UFC 277: Amanda Nunes reclaims 'champ-champ' status, Brandon Moreno wins interim belt

Abdelwahab, Mayes exchange heavy blows in prelim bout (0:35)

Hamdy Abdelwahab and Don'Tale Mayes empty the tanks as they both deliver massive shots throughout their preliminary fight. (0:35)

DALLAS -- Brandon Moreno is once again a UFC champion. And once again, he appears to be on a collision course with Deiveson Figueiredo.

Moreno (20-6-2) thrillingly claimed the interim 125-pound title on Saturday, as he knocked out Kai Kara-France at the 4:34 mark of the third round with a nasty left body kick. The title fight co-headlined UFC 277 from inside American Airlines Arena. Figueiredo, the defending unified champion and a longtime rival of Moreno's, was in attendance cageside.

The UFC originally wanted Figueiredo to defend his title against Moreno this summer, but Figueiredo was unavailable due to injury. The Brazilian champion entered the Octagon after Moreno's win and asked to do it in Brazil.

"This guy right here, tonight is his night and he is the champion," Figueiredo said, through a translator. "I have a lot of respect for him ... I want to take this fight home to Brazil."

Moreno, of Tijuana, quickly accepted the invitation. He also apologized to Figueiredo for any bad blood between the in the past. He then beat Figueiredo by submission in an immediate rematch, before losing a controversial decision in their third fight in January.

Okamoto: Moreno has 'his night' vs. KKF | Watch Moreno vs. Kara-France 2 on ESPN+

UFC 277 results

Women's bantamweight championship: Amanda Nunes (22-5, 16-2 UFC) def. Julianna Peña (12-5, 8-3 UFC) by unanimous decision (Watch on ESPN+)

Amanda Nunes vowed to make changes in her game. She vowed to get her belt back after shockingly losing it seven months ago to Julianna Peña.

In the rematch, Nunes did exactly what she promised. With a new southpaw stance on the feet and a renewed wrestling game, Nunes defeated Peña via dominant unanimous decision (50-45, 50-44, 50-43) in the main event of UFC 277 on Saturday night here at American Airlines Center. With the victory, Nunes, the greatest female fighter in MMA history, reclaimed the UFC women's bantamweight title she lost to Peña at UFC 269 last December.

Nunes dropped Peña with a check right hook out of the southpaw several times in the early rounds. As the fight wore on, Nunes began using her wrestling to take Peña down over and over, then cut her up from top position with slicing elbows. Peña had several bad cuts on her face after the fourth round. Nunes nearly had a rear-naked choke finish in the fifth, but Peña was incredibly tough and fought it off.

Coming in, ESPN had Nunes ranked No. 2 and Peña ranked No. 4 on its pound-for-pound women's MMA list. At bantamweight, Peña was No. 1 and Nunes was No. 2.

Before dropping the bantamweight title to Peña, Nunes had beaten every fighter who ever held the UFC women's bantamweight or featherweight belts. She completed that feat again with a win Saturday over Peña.

Heavyweight: Sergei Pavlovich (16-1, 4-1 UFC) def. Derrick Lewis (26-10, 17-8 UFC) by TKO (Watch on ESPN+)

Pavlovich came into the bout with 12 knockouts among his 15 career wins. Lewis had 21 in his 26 wins, including 13 inside the Octagon -- the most in UFC history. They started swinging hamhocks right from the start, and not surprisingly, the bout lasted all of 55 seconds.

Many in the Dallas crowd, who gave Houston's Lewis the biggest ovation of the night, believed the fight should have been allowed to go longer. But, after Pavlovich hurt Lewis with a left-right combination, followed by a couple of right uppercuts, Lewis went on retreat, with Pavlovich in pursuit. The Russian then landed a clubbing right hand to send Lewis into a faceplant, and referee Dan Miragliotta jumped in.

Lewis popped right to his feet after the stoppage and complained to Miragliotta, as the crowd booed loudly. When Pavlovich was asked if he thought the stoppage was premature, all he would say about that was, "I did my job. I'm very happy with my performance."

