UFC 289 predictions: Can Aldana shock the world against Nunes?
Ahead of Saturday's UFC 289 in Vancouver, theScore's Nick Baldwin makes his picks for the main-card bouts.
Women's bantamweight championship
Amanda Nunes (22-5)
Irene Aldana (14-6)
These days, an Amanda Nunes victory is less of a sure thing than it was before she shockingly lost to Julianna Pena. She's not as invincible as she once was.
But does that mean Irene Aldana has what it takes to dethrone "The Lioness"? Probably not.
Even at a bit of an advanced age of 35 years old, Nunes is the best there is at 135 pounds. She dominated Pena in their rematch last year, a complete shift from their first matchup in 2021, proving that she still has what it takes to be the bantamweight queen. Nunes is skilled on the feet and on the ground. If you forgive her bizarre performance in the Pena loss (considering her performance in the second fight more than made up for it), she has no glaring holes.
Aldana's best weapon is her boxing. She is technical and has power. Perhaps Aldana would beat Nunes in a pure boxing match. But unfortunately for the Mexican-born fighter, this is MMA.
Considering Aldana's biggest path to victory is on the feet, I expect Nunes to get comfortable with Aldana in that department before taking the fight to the ground. Aldana struggled on the mat in her last bout against Macy Chiasson (before finishing Chiasson in the third round), and if Nunes can get it there - which she probably will - it could be a long night for the challenger.
I don't see Nunes finishing Aldana, but I suspect it'll be another fairly lopsided win for the champ.
The pick: Nunes, unanimous decision
Charles Oliveira (33-9, 1 NC)
Beneil Dariush (22-4-1)
Sorry to the headliners, but Oliveira-Dariush is clearly the people's main event. This is an incredible matchup, one that has been in the works for quite some time.
The stakes are huge for Dariush, a veteran lightweight who is currently on the best run of his career having won his last eight Octagon appearances. If he beats Oliveira, he is almost surely next in line for a shot at Islam Makhachev's title. A lot is also on the line for Oliveira, the former champion whose 11-fight winning streak was snapped by Makhachev last October. Oliveira was unbeatable for a while, and this is his opportunity to remind the world just how good he is - and to potentially earn a chance at revenge against the Russian champ.
Stylistically, I'm very intrigued to see how this fight plays out. Oliveira is one of the most talented and dangerous Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioners in the sport. He has a nasty rear-naked choke and owns the most finishes in UFC history. He survives tough situations and can grab a finish at any time.
But Dariush is no slouch on the ground. He is a terrific grappler himself, more so focusing on control. If he can obtain a dominant position early in the fight, perhaps he can ride out a decision victory. Of course, he'd have to be careful not to let Oliveira grab hold of his arm or neck.
However, I don't see Oliveira going down that easily. I expect this to be a mix of a stand-up and ground battle, and on the feet, Oliveira should hold the edge. He has turned into quite the technical, powerful, and crafty striker - he knocked down Justin Gaethje and knocked out Michael Chandler, for goodness sakes. Dariush has made improvements in the striking department as well - his biggest weapon is his power - but he's still a bit of an awkward puncher.
Honestly, there aren't too many scenarios in this fight that would surprise me. Considering how competitive of a matchup it is on paper, a decision seems like the right call. But Oliveira is a monster, so I'll say he manages to put Dariush away.
The pick: Oliveira, third-round TKO
Other main-card predictions: Mike Malott def. Adam Fugitt by submission; Nate Landwehr def. Dan Ige by decision; Marc-Andre Barriault def. Eryk Anders by decision
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