One of 2021’s most shocking fights gets a sequel this Saturday (July 30, 2022) when UFC women’s Bantamweight champion, Julianna Pena, looks to make it 2-0 against the legendary Amanda Nunes in Dallas, Texas. UFC 277’s pay-per-view (PPV) main card will also see Brandon Moreno meet Kai Kara-France for the interim Flyweight title, Alexandre Pantoja meet Alex Perez for a potential crack at the winner, and Magomed Ankalaev try to make his case for a Light Heavyweight title shot at Anthony Smith’s expense.
170 lbs.: Alex Morono vs. Matthew Semelsberger
Alex Morono (21-7) started his UFC career 3-2 (1 NC), one of those wins a controversial one over Kyle Noke and the “No Contest” an overturned knockout loss to Niko Price. He has since found his footing in a big way, winning seven of his next nine and putting together an ongoing three-fight win streak.
“The Great White” gives up two inches of height and three inches of reach to “Semi the Jedi.”
Matthew Semelsberger (10-3) — who once sat at 3-2 as a professional — won five straight before falling short against Khaos Williams. He bounced back with a 15-second wipeout of Martin Sano, then edged out unbeaten A.J. Fletcher in March 2022.
He’s knocked out six professional foes and submitted one other.
Morono’s skills really sneak up on you. Brawling stand up and a Brazilian jiu-jitsu game hampered by poor wrestling do not a contender make, but he just keeps making it work against a wide variety of opponents.
I don’t think it works here, though.
Semelsberger’s boxing is too sharp and his power too potent for Morono to out-slug him on the feet, and his defensive grappling held up nicely against the very determined Fletcher. Though Morono’s always game, it’s hard not to picture Semelsberger timing one of “The Great White’s” big swings and coming back with a fight-ending straight right down the pipe. In short, a developing slugfest ends abruptly via one-hitter quitter.
Prediction: Semelsberger via first round knockout
155 lbs.: Drew Dober vs. Rafael Alves
The 6-1 Octagon run for Drew Dober (24-11), which featured three post-fight bonuses, gave way to consecutive losses to Islam Makhachev and Brad Riddell. Nine months after the latter defeat, he survived a flying knee to knockout Terrance McKinney and re-enter the win column.
His professional finishes are split 9/8 between submissions and knockouts.
Rafael Alves (20-10) impressed on Contender Series with a second round guillotine finish and looked poised to shock Damir Ismagulov after an early knockdown in his debut, but couldn’t maintain the momentum. “The Turn” capitalized quite a bit better on his next opportunity, choking out Marc Diakiese 108 seconds into their Nov. 2021 fight.
He faces a two-inch reach disadvantage.
Fighting Alves is like walking through a minefield. He doesn’t have the fundamentals to set up his wild power strikes or the wrestling to bring his lethal submissions to bear, but as Diakiese learned, all he needs is one slip-up to end the night in an instant.
Unfortunately for him, Dober’s up to the task of threading the needle. He’s by far the superior striking technician and is inordinately difficult to finish. Indeed, Alves’ opportunities will be few and far between, and he’ll have a mighty hard time actually capitalizing on them. In the end, Dober stays patient and out-boxes Alves to a mid-round stoppage.
Prediction: Dober via second round technical knockout
265 lbs.: Don’Tale Mayes vs. Hamdy Abdelwahab
Two years after falling to Allen Crowder on Contender Series, Don’Tale Mayes (9-4) secured a spot in the Octagon by knocking out Ricardo Prasel in his second appearance on the program. He proceeded to lose his first two UFC bouts to Ciryl Gane and Rodrigo Nascimento, but has since evened up his record in the promotion with wins over Roque Martinez and Josh Parisian.
“Lord Kong” stands four inches taller than Hamdy Abdelwahab (5-0) and boasts an eight-inch reach advantage.
Abdelwahab represented his native Egypt in Greco-Roman wrestling at the 2016 Olympics, ultimately bowing out in the Round of 16. His pro MMA career has seen him stop all five opponents via (technical) knockout, the most recent of them in June 2022.
He steps in for Justin Tafa on less than two weeks’ notice.
Credentialed and physically impressive though he may be, Abdelwahab remains a work in progress. His stand up is limited, his professional competition weak, and his top game is well behind his wrestling. I’m not saying he can’t beat Mayes, whose had all sorts of issues with grapplers in the past, but I really don’t see him doing so outside of a lengthy lay-and-pray session.
Mayes is just too seasoned and Abdelwahab too green at this point. If they met at their hypothetical peaks, Abdelwahab would run him over, but all that matters is where they are here and now. When the dust settles, “Lord Kong” will put away his flagging foe sometime in the third frame.
Prediction: Mayes via third round technical knockout
155 lbs.: Drakkar Klose vs. Rafa Garcia
The three-fight win streak for Drakkar Klose (12-2-1) came to an end in an absolute war with Beneil Dariush, who felled Klose with a vicious overhand left in the second round. A two-year layoff followed, which Klose ended with an absolute mauling of Brandon Jenkins in April 2022.
He sports two inches of height and reach on Rafa Garcia (14-2).
“Gifted” entered the Octagon undefeated and with the Combate Lightweight title around his waist, only to drop consecutive decisions to Nasrat Haqparast and Chris Gruetzemacher. He proceeded to edge out Contender Series graduate, Natan Levy, to get on the scoreboard, then submitted Jesse Ronson five months later.
He steps in for Diego Ferreira on short notice.
Garcia is not to be underestimated here. Strong takedown artists have given Klose plenty of issues in the past, and “Gifted” is gritty enough to hold his own on the feet as well. It wouldn’t be at all surprising to see him grind his way to an upset victory.
It would, however, be more surprising than Klose’s aggression and striking variety carrying the day. Plus, Klose was already preparing for a much more dangerous grappler and striker in Ferreira, so he’s not likely to be caught unawares here. In short, he sprawls-and-brawls to victory.
Prediction: Klose via unanimous decision
UFC 277 features two championship fights, a clash of Heavyweight knockout artists, and two more bouts with serious title implications? Sounds like a winner to me. See you Saturday, Maniacs.
Prediction Record for 2022: 108-53
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.
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