Sunday, 31st July will play host to UFC 277 at the American Airlines Center, headlined by the rematch of perhaps the biggest upset in UFC history, Julianna Pena vs Amanda Nunes. Co-main’d by what’s sure to be an exciting action fight between former flyweight champion Brandon Moreno and surging prospect Kai-Kara France, UFC 277 plays host to a number of classic underdog matches.
Despite being the champion coming into the bout, a lot of fans consider Pena’s victory over Nunes at UFC 269 to be more the product of what Nunes did wrong, as opposed to what Pena did right. Similarly, Kara-France’s KO win over Cody Garbrandt at UFC 269 was found in a bout where Garbrandt was supposed to introduce himself to his new weight class, and not end up on the wrong side of a highlight-reel finish. So today, let’s look at the slate of fights at 277, and see which fighters could find the big upset, and if you’re looking at throwing down some cash, why not use crypto sports betting for your UFC 277 underdog?
1: Kai Kara-France
Fan favourite Kai Kara-France heads into UFC 277 with a lot of momentum. Riding a three-fight winning streak, including a blistering knockout over the aforementioned Garbrandt and a tactical decision victory over Askar Askarov, Kara-France has slowly but surely built a resume that demonstrates his well-rounded skill set. Excellent defensive grappling and knockout power make a winning combination in any division, but especially at flyweight where guys like Brandon Moreno and current champion Deiveson Figueredo both have great grappling ability but generally keep the fights on the feet.
Moreno has demonstrated excellent boxing ability himself and secured his UFC championship with a submission victory. However, Moreno is no stranger to taking a punch to give one, and it is here where Kara-France has his greatest shot (pun intended) at victory. Kara-France has demonstrated against Askarov the grappling defence needed to stay away from Moreno’s submission game, and while Moreno’s chin is certifiably iron-clad, he’s been dropped on numerous occasions as of late, especially against Figueredo (the hardest hitter in the division next to Kara-France). A tall task to be sure, but the bout between the former champion and the hard hitter is a lot closer than many may believe, and a Kara-France victory is no unicorn.
2: Sergei Pavlovich
The current betting line on Sergei Pavlovich has him as an underdog against knockout king Derrick Lewis. This is, frankly, insane. Pavlovich is riding a three-fight win streak, all of which come by way of KO/TKO, his only loss coming against divisional veteran Alistair Overeem, nearly four years ago. All of these fights have been finished in the first round. Pavlovich has proven punching power and an excellent grappling pedigree, born from Greco-Roman wrestling since childhood and participating in combat sambo during his time in the army.
Derrick Lewis, however, is in something of a difficult spot. A KO win over Chris Daukus punctuated a technical shutout by Ciryl Gane and a thorough pasting by way of Tai Tuivasa respectively. While Pavlovich has the wrestling and grappling in his back pocket, Lewis has long been infamous for his ability to simply “stand up” when threatened on the ground: his explosion back to his feet against Roy Nelson when faced with the crucifix position immediately comes to mind.
So Pavlovich not only has a genuinely high-level grappling gameplan but has demonstrated in his last three fights that he is capable of shutting off the lights, quickly. Pavlovich is far from outmatched here, and with Lewis being finished in two of his last three contests, it’s worth keeping an eye on Pavlovich as the week unfolds.
3. Julianna Pena
Perhaps the most controversial pick on the list, Julianna Pena (despite ending the championship reign of the consensus greatest female fighter of all time) is an underdog heading into UFC 277, against this same woman.
In the first fight between the pair, Pena suffered a battering on the feet in the first round, before being grounded and stalled until the end of the round. However, a surging return in Round 2 saw Pena refusing to exit the pocket against Nunes, peppering her attempts at offence with a stiff jab and absolutely no quit.
— Barstool Sports (@barstoolsports) December 12, 2021
Eventually grounding Nunes herself, Pena sprawled her on her back and quickly found a rear-naked-choke, with Nunes tapping surprisingly quickly. It seemed Pena had cracked a crucial piece of the Nunes puzzle: if you don’t back down, she will.
However, Nunes showcased almost none of the techniques, either standing or on the mat, that she had built a championship reign on. She walked down the most technical striker at 135, Valentina Shevchenko, and defeated her twice over. She landed six takedowns and controlled Felicia Spencer on the ground, where Spencer had collected over half of her professional wins by way of submission. By her own words, she took the full twenty-five minutes against Germaine De Randemie just because she wanted to.
Pena has demonstrated she is very capable of winning this fight. Nunes has done the same, multiple times over and her last performance seemed a baffling discarding of everything that made her great. However, her overzealousness could prove her downfall once more, and Pena has shown definitively that once Nunes’ gas tank has depleted, Pena will still be there.