The fights that matter the week ending July 30

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Each week, MMA Junkie reviews the resumes of top fighters from the world’s top promotions to complete the USA TODAY Sports/MMA Junkie Rankings. Fighters competing in the UFC, Bellator, PFL and other key promotions are eligible for our global rankings.

Week after week, the top contenders put their rankings on the line when they enter the cage, which makes these fights important. just a little more.

Check below for a breakdown of the ranked fighters who are in action this week.

Flyweight: No. 6 Alexandre Pantoja vs. No. 9 Alex Perez

Flyweight Division: No. 6 Alexandre Pantoja (24-5 MMA, 8-3 UFC) meets No. 9 Alex Perez (24-6 MMA, 6-2 UFC) at UFC 277.

  • Pantoja enters UFC 277 on a two-fight winning streak. In 2021, he picked up a unanimous decision victory over Manel Kape and a second-round rear naked choke of Brandon Royval.
  • Perez returns to action for his first fight since a replacement title opportunity against Figueiredo at UFC 255. Prior to that, Perez had three straight wins, beating Mark De La Rosa, Jordan Espinosa and Jussier Formiga.

Light Heavyweight: #10 Anthony Smith vs. #12 Magomed Ankalaev

Light heavyweight division: No. 10 Anthony Smith (36-16 MMA, 11-6 UFC) meets Magomed Ankalaev (17-1 MMA, 8-1 UFC) at UFC 277.

  • Former title challenger Smith is entering a three-fight winning streak with stoppage wins over Devin Clark, Jimmy Crute and Ryan Spann.
  • Ankalaev’s only professional loss came on his UFC debut in 2018. Since then, he has won eight straight, including back-to-back unanimous decision victories over former title challengers Volkan Oezdemir and Thiago Santos.

Heavyweight: No. 5 Derrick Lewis vs. HM Sergei Pavlovich

Heavyweight Division: No. 5 Derrick Lewis (26-9 MMA, 17-7 UFC) takes on HM Sergei Pavlovich at UFC 277.

  • Former title challenger Lewis dropped his previous outing against Tai Tuivasa at UFC 271. Prior to the loss, he finished Chris Daukaus in the first round of the main event at UFC Fight Night 199 to break the record UFC knockout.
  • Pavlovich dropped out of his UFC debut against Alistair Overeem in 2018 but has since finished his next three opponents in the first round, stopping Marcelo Golm, Maurice Greene and Shamil Abdurakhimov.

Flyweight: No. 2 Brandon Moreno vs. No. 4 Kai Kara-France

Brandon Moreno vs. Kai Kara – France, UFC 245

Flyweight Division: No. 2 Brandon Moreno (19-6-2 MMA, 7-3-2 UFC) takes on No. 4 Kai Kara-France (24-9 MMA, 7-2 UFC) at UFC 277 for the interim flyweight title.

  • This fight is a rematch of UFC 245 in 2019. Moreno won the first encounter by unanimous decision.
  • Former champ Moreno is coming off three straight fight wins against champ Deiveson Figueiredo. The first encounter was a draw, Moreno won the rematch by submission in the third round, and Figueiredo won the third by decision.
  • Kara-France enters its first title opportunity on a three-fight winning streak. He finished Rogerio Bontorin and former bantamweight champion Cody Garbrandt in the first round, and recently beat Askar Askarov by unanimous decision in March.

Women’s Bantamweight: No. 1 Julianna Peña vs. No. 2 Amanda Nunes

Amanda Nunes vs. Julianna Pena, UFC 269

Women’s Bantamweight Division: No. 1 Julianna Peña (11-4 MMA, 7-2 UFC) takes on No. 2 Amanda Nunes (21-5 MMA, 14-2 UFC) in a rematch for the women’s heavyweight title rooster.

  • This fight is a rematch of UFC 269. Peña defeated Nunes by submission in the second round to become champion.
  • Peña enters the main event of UFC 277 looking to defend his title for the first time on a two-fight winning streak. After submitting Sara McMann with a rear-end choke at UFC 257, she defeated Nunes with the same result at UFC 269.
  • Nunes, who still holds the women’s featherweight title, will be looking to bounce back from her first loss since 2014. Nunes won 12 straight fights before falling to Peña, including nine title fight wins.

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