Brandon Moreno is next in line. He left no doubt of that Saturday at UFC 277.
In the co-main event at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Moreno (20-6-2 MMA, 8-3-2 UFC) finished Kai Kara-France (24-10 MMA, 7-3 UFC) with a body kick and punches at the 4:33 mark of Round 3.
The first two rounds were closely contested with Moreno utilizing his range and technical striking well. Kara-France struggled to muster up consistent offense until the beginning of the third round. Kara-France found some success in a sequence in which Moreno shot for a leg but came up short.
Bobbing and weaving like a prime Benson Henderson on the ground, Moreno was met with a few handfuls of knuckles from Kara-France, who stood over him. The shots bloodied Moreno, who eventually rose up and continued to battle.
As the clock wound down, Moreno landed a wicked left body kick to Kara-France’s midsection. There was no poker-facing it. Kara-France folded like a lawn chair and clutched his midsection. Halfway between tending to the tender area and defending the onslaught of punches to the head, Kara-France was unable to defend himself and referee Herb Dean stepped in.
An interim title in his possession, Moreno aligned himself to fight the recovering champion, Deiveson Figueiredo (21-2-1 MMA, 10-2-1 UFC), in the future. It will be the fourth head-to-head meeting of their career. The series is even at 1-1-1.
After the bout, Figueiredo joined Moreno inside the cage. Despite the mean-mugging from Figueiredo, Moreno said he wanted to be an example for his wife and children. So he apologized to Figueirdo for offending him in the past and extended a hand. Figueiredo accepted the apology and the two put arms around each other as they rallied the crowd.
With the win, Moreno bounced back from a title loss to Figueiredo at UFC 270 in January. He also took home an interim title for the first time. Since he rejoined the UFC in 2019, Moreno has compiled a 5-1-2 record with victories over Figueiredo, Jussier Formiga, Brandon Royval and two over Kara-France.
Moreno and Kara-France first competed against each other at UFC 245 in December 2019. Moreno won by unanimous decision.
Up-to-the-minute UFC 277 results include:
Brandon Moreno def. Kai Kara-France via TKO (body kick, punches) – Round 3, 4:34 – to win interim flyweight title Sergei Pavlovich def. Derrick Lewis via TKO (punches) – Round 1, 0:55 Alexandre Pantoja def. Alex Perez via submission (rear-naked choke) – Round 1, 1:31 Magomed Ankalaev def. Anthony Smith via TKO (punches) – Round 2, 3:09 Alex Morono def. Matthew Semelsberger via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27) Drew Dober def. Rafael Alves via knockout (body punch) – Round 3, 1:30 Hamdy Abdelwahab vs. Don’Tale Mayes via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28) Drakkar Klose def. Rafa Garcia via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28) Michael Morales def. Adam Fugitt via TKO (punches) – Round 3, 1:09 Joselyne Edwards def. Ji Yeon Kim via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 30-27) Nicolae Negumereanu def. Ihor Potieria via TKO (knees, punches) – Round 2, 3:33 Orion Cosce def. Blood Diamond via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)