Pavlovich also pointed to former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson in the crowd and said, "Hey Mike, how do you like that boxing?"

It was good while it lasted, and it should boost Pavlovich in the rankings. He is not in the ESPN heavyweight top-10, while Lewis is No. 7. That surely will change.

Pavlovich, a 30-year-old Russian, has won four in a row since suffering his only career loss against Alistair Overeem in 2018.

Lewis, who is 37 and from Houston, has lost three of his last four.

Men's flyweight: Alexandre Pantoja (25-5, 9-3 UFC) def. Alex Perez (24-7, 6-3 UFC) by submission (Watch on ESPN+)

Pantoja came out right from the opening bell and started swinging. Not long after, the fight was over.

The aggressive Pantoja attempted a takedown, got Perez's back while Perez was standing up and then squeezed a gnarly neck crank/rear-naked choke to finish things. Perez tapped at 1:31 of the first round, resulting in a submission win for Pantoja.

It was a battle of two of the best flyweights in the world. ESPN had Perez ranked No. 8 and Pantoja ranked No. 9 at 125 pounds. With the victory, Pantoja puts himself among the top contenders in the division. Afterward, he called out the winner of Saturday's interim title fight between Brandon Moreno and Kai Kara-France. Of course, the victor is likely to fight champion Deiveson Figueiredo next to unify the titles.

"I'm the champion, right here," Pantoja said.

Pantoja, 32, has now won three straight fights. The Brazilian firebrand already owns a win over Moreno and has seven wins in his last nine fights overall. Perez, a 30-year-old fighting out of California, has dropped two straight coming off a three-fight winning streak.

Light heavyweight: Magomed Ankalaev (18-1, 9-1 UFC) def. Anthony Smith (36-17, 11-7 UFC) by TKO (Watch on ESPN+)

Ankalaev's rise to a budding title contender is still full speed ahead, following an absolutely dominant performance against Smith.

The fight was stopped at 3:09 of the second round, when Smith turtled along the Octagon and covered up from Ankalaev's ground and pound. The stoppage looked odd, in that Smith pulled guard against Ankalaev and seemed to wilt quickly from the shots. After the bout was stopped, it was revealed Smith likely broke his left leg when he threw a kick at the very end of the opening round. He required assistance on his way out of the Octagon.

Ankalaev, of Russia, said he was unaware of the injury but took credit for the win, citing it was him who caused the injury. It appeared to happen when Ankalaev checked the kick.

One thing is for certain, Ankalaev has made things look easy during his UFC career. He improved to 9-1, with an active nine-fight win streak. His only loss came via submission against Paul Craig in 2018, in the final second of a fight Ankalaev was winning on the scorecards. He has five finishes in his current win streak.

Smith, who signed a new contract with the UFC this week, stood with Ankalaev in the opening round, but the speed difference was apparent. According to UFC Stats, Ankalaev out-landed him in total strikes on the fight 64 to 21. Smith aggressively moved forward at the start of the second round, which is amazing considering the leg injury. His decision to pull guard was somewhat of a puzzling one at first, until the nature of his injury was revealed. He suffers his first loss in four appearances.

Welterweight: Alex Morono (21-8 1 NC, 10-5 1 NC UFC) def. Matthew Semelsberger (10-4, 4-2 UFC) by unanimous decision (Watch on ESPN+)

When referee Dan Miragliotta called the doctor into the cage just as Round 3 was to begin, it looked like the fight could be over. Semelsberger's left eye was practically closed, the area around it swollen and purple.

But, the doctor allowed the fight to continue -- then it nearly ended anyway.

Semelsberger, sensing the urgency to do something big while he still could see out of the eye, came charging out of his corner to start the round and landed a flying knee that hurt Morono. Semelsberger continued to swarm his compromised opponent, but Morono hung in there and survived the onslaught. He then maintained his distance for much of the final round to sew up the decision. Two judges scoured the bout 29-28 and the other had it 30-27.

Morono, who is 31 and from Houston, did damage to Semelsberger's eye by accurately targeting it throughout Round 2. There were stretches during which his every punch was aimed that way. Morono has won four in a row.

