A rematch between two of the best flyweight fighters in the UFC will take place this Saturday night at UFC 277.
Brandon Moreno vs. Kai Kara-France will feature as the co-main event of this weekend’s UFC PPV event in Dallas, Texas. The event will stream exclusively on ESPN+ in the United States.
Moreno was victorious the first time these fighters met in 2019 as he took control of the fight in the second and third round to win a unanimous decision victory. Kara-France, known for his heavy hands, started the fight well but wasn’t able to beat Moreno in the later rounds.
Since then, Moreno managed wins against Jussier Formiga, Brandon Royval, and then, of course, Deiveson Figueiredo to win the UFC Flyweight Championship. But after losing the title to Figueiredo in a rematch this January, Moreno now looks to get back on track by defeating the next-best contender in the division.
Read on for our full staff predictions for Brandon Moreno vs. Kai Kara-France ahead of this weekend’s UFC 277 co-main event.
Former champion Brandon Moreno is set to enter this fight as the betting favorite.
A rematch in the making since UFC 245, this was already a great matchup, and the two have only gotten better. In their first fight, Kai Kara-France showed he could get the better of the two early on when they were fresh. Kara-France had lean striking at a higher volume, but as the fight went on fans got to really see that “getting better as the fight goes” quality of Moreno. Part of the reason for this is because once Moreno established his jabs, his overall striking ability became far more successful.
That fight was three rounds, this one is five so that should favor Moreno due to his ability to get better over longer periods. One of the biggest improvements we’ve seen from Moreno since has been in his wrestling, his deep shots and outside reaps from the body lock, that allow him to land in good positions immediately. These will also serve him well over five rounds if Kara France starts to settle into his striking or lands something particularly big. Kara-France’s grappling has also obviously improved, but it’s the scrambling ability in the chaos that has been center stage more than the proactive wrestling of Moreno, and Moreno of everyone other than Brandon Royval may also have the same capabilities to scramble. However, if Moreno is pushing traditional takedowns and Kara-France consistently is looking to roll and chaotically looking to scramble and strike that is going to be far less sustainable over 25 minutes.
Purely from a technical side, Kara-France should be the better striker, he is a bit more accurate with a larger output over 3 rounds, but it’s important to note that Moreno’s last and highest level performances have been over 5. One of the things that Moreno does is he leans pretty far onto his lead leg and leads with his chin, almost as bait because he is such a twitchy fighter looking to counter. Instead of getting caught in headhunting that opening however, it would be smart for Kara-France to try eating up that lead leg to both cause some damage where he can but also to deter some of the momentum that may come for Moreno later in the fight. Moreno has a strange sideways stance that hides the extent of his jabbing arm, but Kara-France can get the timing down on it, his overhand right and that leg kick becomes very important tools.
I think the biggest thing for Moreno is because Kara-France is the slightly sharper striker, mixing things up between grappling and striking constantly. This will help break any sort of comfortability that Kara-France can settle into. If he’s always on edge and ready to sprawl and scramble, it opens up more opportunities earlier for Moreno, and I think the earlier he can take over the better because once he starts to get the better of Kara-France, momentum will ultimately be on his side.
Pick: Brandon Moreno to win (-210 odds at MyBookie)
With current flyweight champion, Deiveson Figueiredo, unable to defend his belt in a timely manner, the UFC has decided to put an interim belt on the line Saturday night. Fighting for this belt will be former champion and three-time opponent of Figueiredo, Brandon “The Assassin Baby” Moreno. The other challenger for the interim belt is Kai “Don’t Blink” Kara-France who is on a three fight winning streak that many did not see coming.
Moreno might be the most lovable fighter outside of the octagon, his smile and Lego collection personify the child within. However, once in the octagon, the whimsical child turns into a devastating and highly skilled fighter. “The Assassin Baby” is an incredibly accurate nickname. Moreno’s previous 3 fights have all come against Figueiredo, one draw, one win, and one loss. In these fights, Moreno’s complete skillset was on full display. He is a fundamentally sound and pathologically aggressive boxer with crisp combinations and the cardio to unload heavy shots for 5 rounds. Moreno has excellent footwork and head movement; but, can forgo his defensive technique to stand and throw because he has a stone jaw and often the edge in hand speed and power. Typically, Moreno will walk forward, fight behind a jab and solid leg kick, then plant his feet to “sit down” on his punches, and throw a lightning fast combination. Immediately after the combination, the once champion exits with head movement and expert footwork to avoid counter shots. Further, Moreno is also a solid wrestler and highly skilled jiu-jitsu player. He scrambles with explosion and can turn a bad position on the mat into a good one. From here, Moreno can, in an instant, find a submission to end the fight. Historically, Moreno can lose fights when he is out-volumed on the feet, which hasn’t happened in a while, or if he eats more power shots than he lands. Both cases are rare, but, possible paths to victory for his opponent.
