The greatest female fighter in MMA history returns to the Octagon on Saturday to defend her 135-pound title in the main event of a.
Amanda Nunes (22-5), a reigning two-division UFC champion, looks to make the first defense of her second bantamweight title reign when she welcomes hard-hitting Irene Aldana (14-6) in the promotion's first visit to Canada since a 2019 UFC Fight Night card in the same building.
UFC 289 is generally light on star power as it leans on a tremendous co-main event. Former UFC lightweight champion Charles Oliveira meets streaking contender Beneil Dariush in a fight expected to determine the next challenger for reigning lightweight champ Islam Makhachev. Oliveira's loss to Makhachev snapped a memorable 11-fight winning streak. Meanwhile, Dariush is in rare form with eight straight wins.
As we draw closer to this weekend's pay-per-view event, let's take a closer look at the biggest storylines to watch for.
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1. This is not a PPV-worthy fight card
It just isn't, and certainly not compared with the normal standards of the company. But UFC 289 just happens to come during an unexplainably soft stretch of matchmaking across the entire promotion. While this card was no stranger to injuries that have altered or canceled potentially strong matchups, it was never all that deep or high quality to begin with. The only consolation comes in the form of the new main event, which became necessary once former champion Julianna Pena pulled out of the originally scheduled trilogy bout against Nunes. Not only is Aldana a more dangerous and deserving opponent, the new headlining bout fixes the head-scratching decision in the first place of giving Pena another title shot considering there was less than zero demand for the fight. Much of that was due to how dominant Nunes was in their rematch last July, which went a long way in retroactively making Pena's 2021 upset win feel like more of a fluke (especially considering Nunes' post fight reveal of a serious training camp injury).
2. Does Amanda Nunes still have the eye of the tiger?
At 35, and still not far removed from losing and regaining her 135-pound title, it's a question that will likely follow Nunes the rest of her career. Such is the case for an all-time great fighter still competing at the highest levels at an advancing age. But Nunes clearly found the motivation to look great in her rematch with Pena by dominantly controlling the terms of the action from distance due to the large gap in technical striking skill between the two. Aldana is a much better technician than Pena and adds to that the wild card of having legitimate fight-ending power, which hasn't been a consistent calling card for Nunes opponents. Most importantly, Aldana is hungry and, despite having less mileage than Nunes, is also 35, so her window is now. Nunes will need to be flexible and enter in great shape for the possibility of five competitive and fast-paced rounds. Few can match, throughout history, the overall talent and danger that Nunes presents. But the gap is closing and Aldana has no shortage of motivation to risk it all.
3. Irene Aldana is next in line as the Mexican MMA takeover continues
What a year it has been for Mexican-born UFC champions. The promotion currently has two active undisputed titleholders (flyweights Brandon Moreno and Alexa Grasso) from Mexico and a third champion in the form of interim featherweight king Yair Rodriguez. For a nation with such a passionate boxing tradition, it has always felt inevitable that a love for MMA would eventually develop and it has never been a secret just how much UFC has been salivating for years at the hope of creating a breakout star to galvanize the Mexican fight culture. While that single face has never quite developed, having this many Mexican-born fighters either as champions or in title contention might be even more valuable toward the idea of sustained growth over the long term. Aldana and Grasso are also teammates at Lobo Gym in Guadalajara, which has quickly become a rising force in global women's MMA.
4. Plenty is riding on the Charles Oliveira-Beneil Dariush lightweight co-feature
Not only is this the best fight on the card in terms of the potential for unbridled entertainment, there is so much at stake as it pertains to the 155-pound title picture. While the winner will likely be in competition with the Dustin Poirier-Justin Gaethje rematch on July 29 in producing the next challenger to Islam Makhachev's title, the stakes also include validation. At 33, Oliveira is looking to prove that his 2022 title loss, which snapped an incredible 11-fight win streak, was simply one bad night at the office. But for Dariush, 34, this has all the makings to be the defining fight of his career amidst his own eight-fight win streak against the likes of Drew Dober, Tony Ferguson and Mateusz Gamrot. Dariush still doesn't get the full credit he deserves as an elite threat. But a victory over a former champion who holds company records for submission wins and total finishes would likely be the final hurdle he would need to clear before fighting for the belt.
5. Is Nate 'The Train' Landwehr just a TV fighter or the real deal?
Landwehr, the 34-year-old brash native of Tennessee, has never met a fight he couldn't turn into an exciting war. (He also hasn't met a post-fight interview he couldn't excitedly scream his way through.) But his recent three-fight win streak, which has included two submissions and three end-of-night bonuses, has some wondering whether he's fit for a ranking in the ultra competitive 145-pound division. No. 13-ranked Dan Ige represents the perfect challenge for Landwehr in terms of that exact pursuit and yet another dance partner he is likely to pair well with in terms of fireworks. But a victory over Ige would also be in contention for the best of Landwehr's career and would go a long way in furthering the evolution of his reputation from fan-friendly brawler to calculated threat who isn't afraid of taking risks in order to secure a victory thanks to his sneaky technical skill.
Who wins UFC 289: Nunes vs. Aldana, and how exactly does each fight end? Visit SportsLine now to get detailed picks on every fight at UFC 289, all from the incomparable expert who's up nearly $11,000 on MMA in the past three-plus years, and find out.