Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) will stage its final pay-per-view (PPV) event of 2021 later tonight (Sat., Dec. 11) as UFC 269 goes down from inside T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. The event will be headlined by a Lightweight title fight between division champion Charles Oliveira and former interim titleholder, Dustin Poirier. In the co-main event, Amanda Nunes will defend her Bantamweight belt against Julianna Pena.
Often considered the odd man out in the 155-pound division because of big names such as Conor McGregor, Khabib Nurmagomedov, Michael Chandler and Tony Ferguson taking up most of the real estate, Charles Oliveira took his respect forcefully by knocking out the aforementioned Michael Chandler at UFC 262 to win the vacant strap. Prior to that, however, “Do Bronx” had won eight straight fights, but even then it seemed he wasn’t getting the respect he deserved. But, now that he is at the top of the 155-pound ladder, he is the hunted and is gearing up for his first-ever title defense versus a man who is battle-tested against the best fighters in the game.
Poirier passed up the chance to fight for the vacant belt at UFC 262 in favor of facing Conor McGregor once again. After all, a money fight against “Notorious” made a lot more financial sense. In the end, things worked out perfectly for “The Diamond” because not only did he secure the bag, he defeated McGregor a second straight time and earned another shot at the title. Now that he’s found his way back to the big dance again, Poirier is out to prove he’s the best in the world once and for all after failing to defeat Khabib back at UFC 242.
It’s a great stylistic match up. While Poirier has made his name in the stand up department, he’s not exactly a slouch on the ground, though his last submission win came against Anthony Pettis back in 2017. On the flip side, Oliveira has twisted more limbs and left countless people tapping and gasping for air thanks to his top-notch jiu-jitsu. However, as we saw in his title-winning performance at UFC 262 he can strike with the best of them, as well. Against Poirier that might not be the best strategy. “The Diamond” has stood toe-to-toe with the best strikers in the 155-pound division and proved superior. If Oliviera opts to play that game here, I don’t see it working out well for him. His best bet, obviously, is to take the fight to the ground and work his magic there. Getting in close enough to drag him down while avoiding big shots, of course, is a battle in and of itself.
Former Bantamweight champion, Dominick Cruz, will face Pedro Munhoz in an intriguing bout between two long-time veterans. Cruz snapped his two-fight win streak against Casey Kenny at UFC 259 earlier this year, while Munhoz is coming off a tough loss to Jose Aldo. While I dig this match up, it rubs me the wrong way that it’s on the “Prelims.” The fighters probably don’t care, but Cruz is a legend of the sport who should be getting a bit more respect.
But, it’s a sign of the times, a sort of “out with old, in with the new”-type deal because while the winningest 135-pound champion ever is on the undercard, the promotion is still riding the Sean O’Malley train on the main card, a man who has yet to pick up a win against a Top 15-ranked contender. He will be taking on Paiva, winner of three in a row. It’s understandable why the promotion is still high on “Suga” since he has a strong fan base and is a loud character, but he needs to up his level of competition should he get a win over Paiva to take it to the next level.
Original Card Vs. Actual Card:
A trilogy fight between Flyweight champion, Brandon Moreno, and Deiveson Figueiredo was set to go down at this event before it was pushed back one month to UFC 270 in Jan. 2022. Maycee Barber was forced out of her fight against Erin Blanchfield for undisclosed reasons and replaced by Miranda Maverick on the undercard. After the weigh-ins, Matt Schnell was deemed medically unfit to compete and his fight against Alex Perez was scratched.
The event was also set to feature the long-awaited bout between Jorge Masvidal and Leon Edwards. Unfortunately for rabid fight fans around the globe, “Gamebred” bowed out of the fight with an injury.
Also, Montana de la Rosa was forced out of her scheduled bout against Barber with an undisclosed injury. Dricus Du Plessis was also hit with the injury bug and forced out of his scheduled bout against Andre Muniz. Eryk Anders agreed to step in and fill the void in this Middleweight affair.
No newcomers at this event!
How The ‘Prelims’ Look:
After 18 months on the sidelines with an injury, Josh Emmett will make his return to face Dan Ige in a pivotal Featherweight bout. Prior to getting sent to the recovery room, Emmett had won three in a row, five of six overall. As for Ige, he is coming off a loss to Chan Sung Jung, his second defeat in his previous three fights.
In his two wins under the UFC banner, Jordan Wright has really made an impression, knocking out Ike Villanueva and Jamie Pickett in the first round, both under two minutes. He is in for a tough challenge against Bruno Silva, winner of six in a row, including going two for two inside the Octagon.
After having his eight-fight win streak snapped by Ilia Topuria, Ryan Hall will attempt to start another when he returns to face Darrick Minner in 145-pound action. Minner is coming off a technical knockout loss to Darren Elkins, so he is trying to avoid back-to-back losses for the first time in his career.
