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After consecutive weekends of early fight times, the UFC returns to its Saturday night pay-per-view schedule this weekend. UFC 277 is headlined by women's bantamweight champion Julianna Pena defending her title in a rematch against former champion Amanda Nunes.
But that's not the only title fight on tap for Saturday night.
The interim title for the flyweight division will be on the line when Brandon Moreno faces Kai Kara-France in the co-main event. Moreno, the former champion, got the best of Kara-France in 2019 with a unanimous decision victory at UFC 245. Rematches have historically provided solid angles for bettors, as the winner of the previous fight tends to duplicate their success more often than not. Moreno is a sizable favorite to defeat Kara-France for a second time, and here is why it's best to bet on him now as the odds continue to climb.
Kai Kara-France is coming off an upset victory over Askar Askarov where he was able to pour on the volume in the later rounds of the fight. Askarov is a freestyle wrestler whose only answer to Kara-France's striking was to shoot for takedowns. However, when those attempts failed, the door opened up for Kara-France to take over the fight. And Kara-France took full advantage of his striking and cardio advantages en route to a razor-thin decision victory. However, he won't have that luxury against Moreno, who used his jab to perfection as the technically superior striker in their first fight.
That's the biggest challenge for Kara-France. His power is his biggest asset, but Moreno has multiple weapons to limit his ability to utilize it. We have already seen Moreno have great success with his jab, and I don't think it's a given that Kara-France can work his way inside to deliver his straight right hand at the frequency he will need to.
Moreno can also use his aggression to keep Kara-France on the defensive. That was the turning point in the previous fight. Kara-France was uncomfortable and reactive when Moreno came forward, bringing the fight to him. I am sure it's a tactic the former champ will deploy, knowing his opponent hasn't been through five rounds in the Octagon. The experience gap in this environment shouldn't be understated.
These flyweight fights can turn into chaos at any moment. And those unpredictable moments are where Moreno's championship experience will shine through. I am confident Moreno can win the grappling exchanges easily and take Kara-France's back if this one hits the canvas. He scored seven takedowns in his three fights with Deiveson Figueiredo, so that could be another way he keeps the fight on his terms. Kara-France is a game opponent with the heart of a champion. Still, his win condition is very limited against somebody as well-rounded as Moreno. All the reason to take the favorite at -200, and enjoy what should be the most entertaining fight of the night.
The Bet: Brandon Moreno (-200)
Orion Cosce (-160) vs. Mike Mathetha (+130)
You are only as strong as your biggest weakness when you get to the highest level of mixed martial arts. Unfortunately, Cosce and Mathetha learned that lesson the hard way in their UFC debut losses. Now matched up against each other, Cosce has the more reliable tools to climb back into the win column. His athleticism will help him cut off the cage against Mathetha and he'll utilize his wrestling to get this one to the ground. Unfortunately, as was the case in Mathetha's debut, that's where the fight will end. His grappling is not good enough to survive against UFC competition, which forces him to be overly reliant on low-percentage, highlight-reel finishes.
In his UFC debut, "Blood Diamond" relinquished 4:25 of control time before being choked out at 4:38 into the first round. Mathetha's inability to keep the fight standing resulted in him connecting on only one strike during the contest. He might find some openings on Cosce, but I'm willing to bet Cosce survives long enough to put Mathetha on his back. At -160, I think we are getting a solid price on Cosce, who should get this to the mat and ground and pound his way to his first UFC victory.
The Bet: Orion Cosco (-160)
*Stats provided by ufcstats.com