Kara-France is an interesting fighter. His nickname is “Don’t Blink” because of the very real power he has in his hands. Kara-France is a skilled boxer who has rare power for the division and can end the fight with a single right hand. However, in the UFC, he has only two knockout wins and the rest by decision. Further, Kara-France has a BJJ background with a sneaky slick submission game but rarely uses it. He is advertised as a power puncher, but, Kara-France is much more well-rounded. He often fights with forward movement but a counter heavy approach. This typically looks like Kara-France standing in a defense guard, with a wide base, walking forward and feinting strikes. Once an opponent reacts to his feint, or even better for the Auckland fighter, throws their own strike, Kara-France will counter with a fast and heavy combination of his own. Then, he’ll go back to being defensively sound and forward moving. Rinse and repeat. In fights where Kara-France is matched on the feet, few and far between as they are, he has solid wrestling in his back pocket and can win important minutes clinched against the cage even if he can’t complete the takedown. Kara-France typically struggles against intelligent strikers who won’t recklessly walk into his combinations and against fighters who can mix in enough wrestling to force Kara-France’s hands to drop, opening up his chin.
Moreno should be a step ahead of Kara-France everywhere this fight goes. He is the faster striker, packs similar power, has the better wrestling, is significantly ahead in jiu-jitsu, and has proven he can fight a high volume war for 5 rounds. However, Kara-France is on a roll and seems to improve between each fight. This one is likely going to be a fun one but I like Moreno’s intelligent boxing, cracking leg kick, and ability to mix in his wrestling to propel him for the win. I much prefer Moreno in parlays as a finish or decision is difficult to predict, but, as a straight play, I’ll back Kara-France’s chin to hold up for a 5 round affair. Even without predicting a finish, I still recommend you “don’t blink.”
Pick: Brandon Moreno to win by decision (-210 odds at MyBookie)
While Brandon Moreno beat Kai Kara-France in 2019, the evolution of both fighters makes the analysis far more important on what they have done against the division contrary to how they performed against the other. With that said, Moreno did earn the win against Kara-France, so, the only notable aspect of that fight that I will take will be discussing the former flyweight champion first.
Brandon Moreno, as with many of the elite flyweights, is incredibly well-rounded. To separate Moreno from the pack, I will state that he is truly sensational everywhere. You may ask yourself, why is he not the current champion? The answer is that Deiveson Figueiredo is elite everywhere as well, thus making for a razor-thin margin when they fight one another.
While the sensational well-rounded aspect of Moreno does encapsulate who he is as a fighter, there are more specific aspects of his game that make him unique. The first is that Moreno combines elite cardio and insane heart to make him have a chin that leaves me believing he cannot get KO’d. The second aspect of his game that is unique is that he is able to combine great output on the feet with fight-ending ability anywhere the fight takes place. So, having very good output combined with power on the feet along with strong grappling makes him a true problem to contend with. Parlay this with the ability to throw a multitude at one’s opponent – punches, calf kicks, and takedowns – and Moreno is extremely difficult to contend with. While this is the case, Moreno will need to show a greater ability to separate from an elite challenger, as he has a tendency to fight in wars contrary to showcasing he is that notch better everywhere against his opponent.
I will admit that my affinity for Moreno’s fight game was not near the same degree as it was for Kara-France. The reasoning is that Kara-France, being very good in some aspects, had an average grade relative to his grappling; however, since his last fight against Askarov, where he halted 9 of 11 takedowns and showed well to get up off the mat if indeed taken there, Kara-France earned my, as well as many, respect to him earning not only a title shot but respecting him having a legitimate chance of winning the belt given is relatively newfound grappling prowess.
Beyond the showcased improved grappling of Kara-France, he does have very strong aspects to his game. Notably, he has extremely dangerous power on the feet, having finished 11 of his 24 professional wins by TKO/KO (a very impressive total for the flyweight division). Beyond this danger, the aspect of his game that has impressed me the most is his patience and fight intelligence to not push the finish when he gets his opponent “against the ropes”, instead, he throws calculated strikes to ensure he lands cleanly, and if done, the finish will ensue. I believe this seasoned approach to fighting is casually related to him seemingly turning a corner and becoming a legitimate title challenger. To become champion rather than a challenger for the belt, Kara-France will need to prove that the speed of his strikes can match that of the lightening quick Moreno, if so, he has the fight arsenal to win the fight.
Kara-France is one of those fighters whom I have gone against in recent fights, but, since he has done so well of recent note, I am reluctant to pick against him again. While there is a probable chance I get burned again, I simply cannot pick against Brandon Moreno. Moreno’s elite speed, well-rounded game, championship experience, cardio, and “Mexican-heart”, leaves me unable to go against him. Ultimately, I expect the fight to be quite close, but, I want my money on Moreno – who just so happens to be the victor in the first fight between the two.
Pick: Brandon Moreno to win (-210 odds at MyBookie)
Braeden Arbour is an aspiring journalist out of Ontario, Canada. He is a recent graduate of Trent University, with a black belt in Karate and a blue belt in Judo. He has also been an avid fan of MMA for the last decade.
Michael Pounders is a high school English Teacher, a boxer himself, and is a fan who loves, gambles on, and nerds out about all things MMA.