In the Bantamweight division, Randy Costa is hoping to bounce back against Tony Kelley. Costa was undefeated (2-0) inside the Octagon before running into Adrian Yanez, who proceeded to knock him out this past summer. Kelley is also coming off an extended hiatus after picking up his first win under the UFC umbrella against Ali AlQaisi 14 months ago.
After suffering three straight losses, including a violent one-sided beatdown at the hands of Valentina Shevchenko in her UFC debut, Priscilla Cachoeira has turned it around by winning her last two fights via technical knockout. While she is on a roll, her opponent Gillian Robertson is going the other way after losing her previous two fights. One more defeat could be the end of her UFC run.
Who Needs A Win Badly:
Starting off his UFC career with four straight wins, Augusto Sakai has now dropped two straight. The prospects of getting back in the win column don’t look too promising when he battles Tai Tuivasa, a man who has really turned it around as of late by winning three in a row. If Sakai drops his third in a row when they tango on the undercard, there is no telling if he will be competing inside the Octagon in 2022.
Interest Level: 8.5/10
The card took some big hits along the way, but it’s still a nice way to end the PPV slate for 2021. Aside from a banging headlining act, the co-main event is an intriguing one, to say the least. Every fighter who has faced Amanda Nunes is adamant that she has the recipe for success and Julianna Pena is no different.
Pena is 2-2 in her last two fights with her wins coming against Nicco Montano and Sara McMann, losing to Valentina Shevchenko and Germain de Randamie along the way. And if we are keeping it real, it’s not like Pena earned the shot due to her track record as of late. If anything it has more to do with the fact that Nunes is running out of fresh faces to fight. Still, Pena will look to make the most of her opportunity, but just don’t expect to be hearing “And New!” this time around. Nunes is simply a notch above every female fighter in MMA at the moment, with only the aforementioned Valentina Shevchenko keeping a close second. It won’t be a walk in the park, but “Lionness” will find her groove and put the finishing touches on her latest title defense after a couple of rounds.
Cody Garbrandt will make his Flyweight debut after what we can only imagine was a brutal weight cut down from Bantamweight. In his first fight in his new division, he will face off against Kai Kara France (preview here), who is coming off a blistering knockout win over Rogerio Bontorin. Garbrandt, on the other hand, is coming off a loss to Rob Font, which was his fourth defeat in the last five fights. If “No Love” can impress against France and rack up one or two more impressive wins after that, he could find a title shot waiting for him sooner, rather than later given his past track record at 135 pounds.
Despite getting arrested over the Thanksgiving holiday for DWI, Geoff Neal was allowed to compete in his Welterweight bout against Santiago Ponzinibbio because at the end of the day, “it’s not as serious as they make it out to be.” Neal needs a win pretty badly here after suffering two straight defeats at the hands of Stephen Thompson and Neil Magny. Ponzinibbio, meanwhile, got back in the win column by defeating Miguel Baeza in his last outing. “Gente Boa” was long considered a legit title contender after he racked up seven straight wins, but hit a speed bump in the form of Li Jingliang. He can remind everyone that he should still be in the mix with a big win over “Handz of Steel.”
Enjoy the fights!
UFC 269 PPV Main Event on ESPN+:
155 lbs.: UFC Lightweight Champion Charles Oliveira vs. Dustin Poirier
UFC 269 PPV Co-Main Event on ESPN+:
135 lbs.: UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion Amanda Nunes vs. Julianna Pena
UFC 269 PPV Main Card on ESPN+ (10 p.m. ET):
170 lbs.: Geoff Neal vs. Santiago Ponzinibbio
125 lbs.: Cody Garbrandt vs. Kai Kara-France
135 lbs.: Sean O’Malley vs. Raulian Paiva
UFC 269 ‘Prelims’ Card on ESPN2/ESPN+ (8 p.m. ET):
145 lbs.: Josh Emmett vs. Dan Ige
135 lbs.: Dominick Cruz vs. Pedro Munhoz
265 lbs.: Augusto Sakai vs. Tai Tuivasa
185 lbs.: Bruno Silva vs. Jordan Wright
UFC 269 ‘Prelims’ Card on UFC Fight Pass/ESPN+ (6 p.m. ET):
185 lbs.: Eryk Anders vs. Andre Muniz
125 lbs.: Erin Blanchfield vs. Miranda Maverick
125 lbs.: Alex Perez vs. Matt Schnell
145 lbs.: Ryan Hall vs. Darrick Minner
135 lbs.: Randy Costa vs. Tony Kelley
125 lbs.: Priscila Cachoeira vs. Gillian Robertson
*Fight card, bout order and number of fights remain subject to change due to COVID-19.*
MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 269 fight card RIGHT HERE, starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” matches at 6 p.m. ET, followed by the remaining undercard balance on ESPN2/ESPN+ at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+.