moreno won the fight in the final minute of that third round by knocking the life out of Kara-France with a kick to his chest. Figueiredo entered the cage after the match, and his fourth fight against Moreno will be a first in UFC history.

A second flyweight bout was part of the card, as Alexandre Pantoja forced Alex Perez to submit in only 91 seconds. A few early strikes allowed Pantoja (25-5 MMA, 9-3 UFC) to get in position to take Perez’s back, and he forced Perez (24-7 MMA, 6-3 UFC) to tap to a neck crank. The victory puts Pantoja in position to challenge the winner of the upcoming Figueiredo-Moreno fight.

The one disappointment of the night occurred in the heavyweight fight, as Derrick Lewis’ woes in Texas continued. Sergei Pavlovich gained a largely meaningless victory after referee Dan Miragliotta was premature with his first-round stoppage. Lewis (26-10 MMA, 17-8 UFC) took some punishment but he was getting back to his feet as Miragliotta was calling the bout, and he deserved better than such a quick stoppage. Pavlovich (16-1 MMA, 4-1 UFC) was awarded the TKO victory, but there should be an immediate rematch between the two.

The card opened with an impressive showing from Magomed Ankalaev, winning his ninth in a row by defeating Anthony Smith. Ankalaev (18-1 MMA, 9-1 UFC) took Smith’s back in the second round, and with an injured leg, Smith (36-17 MMA, 11-7 UFC) was unable to protect himself or get back to his feet, forcing the fight to end as a TKO. The victory puts Ankalaev in line for a light heavyweight title shot.

With the exception of the heavyweight fight, the 277 card exceeded expectations. It was highlighted by the vintage performance from Nunes, who removed any doubt that she remains the absolute gold standard in women’s MMA.

This story first published at SI.com/MMA.