Semelsberger, a 29-year-old from Frederick, Maryland, showed toughness in fighting through the bad bruising, but in the end he saw a two-fight winning streak come to an end.

Lightweight: Drew Dober (25-11 1 NC, 11-7 1 NC UFC) def. Rafael Alves (20-11, 1-2 UFC) by KO (Watch on ESPN+)

Dober drops Alves to finish off electric bout

After enduring a nice attack from Rafael Alves, Drew Dober bounces back to crumble Alves with a crushing blow to the chest in Round 3 for the TKO.

A highly entertaining lightweight scrap got an equally entertaining finish at 1:30 of the third round, when Dober crumpled Alves to the floor with a left hand body shot.

It was a resilient win for Dober, who absorbed several heavy shots from Alves, primarily the left hook. Dober walked Alves back to the fence and went after him with left body kicks and boxing combinations, but Alves was dangerous in slipping shots and firing back counters. Alves rocked Dober with a left hook counter in the second round that sent him staggering to the side. He also slipped a full combination with his hands down, which brought a roar from the crowd.

Dober, who is from Omaha and fights out of Denver, showed a lot of guts in continuing to pressure Alves, and it eventually paid off big in the third round. Alves started to wear down from the constant pressure and volume, and folded up from the left hand to the body. An ecstatic Dober thanked him for the fight afterwards.

"I want those fights, hat's off to Rafael Alves," Dober said. "The fights I say yes to are the fights I know are going to be exciting. That's another man who is exciting every time he's in there. I've got a chin, a jaw and a left hand. And, I bring them in here every time."

Dober has now finished two lightweight contender hopefuls in a row, in Alves and Terrance McKinney. Alves drops to 1-2 in the UFC.

Heavyweight: Hamdy Abdelwahab (6-0, 1-0 UFC) def. Don'Tale Mayes (9-5, 2-3 UFC) by split decision (Watch on ESPN+)

These two big men had each hurt the other during the first two rounds, which were mainly competed on the feet. But, late in Round 2, Abdelwahab scored a takedown and easily maintained ground control until the horn sounded. That gave him a smart strategy to employ again in the final round and remain unbeaten in his UFC debut.

Abdelwahab, a 29-year-old who represented Egypt in the 2016 Olympic wrestling competition, unleashed powerful punches throughout but had difficulty locating the elusive Mayes. He remained patient, though. As a result, Abdelwahab, who now is based in New York City, was taken the distance for the first time in his young career.

Mayes, who is 30 and from Louisville, Kentucky, had a chance at the end, after referee Kerry Healy stood up the fighters with just under a minute to go. Mayes connected with some big shots on a tired Abdelwahab, but ran out of time without landing a decisive blow and saw a two-fight winning streak come to an end.

Lightweight: Drakkar Klose (13-2-1, 7-2 UFC) def. Rafa Garcia (14-3, 2-3 UFC) by unanimous decision (Watch on ESPN+)

Klose, of Michigan, edged out a unanimous decision over Garcia, and then called for his next opponent to be former interim champion Tony Ferguson.

It was Klose's second win since he missed two years due to injury between 2020 and 2022. It was a closely contested bout, as both lightweights had their moments and Garcia held a small edge in takedowns and ground control. Ultimately, Klose's work on the feet was superior. According to UFC Stats, he out-landed Garica in total strikes 114 to 55, and hurt him with a right uppercut at the end of the second round.

Garcia, of Mexico, came in on a two-fight win streak, and looked upset with the scorecards. He did appear to fatigue a bit as the fight wore on, however, and Klose's forward-moving style likely made a difference. Klose, 34, is quietly 5-1 in his last six, with the only loss coming against a top contender in Beneil Dariush.

Welterweight: Michael Morales (14-0, 2-0 UFC) def. Adam Fugitt (8-3, 0-1 UFC) by TKO (Watch on ESPN+)

Morales drops Fugitt for TKO in Round 3

Michael Morales delivers a powerful blow to Adam Fugitt in the third round to drop him to the canvas and pick up the TKO win.

