UFC 289 is set to deliver an explosive set of fights as the greatest female fighter of all time, Amanda Nunes, returns to the octagon to defend her bantamweight title against the dangerous challenger Irene Aldana. Taking place early on June 11th, the fight show promises several exciting encounters at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, Canada, including the co-main event, which will feature a pivotal lightweight battle between Charles Oliveira and Beneil Dariush. Of course, it’s the highly anticipated main bout that will have all the eyes on it. So without further ado, let’s take a closer look at the two fighters and their journey in the UFC ahead of Sunday’s fight show.
35-year-old Nunes is a name that needs no introduction in the UFC community. Her two division champion belts (Featherweight and Bantamweight) speak for themselves. Boasting a record of 22-5-0, the Brazilian has defeated every previous bantamweight titleholder during her illustrious career.
Her recent fights include two bouts with Julianna Peña, the first one taking place on December 11th, 2021. With a 12-fight win streak in her pocket and five consecutive Bantamweight title defenses, unsurprisingly, Nunes entered the fight as a heavy favorite. The first round saw Nunes throwing her opponent on the ground, trying to finish it early with her grapples. Ultimately, it turned out to be exactly what Peña had planned – to fatigue her opponent. In the second round, the two went at it for two solid minutes. After exchanging several effective punches, Peña saw her opening against the exhausted champ. She dropped her on the canvas and executed a rear naked choke. Nunes tapped. And so, one of the biggest surprises and upsets in UFC history was born.
Almost eight months later, a rematch followed. This time, Nunes was prepared. She knew what to expect from her opponent. And it didn’t disappoint. After dominating Peña with powerful strikes and grapples through five rounds, it was all the judges needed to see for the unanimous decision victory. A convincing defeat and bloodied face were all that was left of Peña after this rematch. Nunes successfully reclaimed the champion’s belt that deservedly belongs to her. The stage was all set for a thrilling trilogy fight to determine the better of the two athletes. Sadly, Peña pulled out of the fight early in May due to a fractured rib.
The organization was fast to find a replacement opponent to keep the UFC 289 main event intact. The choice was the 35-year-old Mexican fighter, Irene Aldana. She was initially set to headline UFC Fight Night on May 20th, so getting a shot to win the Women’s Bantamweight Division champion belt is unquestionably a significant upgrade.
The Mexican holds a 14-6-0 overall record with eight knockout wins to her credit – a clear indicator of her punching power and ability to finish off her opponents. While Nunes is obviously the biggest challenge of Aldana’s career, she has gone toe-to-toe with a former UFC champion before. Back in 2020, she fought Holly Holm, who captured the Women’s Bantamweight Championship belt in 2015. Even though Aldana lost that night via unanimous decision, she proved to be able to hold off even the highest caliber opposition for full five rounds.
But is there a chance to prevail against arguably the greatest female fighter of all time? In recent months, there’s been some magic in the air for Mexican fighters. In January, Brandon Moreno won Deiveson Figueiredo in the first quadrilogy in UFC history, recovering his Flyweight champion belt. In February, Yair Rodriguez defeated Josh Emmett and won the interim UFC Featherweight division title. Most recently, in March, Alexa Grasso shocked the world when she submitted Valentina Shevchenko to become the new Flyweight champion. Can Aldana continue the trend and become the fourth current champion from Mexico?
What are the odds?
While Aldana possesses impressive knockout power, Nunes’ experience and grappling superiority could be the defining factor in the fight. Unsurprisingly, Nunes enters the contest as an overwhelming favorite with the odds of 1.30, while Aldana is rated at 3.67. Will Nunes add another title defense to her portfolio, further cementing her legacy as the best female mixed martial artist in UFC history? Or will Aldana pull off a miracle in the face of the lopsided odds? As we all know, in the world of MMA, anything can happen and change with a single punch.