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UFC 277 analysis, predictions for main card in Dallas

MMA Junkie analyst Dan Tom breaks down the UFC’s top bouts. Today, we look at the main card for UFC 277.

UFC 277 takes place Saturday at American Airlines Center in Dallas. The main card airs on pay-per-view following prelims on ABC/ESPN and early prelims on ESPN+.

Last event’s results: 3-3

Overall picks for UFC main cards in 2022: 73-43-1

Welcome to MMAJunkie’s Quick Picks and Prognostications, where I’ll be giving brief, fight-day breakdowns for UFC main cards.

With that in mind, I hope these write-ups don’t come off as curt or dismissive, as my goal here is to offer quick picks and analysis in a digestible format. All odds listed are provided by Tipico Sportsbook.

If you’d like more detailed analysis from me, then feel free to check out my weekly show, The Protect Ya’ Neck Podcast.

So, without further ado…

Magomed Ankalaev (-600) vs. Anthony Smith (+400)

The anti-Joe Silva card structures continue as UFC 277’s main card opens with a light heavyweight affair between Magomed Ankalaev and Anthony Smith.

Although I don’t disagree with Ankalaev being the designated favorite, I do feel that this line is a bit too wide and disrespectful to the chances of Smith. The American is a dangerous striker from multiple ranges and has a sneaky submission profit that could pay dividends down the stretch.

I believe that Smith will make this fight much more competitive than the betting spread indicates, but I also suspect that’ll only bring out the best in Ankalaev – who likely takes this one on the scorecards.

Alexandre Pantoja (-200) vs. Alex Perez (+150)

In a fight that may be my favorite offering on this entire card, Alexandre Pantoja and Alex Perez square off in a fantastic flyweight fight.

Although Pantoja deserves distinction as both the favorite and the number one contender for the title, I think that Perez could quietly be a tough matchup for him. Perez has been a snakebit from circumstance as of late, but the American is an elite 125-pound fighter (despite not always getting the love as one).

I’m such a fan of Pantoja that this may very well be the first time I’m picking against him,

Derrick Lewis (+120) vs. Sergei Pavlovich (-155)

Serving as solid heavyweight filler is a showdown between Derrick Lewis and Sergei Pavlovich.

Despite nailing my predictions on a decent slew of Lewis recent fights, “The Black Beast” can admittedly be one of the more difficult people to read in this game. In his last fight from him, for example, Lewis was able to pull out a plethora of takedown techniques that many thought was n’t possible at this stage of his career given his long history of back injuries.

That said, I’m not sure that Lewis is crafty enough to take down his Russian counterpart, as I see Pavlovich utilizing his superior wrestling and boxing to clip the American off of the breaks and finish him along the fence by the end of the first round.

Brandon Moreno (-220) vs. Kai Kara-France (+170)

The co-main event in Dallas features an interim flyweight title fight that pits Brandon Moreno against Kai Kara-France for a second time.

I picked Moreno the first time around for his superior cardio and ability to adjust, as the Mexican fighter demonstrated solid counters when extending exchanges. Kara-France has some potential winning conditions that I lay out in my in-depth breakdown, but I ended up siding with Moreno again for the aforementioned reasons above.

Despite officially picking Moreno to win by decision, I still think that the former champ can score a submission down the stretch if he pushes a heavy grappling agenda.

Julianna Pena (+210) vs. Amanda Nunes (-280)

The main attraction for UFC 277 is a rematch for the women’s bantamweight title between Julianna Pena and Amanda Nunes.

There are plenty of potential adjustments that I state in my in-depth breakdown, but this bout may come down to who these two are at their core.

Nunes is obviously the more technically skilled and accomplished fighter, but Pena’s durability and blind self-belief may be enough to prove that she is, in fact, stylistic kryptonite to a person with potential pacing demons. For that reason, I’ll side with Pena to force a stoppage via strikes that harken back to Cat Zingano’s memorable win over Nunes back at UFC 178.

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