Morales had just fended off an extended takedown attempt and had kept the fight standing, where he is most comfortable. Then he immediately showed why, dropping Fugitt with a short right hand and finishing him with a flurry to remain undefeated.

The end came at 1:09 of Round 3 with Fugitt sagging against the cage. Prior to that, the 33-year-old from Eugene, Oregon, had been fully in the fight, despite coming in on late notice and being one of the biggest underdogs on the card. In the end, Fugitt saw a four-fight winning streak snapped in his UFC debut.

Morales, 23, used his crisp striking and footwork to keep his opponent at a distance for much of the fight, though Fugitt was relentlessly in pursuit. Morales, an Ecuadorian fighting out of Mexico, finally connected with a finishing punch to win his second straight in the UFC.

Women's flyweight: Joselyne Edwards (12-4, 3-2 UFC) def. Ji Yeon Kim (9-6-2, 3-6 UFC) by split decision (Watch on ESPN+)

Edwards, Kim let loose late in Round 3

Joselyne Edwards and Ji Yeon Kim let the fists fly in an exciting exchange in the final moments of their bout.

It was a textbook example of a fighter using her length and reach advantage with great success.

Edwards outpointed Kim via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 30-27) with a steady diet of kicks to the legs and body, keeping Kim at bay. Kim did well when she got inside and landed with her boxing. But those occurrences were few and far between.

Kim's nose was bloodied in the second round due to an Edwards punch. That was actually Kim's best round, though, as she snapped Edwards' head back with a pair of right hands. Edwards went to her clinch game in the third, landing knees to the body.

Edwards, 26, has now won two in a row. She beat Ramona Pascual by unanimous decision at UFC 275 in June at featherweight. The Panamanian fighter, who came in on short notice, missed weight by 1.5 pounds Friday, coming in at 137.5. Kim, a 32-year-old from South Korea, has lost four in a row.

Light heavyweight: Nicolae Negumereanu (13-1, 4-1 UFC) def. Ihor Potieria (19-3, 0-1 UFC) by TKO (Watch on ESPN+)

Negumereanu overwhelms Potieria for the TKO victory

Nicolae Negumereanu sends Ihor Potieria's mouthpiece flying during this aggressive attack as he picks up the TKO win.

Negumereanu, of Romania, produced an angry, violent finish at 3:33 of the second round with a sustained flurry along the fence. The finish began with several hard knees in the clinch, which backed Potieria up against the cage. Potieria refused to go down and would occasionally throw out a punch, but Negumereanu stayed smart and found his openings. He hurt him further with a left uppercut, right hands and more knees.

Eventually, referee Kerry Hatley couldn't let it continue, even though Potieria never went down from the shots. The finish more than made up for a slow first round, in which the crowd grew restless as Negumereanu held Potieria on the ground but did very little in terms of offense.

It is Negumereanu's fourth consecutive win in the UFC and second finish.

Welterweight: Orion Cosce (8-1, 1-1 UFC) def. Mike Mathetha (3-2, 0-2 UFC) by unanimous decision (Watch on ESPN+)

Cosce, Mathetha stun each other with simultaneous backfists

A wild sequence of events occurs as Mike Mathetha and Orion Cosce stun each other with spinning backfists.

The evening began with a matchup of two fighters who were stylistic opposites but mired in the same circumstance. Both came in with just one career loss -- suffered in their UFC debuts. This was the second Octagon appearance for each, and Cosce won by making it predominantly a grappling contest. The 28-year-old seized control of an even fight early in the final round, using a lateral drop to put Mathetha on his back. Cosce immediately gained a dominant position and threatened with submissions the rest of the way to secure the decision. All three judges scored the bout 29-28.

Mathetha, a 34-year-old who competes under the nickname "Blood Diamond," was submitted in his UFC debut but defended well this time in clinching and grappling exchanges. But, Mathetha only occasionally created the space to unleash his creative kicks and punches. He hurt Cosce with a spinning attack in Round 2 but soon fell into a clinch, losing his advantage.