Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) women’s Bantamweight knockout artists Amanda Nunes and Irene Aldana will clash TONIGHT (Sat., June 10, 2023) at UFC 289 inside Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
In 2021, Nunes lost for the first time in seven years, getting club-and-subbed by Julianna Pena after a hot start (watch it). How did the double champion respond? She returned with great composure and confidence, pummeling Pena to the point that even the most dedicated hater could admit that her UFC 269 defeat was simply a bad night at the office (highlights here). Aldana, meanwhile, has been circling close to a title shot since she knocked out Ketlen Vieira in 2019 (watch highlights). A defeat to Holly Holm slowed her roll considerably, but it’s appropriate that she was able to fill in for the injured Julianna Pena tonight. She’s a genuine threat to Nunes, the best striker she’s faced since Germaine de Randamie.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each woman:
Key Wins: Cris Cyborg (UFC 232), Ronda Rousey (UFC 207), Holly Holm (UFC 239), Julianna Pena (UFC 277), Miesha Tate (UFC 200), Valentina Shevchenko (UFC 215, UFC 196), Germaine de Randamie (UFC 245), Sara McMann (UFC Fight Night 73), Raquel Pennington (UFC 224)
Key Losses: Julianna Pena (UFC 269), Cat Zingano (UFC 178), Sarah D’Alelio (Invicta FC 4), Alexis Davis (Strikeforce: Barnett vs Kharitonov)
Keys to Victory: Nunes is one of the most physically overwhelming fighters in MMA history. Her technical game has never been exceptionally complicated, but when her punches melt opponents, does it matter? Nunes is also pretty easily able to throw most foes to the canvas, at which point her jiu-jitsu black belt comes in handy.
The strategy here is clear, as Nunes’ advantage on the floor is massive. Could Nunes kick the calf, crack Aldana with her right hand, and win the stand up game? Maybe. She has the power to shock Aldana, certainly. It’s the much riskier play though, seeing as Nunes will dominate from top position if she chooses to go that route.
That’s what she did opposite de Randamie.
In this match up, Nunes should be looking to herd Aldana into the fence. Once the Mexican fighter’s back is to the cage, Nunes can show her right hand — Aldana has to respect the overhand or she goes to sleep — then duck into the double.
Once on top, it’s cruise control for the champion.
Key Wins: Ketlen Vieira (UFC 245), Macy Chiasson (UFC 279), Yana Kunitskaya (UFC 264), Bethe Correia (UFC 237), Lucie Pudilova (UFC 228)
Key Losses: Holly Holm (UFC Fight Island 4), Raquel Pennington (UFC on ESPN 4), Katlyn Chookagian (UFC 210), Leslie Smith (UFC on FOX 22)
Keys to Victory: Aldana has hands! She’s a boxer first and foremost, but Aldana has some nice low kicks too. In addition to the division’s best left hook, Aldana actually has a pretty aggressive jiu-jitsu game on the floor.
Aldana has to keep this fight standing. She’s better than expected from her back, but throwing up armbars isn’t likely to work when Nunes is standing over her and dropping bombs.
There are two main keys for Aldana to keep this fight upright. First and foremost, her foot work and cage control have to be perfect. If she’s backed into the cage, the takedown is as good as completed. She has to be eternally mindful of her position, avoiding that black line the traces the outer Octagon like it’s the plague.
Establishing the jab will really help her stand her ground without getting blasted. Aldana has a snappy jab that returns direct to her chin, but if she can feint it, double it up, and touch the body, then she can really make Nunes box with her. At that point, Aldana can start looking to line up that fight-ending left hook, which could prove the perfect answer to Nunes’ famous overhand.
This is really the last new challenger for Nunes.
Aside from Aldana, who else is left at 135- or 145-pounds for Amanda Nunes? Other than rematches, the best options are ... Yana Kunitskaya? Pannie Kianzad? The one Featherweight still on the roster whose name I can’t remember and won’t Google? “Lioness” has absolutely cleared out the division(s). If she wants to beat up Pennington or Pena again, why not, but her legacy will remain unchanged.
Aldana would serve as another quality feather in her cap.
Conversely, this is far and away the biggest opportunity of Aldana’s career. She could steal Nunes’ belt and potentially send her into retirement, standing out as the true successor to Nunes’ throne after Pena couldn’t stand the test of time. She surely noticed her team mate Alexa Grasso’s rise to legend after dethroning Valentina Shevchenko, and I can promise “Robles” wants a piece of that same status.
At UFC 289, Amanda Nunes and Irene Aldana will battle in the main event. Which woman leaves the cage strapped with gold?
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 289 fight card right here, starting with the early ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard on ESPN/ESPN+ at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+ PPV.
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