Last night (Sat., June 10, 2023), Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) traveled to Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada for UFC 289. Was it a better card than the average “Fight Night” affair? Certainly. Still, most fans felt a bit underwhelmed by last night’s card given the price tag. On the plus side, any fans that did fork over some cash were treated to a pretty entertaining night of action, as the athletes delivered per usual, and a title was put on the line.
Let’s take a look at UFC 289’s standout performances and techniques:
The Bantamweight Division Moves On
There was nothing left for Amanda Nunes to do. She pulverized everyone. Irene Aldana had attributes on paper that seemed to give her a chance at dethroning “The Lioness,” but once again, a taste of Nunes’ speed, power, and well-rounded offense resulted in a shell-shocked contender content to last until the final bell.
Credit to Aldana, she’s tough. Sadly, she displayed little else of her skill set.
What’s left to say about Nunes? She’s been dominating for so, so long, and this was a vintage performance! Her kickboxing was very sharp, as she established her fundamental weapons and then was able to freely play with combinations. She pulverized Aldana in every facet, retiring atop the mountain in a showcase as great as any other title win.
What’s next for the division? Raquel Pennington vs. Julianna Pena is a reasonable title fight, but I have to assume UFC wants Holly Holm to get one last shot at gold. Could that mean Pennington vs. Holm 3, the fight we’ve all been anxiously awaiting?
The mere thought of that booking makes me appreciate Nunes more for saving us for so long.
Do Bronx Delivers
Some of y’all must’ve forgot.
There was never any just reason for Charles Oliveira to be the underdog to Beneil Dariush. It’s a classic case of MMA’s constant “What have you done for me lately?” syndrome. Oliveira has knifed through all of his competition with the sole exception of Islam Makhachev, who is very clearly one of the very best fighters of all time. Frankly, it was also clear that Oliveira didn’t fight that well the night he faced Makhachev — not ideal against a pound-for-pound great.
Dariush has done great work. He entered the fight with momentum, having won eight straight. Can anyone on on his resume even remotely compare to the danger that “Do Bronx” brings into the cage? Of course not. Almost nobody on the roster can. He’s the best finisher of all time!
Oliveira was too dangerous on the feet for Dariush. They never exchanged for all that long, but each time they did, Oliveira was in his opponent’s face and hurting him. The right high kick worked a treat against the Southpaw, and it really got the ball rolling for Oliveira. Dariush did the right thing in finding top position and scoring some riding time; that was his path to victory.
From his back, Oliveira was offense and forced Dariush to keep working, then he kicked him off. As soon as the duo returned to their feet, Dariush wanted a moment to inhale. “Do Bronx” does not allow his opponents such a gift, and so he walked him down and beat him into unconsciousness with a savage quickness.
I don’t know that Oliveira will win the Makhachev rematch even if he performs at his best. I can say with confidence, however, that he has not shown his best against the Dagestani great, and that Oliveira is a genuine threat to any Lightweight that has ever competed.
A Proper PPV Debut
Mike Malott was given a chance to shine last night, and he did just that, improving to 3-0 with a second-round submission win over Adam Fugitt. It was the longest showing of his UFC career, and perhaps the most clinical as well.
From the first bell, Malott was hammering his opponent with kicks. Operating mostly from the Orthodox stance against his Southpaw foe, Malott’s right leg was firing on all cylinders. His round kick was hurting Fugitt every time, and he mixed it up with punishing snap kicks up the middle as well. Fugitt tried to kick back, but he simply couldn’t touch Malott.
The Canadian’s distance control allowed him to score a couple easy takedowns as well.
Early in the second, Malott built off the threat of those right kicks. Quickly shifting Southpaw, Malott fired a mean hook-cross from his new stance. The right glanced off the chin, but the left slammed into the mush of Fugitt’s face. Fugitt hit the floor, and Malott jumped on the neck, finishing the high-elbow guillotine with one hand.
Canada, you’ve got one!
Fights between unranked Middleweights aren’t known to be the best. There’s history here. For whatever reason, unranked Middleweight contests tend to be filled with fatigue and clinch work, a combination that can dull the senses of even the most committed fight fan.
Marc-Andre Barriault and Eryk Anders have both been apart of a snoozer or two in their time. They’ve also scored some tremendous knockouts and put on great scraps. Truly, it was a coin flip heading in whether or not this would be a whole lot of fun or the perfect time to grab a snack.
It turned out to be a delightful fight! Barriault dropped Anders right off the bat with a kick-punch combination, a strategy that would work wonders for him throughout the 15-minute contest. Anders worked back to his feet and wrestled — usually a bad sign for the entertainment of fight fans, as Anders has a habit of wrestling constantly without actually landing the shots.
“Ya Boi” didn’t do that, though. He wrestled into the clinch then started firing, landing heavy elbows and punishing knees. Barriault hung tough through some bad spots and fired right back, and the outcome was three full rounds of fun combat. Ultimately, Barriault’s sharper form and crisp jab was enough to keep him ahead of Anders, scoring another win for Canada.
- Aiemann Zahabi defeats Aori Qileng via first-round knockout: Zahabi is a nice technician, but he doesn’t have a reputation as the fastest or most powerful Bantamweight on the roster. Maybe it’s time for that to change? He scored his second knockout in three straight wins, stopping Qileng by executing his game plan perfectly. Clearly, the plan involved countering naked low kicks, as he burst forward in response to the right low kick twice and landed twice. The second combination saw him follow a right hand with a left hook that connected perfectly, sending his foe to the floor in a heap.
- Stephen Erceg defeats David Dvorak via unanimous decision: Erceg is the real deal. Debuting on short-notice against a well-established ranked Flyweight is not an easy task, but Erceg really shined! He showed off excellent and opportunistic grappling in their exchanges on the canvas, but it was Erceg’s kickboxing and cardio that won him the fight. Dvorak took the first round in a fun scrap, and he seemed to be close to taking the second too when an Erceg right hand took away his knees. A follow up high kick nearly secured the finish, but instead it locked down the round. The fight was up for grabs with five minutes remaining, but Erceg was able to outpace his opponent and score a successful debut.
For complete UFC 289: “Nunes vs. Aldana” results and play-by-play, click HERE!