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UFC 277 predictions: Early ‘Prelims’ undercard preview | Pena vs. Nunes 2

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is bringing more “Prelims” fights to ABC/ESPN and ESPN+ this weekend (Sat., July 30, 2022) when UFC 277: “Pena vs. Nunes 2” storms American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas. MMAmania.com’s Patrick Stumberg kicks off the UFC 277 “Prelims” party with the first installment of a two-part undercard preview series below.

UFC Fight Night: Krylov v Gustafsson Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

Seven months after authoring one of the biggest upsets in Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) history, Julianna Pena attempts to repeat the feat inside American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas, this Saturday evening (July 30, 2022) when she defends her Bantamweight belt against Amanda Nunes. Ten pounds south, former Flyweight champion, Brandon Moreno, rematches the surging Kai Kara-France for the interim title, while Derrick Lewis meets Sergei Pavlovich in Heavyweight action.

UFC 277 features eight “Prelims” undercard bouts this time that will set the pay-per-view (PPV) stage, four on ESPN+ and the rest airing simultaneously on ABC and ESPN/ESPN+. Let’s examine the former below ...

LIVE! Watch UFC 277 PPV On ESPN+ Here!

CHAMPIONSHIP DOUBLE-DIP! Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returns to American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas, on Sat., July 30, 2022, for the first time in almost four years, headlined by a thrilling women’s Bantamweight championship rematch between division queenpin, Julianna Peña, attempt her first successful title defense against former titleholder and current women’s Featherweight champion, Amanda Nunes. In UFC 277’s pay-per-view (PPV) co-main event, an interim Flyweight champion will be crowned when former titleholder, Brandon Moreno, runs it back with Kai Kara-France.

Don’t miss a single second of EPIC face-punching action!

170 lbs.: Michael Morales vs. Adam Fugitt

Ecuador’s Michael Morales (13-0) toppled the favored Nikolay Veretennikov on Contender Series to secure a UFC contract. He was even more successful in his Octagon debut, which saw him knockout Trevin Giles late in the first round.

That victory marked his tenth by (technical) knockout and eleventh stoppage overall.

Adam Fugitt (8-2) — whose only professional losses came to future Contender Series hopefuls Austin Vanderford and Kailan Hill — scored three consecutive finishes before assorted issues forced a two-year layoff. He returned in a big way in Feb. 2022, smashing massive favorite Solomon Renfro in less than one minute.

He replaces Ramiz Brahimaj on little more than one week’s notice.

With all due respect to Fugitt, he’s far less of a threat to Morales than Giles was. Fugitt’s best weapons are his top control and ground-and-pound, neither of which figure to be much of a factor against a more credentialed wrestler. That means he has to beat Morales on the feet, and though he’s adept with his kicks, his defensive issues and limited boxing make it a matter of time before Morales finds his chin.

There have been wilder upsets, but between his inability to use his strengths and the sheer firepower coming back his way, Fugitt’s odds are slim. In short, Morales clips him inside the first five minutes.

Prediction: Morales via first round technical knockout

135 lbs.: Ji Yeon Kim vs. Joselyne Edwards

Ji Yeon Kim (9-5-2) battled her way to a 3-2 UFC start, highlighted by an upset decision over Justine Kish and a two-round beatdown of Nadia Kassem. “Fire Fist” now finds herself in the midst of a three-fight skid, though her most recent defeat to Prsicila Cachoeira was unquestionably a robbery.

She is the shorter of the two but sports a two-inch reach advantage,

Joselyne Edwards (11-4) worked her way to a 2018 LFA title shot against future UFC competitor Sarah Alpar, who narrowly edged out “La Pantera” over the course of five rounds She would ultimately make her own journey to the Octagon two years later, and she now sits at 2-2 in the world’s largest mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion.

She replaces Mariya Agapova on short notice.

This has “controversial decision” written all over it. Indeed, a match up between high-output strikers with a history of nail-biters is just asking for trouble.

Maybe it’s just a desire for karma after watching her get robbed last time out, but I’m leaning toward Kim. She’s held her own against quality strikers like Alexa Grasso in the past, can exceed Edwards’ volume, and sits down on her punches enough to offset Edwards’ flurries in the eyes of the judges. In the end, heavier blows edge things out for “Fire Fist.”

Prediction: Kim via split decision

205 lbs.: Nick Negumereanu vs. Ihor Potieria

Nick Negumereanu (12-1) lost his undefeated record in his UFC debut, which saw Saparbeg Safarov out-work and out-wrestle him to a unanimous decision win. A subsequent two-year stint on the sidelines appears to have worked out for him, racking up three consecutive victories.

“Nicu” will enjoy a three-inch reach advantage despite being three inches shorter than “Duelist.”

Ukraine’s Ihor Potieira (20-2) rode a 16-fight win streak into Contender Series, where he squared off with unbeaten Lukasz Sudolski. Though Potieria entered as the underdog, a heavy flurry secured both a first-round knockout and a UFC contract.

He’s won 16 professional fights via stoppage, including nine by knockout.

It’s clear that Negumereanu’s current run is better on paper than in reality. His recent win over Kennedy Nzechukwu was a legitimate robbery, and neither Aleksa Camur nor Ike Villanueva have accomplished much in the Octagon.

His face-first approach might just work out here, though. Potieria’s tendency to jump into range with big, wide flurries should give Negumereanu plenty of opportunities to land his haymakers and get in on the Ukrainian’s hips for takedowns. Plus, even if he can’t wrangle Potieria to the mat, the latter’s been controlled against the cage before. Potieria will land the bigger strikes, but expect Negumereanu to zombie-walk his way to another narrow decision.

Prediction: Negumereanu via split decision

170 lbs.: Orion Cosce vs. Mike Mathetha

Orion Cosce (7-1) joined brother Louis in the Octagon thanks to a buzzer-beater finish of the heavily-favored Matt Dixon on Contender Series. He enjoyed a good first round in his UFC debut against Phil Rowe, but ultimately succumbed to punches late in the second.

All of his pro wins have come inside the distance, six of them via strikes.

Mike Mathetha (3-1) — another City Kickboxing export — was originally slated to debut against Cosce in Feb. 2022 before “Galaxy” withdrew because of an injury. In stepped Jeremiah Wells, who took down “Blood Diamond” in the opening seconds and ultimately drew a tap via rear-naked choke.

He’ll enjoy a five-inch reach advantage.

Having just watched Mathetha lose to a physically imposing slugger with a solid wrestling game, you’ll forgive me for not liking his chances against a second one. Though Cosce lacks Wells’ Brazilian jiu-jitsu prowess, there doesn’t appear to be much stopping him from mauling Mathetha in similar fashion. Mathetha has the edge on the feet, sure, but the threat of Cosce’s takedowns should go a long way towards neutralizing the former’s kicks.

Unless Mathetha can catch Cosce with something nasty in the opening minutes, “Galaxy’s” going to squeeze the life out of him on top and against the fence. So long as Cosce’s still got the confidence to go bulldozer mode, he takes out Mathetha with ground-and-pound inside the first round.

Prediction: Cosce via first round technical knockout

Four more UFC 277 “Prelims” undercard bouts remain to preview and predict, including the debut of an Olympic wrestler and what promises to be fireworks between Alex Morono and Matthew Semelsberger. Same time tomorrow, Maniacs.


Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 277 fight card right here, starting with the early ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on ABC/ESPN+ at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+ PPV.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC 277: “Pena vs. Nunes 2” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.