Kai Kara-France lost via third round TKO to Brandon Moreno at UFC 277. Photo: @ufc/Instagram.

In his first UFC title fight, Kiwi Kai Kara-France has suffered a brutal third-round TKO defeat at the hands of Brandon Moreno who was crowned the new UFC Interim Flyweight Champion at UFC 277.

New Zealand’s Kai Kara-France (24-10) was unsuccessful in his attempt to get his hands on UFC gold after suffering a third-round TKO loss to Mexico’s Brandon Moreno (20-6-2) at UFC 277.

A well placed left kick to the body by Moreno, which landed straight on the liver of Kara-France proved to be the decisive fight ending moment.

The encounter between Kara-France and Moreno was the second time the two had met, previously having fought at UFC 245 in December 2019 where the Mexican won the closely contested fight via unanimous decision.

This time the implications were much more significant, with the winner being crowned the UFC Interim Flyweight Champion, where they would have the chance to unify the belts against the current champion Deiveson Figueiredo (21-2-1).

Since their last meeting, Moreno had captured the title and fought Figueiredo three times for the belt. The two fought to a draw in their first fight with Moreno winning the belt by submission in their second meeting. Figueiredo would regain the belt in the third encounter by decision.

Meanwhile in that time, Kara-France had strung together a three-fight win streak, having knocked out Rogerio Bontorin and Cody Garbrandt before recently defeating Askar Askarov by decision.

With Moreno having a high pace style, The Kiwi opted to attack his lead leg to try and slow down the former champion’s movement.

The first round was a technical battle with neither fighter able to land much, however Kara-France was much more accurate, landing 43 per cent of his strikes compared to Moreno who landed 23 per cent.

Late in the round, Kara-France landed a solid right hand which hurt Moreno, evident by him shooting for a takedown which was well defended by the City Kickboxing fighter.

Having had a round to settle into the fight, the second round was fought at a much higher pace. The New Zealander continued to attack the leg of Moreno, with this clearly being a large part of his game plan.

Throughout the round, Moreno was slightly busier, but Kara-France was the more precise striker.

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Entering the third round, Kara-France started quickly sweeping Moreno’s legs from under him to take the fight to the canvas where he rained down strikes.

While on top, the 29 year old was able to land an elbow that opened a large cut below the right eye of the Mexican. However, the action on the ground was short lived as Kara-France opted to get the fight back on the feet, not wanting to sit in the guard of Moreno.

Back on the feet the technical striking of Kara-France looked to be taking affect, with him starting to have more success with finding his shots. Moreno showed his toughness, with blood streaming down his face he continued to push forward to try and make the fight more of a brawl.

In the final minute of the round, Kara-France went for a takedown, however Moreno was wise to it, quickly evading and throwing a spinning back fist. He followed up with a left kick to the body of Kara-France, which landed clean to the liver, folding the Kiwi to the ground.

With Kara-France grimacing in pain on the canvas, Moreno followed up with vicious ground and pound until the referee stepped in to call the fight.

Kara-France and Moreno won the Fight of the Night honours for their epic encounter, each receiving a 50k bonus.  

With the win and now being the UFC Interim Flyweight Champion, Moreno’s next fight will be against Figueiredo, most likely occurring in December or in early 2023.

As for Kara-France, he will need to work his way back into title contention by stringing together a few wins. Depending on the result, the title unification could impact how quickly Kara-France gets another shot at the belt.

Overall it was a bad night for the City Kickboxing team with, Kara-France’s teammate Mike Mathetha losing a decision to Orion Cosce.

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