3 storylines to watch at UFC 277

L to R (Getty Images): Jeff Bottari/Jeff Bottari/Chris Unger

Amanda Nunes' most fascinating fight in years is upon us.

Nunes, the UFC women's featherweight champion, will try to regain the bantamweight title - and her double-champ status - when she faces Julianna Pena for the second time in Saturday's UFC 277 main event. Pena submitted Nunes last December to win the 135-pound strap in one of the biggest upsets in UFC history.

Meanwhile, former flyweight titleholder Brandon Moreno and Kai Kara-France will meet for the interim belt with Deiveson Figueiredo sidelined due to injuries.

Light heavyweight contenders Magomed Ankalaev and Anthony Smith will also square off in Dallas in hopes of inching closer to a shot at Jiri Prochazka's title.

Here are three key storylines heading into the event.

How has the loss affected Nunes?

The rematch's result largely depends on what Nunes does and how she looks.

Essentially, there are two ways the loss to Pena could have impacted Nunes physically and mentally, and therefore two main scenarios for how the second fight will play out.

The loss might've lit a fire underneath Nunes. One of the hardest things to do in this sport is for a longtime, dominant champion to defend their title over and over and over - especially when worthy challengers are few and far between. Nunes recently said that it's "natural" for someone in her position to "slow down a little bit" after spending so long on top.

Perhaps last December was the wake-up call Nunes needed, motivating her to train harder and a reminder that she - nor any other professional MMA fighter - is invincible.

There's also the idea that it might've been an off night for Nunes - it's bound to happen for everyone eventually, no matter how good of a fighter you are. And to be fair, Nunes didn't look like herself that night. She was a lot more wild than usual once Pena started landing on the feet and ran out of gas quickly.

But it can go the other way, too. That loss may have been the beginning of the end for Nunes. It might've messed with her from a mental standpoint. To be so dominant for so long and then lose the way she did has to be tough to deal with. It might've put a chip on her shoulder, but one so big that she'll come out swinging with reckless abandon - with the assumption that she'll destroy Pena, but only for it to backfire.

And, more often than not, when a dominant champion finally falls off the throne, they don't take it back. Anderson Silva and BJ Penn are just two examples. Perhaps Pena beating Nunes was a sign that the Brazilian's best days are finally behind her.

We'll see which scenario comes true.

Who has a better chance of dethroning Figueiredo: Moreno or Kara-France?

It's hard not to side with Moreno here based on what we've already seen.

Moreno has beaten Figueiredo once before - and had two other extremely close fights with him - so it's fair to assume he has a better shot at becoming champ over Kara-France.

Moreno offers more than Kara-France that can give Figueiredo fits - namely, his grappling game. We saw that in their 2021 rematch. Moreno controlled Figueiredo on the ground and then submitted him with a rear-naked choke to win the flyweight title.

The Mexican also has an improved stand-up game, whereas Kara-France is mainly known for his striking. Therefore, Moreno is more well-rounded, and that's crucial when we're talking about what it takes to beat the best in the world.

This isn't to say Kara-France couldn't beat Figueiredo should he get past Moreno this weekend. The City Kickboxing fighter has made drastic improvements since his time on "The Ultimate Fighter" in 2016, all the way to becoming a title contender. But for now, there's more proof available that Moreno is the one to dethrone Figueiredo.

Are Ankalaev, Smith fighting for a title shot?

Whoever comes out victorious between Ankalaev and Smith might get a title shot after this fight. But probably not.

Here's the deal: Prochazka's first title defense will either come against his last opponent, Glover Teixeira; ex-champ Jan Blachowicz; or the Ankalaev-Smith winner. And as it stands right now, that seems to be the correct order from most likely to least likely.

After initially narrowing in on Blachowicz as his next opponent, Prochazka recently said he's eyeing a rematch with Teixeira after he pulled off a come-from-behind victory in their UFC 275 thriller in June. Prochazka wants to leave no doubt about who's the better man.

If Teixeira is unavailable for some reason, Blachowicz is the next best option from a name-value perspective.

That leaves Ankalaev and Smith.

Smith has said he expects to receive a title shot with a victory over Ankalaev. He said he thinks the UFC hasn't booked Prochazka-Teixeira 2 or Prochazka-Blachowicz yet because it's waiting to see what happens with his fight against Ankalaev.

That might be true. But it would take a monumental effort from Ankalaev or Smith to jump over the other two contenders. Unfortunately for them, Teixeira and Blachowicz are sexier options. If either Ankalaev or Smith does something extremely impressive Saturday, then it's possible. It's just unlikely.