In the last issue of Fight Friday, we discussed why the trilogy fight between Featherweight (145 lbs.) champion Alexander Volkanovski and Max Holloway should’ve been the main event for UFC 276. Although we won’t be getting trilogy fights headlining the next two Pay-Per-Views (PPVs), UFC 277 & UFC 278, we will be getting rematches where UFC championship gold will be on the line.
In the co-main event of UFC 269, Amanda Nunes “The Lioness” put her Bantamweight (135 lbs.) belt on the line against the No.3 ranked Julianna Peña “The Venezuelan Vixen”. Going into the fight, Nunes was being discussed as the “GOAT”, as she was looking to successfully defend her belt for the sixth time since taking it from Miesha Tate at UFC 200.
However, Nunes wasn’t just the Bantamweight champion going into her first fight with Peña. Nunes was also the Women’s Featherweight champion.
Peña had to scratch and claw her way to her title shot at UFC 269. She cemented her shot as the next challenger by submitting Sara McMann via rear naked choke at UFC 257. Almost a year later, Peña used the same maneuver to submit Nunes to become champion at UFC 269.
Photo: Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC
Nunes and Peña will run it back in the main event of UFC 277 at American Airlines Center (home to the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks and NHL’s Dallas Stars). This time though, the roles will be reversed as now “The Venezuelan Vixen” is the champion and “The Lioness” is the challenger. Peña will be looking to successfully retain her championship for the first time.
At UFC 278, originating from Vivint Arena (home to the NBA’s Utah Jazz) in Salt Lake City, Utah, UFC Welterweight (170 lbs.) champion and the No.1 ranked men’s pound-for-pound fighter Kamaru Usman “The Nigerian Nightmare” looks to successfully defend his championship for the sixth time in a rematch with the No.2 ranked Welterweight contender Leon Edwards “Rocky”.
Photo: Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC
Usman and Edwards first fought in a three-round fight during a UFC on FOX event. Usman would go on to defeat Edwards via unanimous decision. Usman has won 15 consecutive fights, which include his five successful title defenses.
Edwards solidified himself as the next challenger for Usman’s throne by defeating Nate Diaz at UFC 263 via unanimous decision. Edwards is 4-0-1 in his last five fights. Before he fought Nate Diaz at UFC 263, Edwards faced Belal Muhammed in the main event of a UFC Fight Night. The fight between Edwards and Muhammed ended in a no contest due to an eye poke from Edwards.
Rematches can be invigorating to watch, especially when a UFC championship belt is on the line. Although the two fights between Nate Diaz and Connor McGregor were fantastic, neither fight was for a championship belt. When two fighters are seeing each other in the UFC octagon for the second time, or three times in the case of Volkonovski and Holloway, it's fascinating to watch and analyze how the dynamic between the two combatants has changed.
Have the two fighters developed a hatred for one another? Have the two fighters gained more respect for one another? What’s different about the relationship between the two fighters when they’re meeting in the octagon for a second time, or in some cases, a third time? Which fighter made more adjustments? What kind of adjustments did each fighter make?
Rematches invoke all of these questions and probably many more that aren’t listed.
My prediction is when Peña and Nunes meet for their pre-fight press conference at UFC 277, there will be more animosity between the two. Not just because Peña is defending the belt against the same woman she took it from, but also because the two are the coaches for season 30 of The Ultimate Fighter.
The two rematches that will go down in the main events of UFC 277 and UFC 278 respectively should be absolute barnburners. I expect them to come down to the most minute of details. After all, Peña is defending her belt against the woman considered to be the “GOAT” in Nunes, and Usman is defending his belt and his status as the No.1 pound-for-pound fighter against a guy in Edwards who he fought to a three-round decision.
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