UFC 289 was not the most hyped pay-per-view (PPV) event of all time. It was ravaged by injuries and cancelations almost weekly leading up to the fight, resulting in a bandaged up card that was heavily anchored by Charles Oliveira vs. Beneil Dariush and a title fight that a lot of fans weren’t terribly interested in.
UFC pay-per-view (PPV) PPV buys rarely release nowadays, but I wouldn’t expect McGregor numbers.
Fortunately, a different narrative emerged and carried the night. UFC 289 was the promotion’s first return to “The Great White North” since the pandemic. That’s a nice fun fact, but in truth, Canadian MMA has slipped from the limelight in recent years. It’s been an awful long time since Georges St-Pierre was atop the mixed martial arts (MMA) world, and even Rory MacDonald hasn’t been at his best in many years.
That’s what made UFC 289 so special — all six Canadian fighters won!
Better yet, this wasn’t the simple outcome of favorably hometown booking. These were not squash matches. Three of the Canadian athletes were more than 2:1 underdogs, meaning if some loyal Canuck parlayed all six fighters on one ticket, they might be able to actually afford a month’s rent in Vancouver.
The crowd played their part in securing these victories. They were providing all the energy possible, backing their athletes to the max, and what happened? Great performances! The Canadian fighters lived up to the moment, and it really made an otherwise uninteresting night considerably more memorable.
Let’s briefly recap it, top-to-bottom. Ontario’s — by way of Romania — Diana Belbita entered her fight opposite Maria Oliveira with a 1-3 UFC record as a significant underdog, then beat her pillar-to-post for 15 full minutes. 32-year-old Kyle Nelson also made Ontario proud, handing Blake Bilder the first professional loss of his career.
Consider the circumstances of that one for a second: Nelson is a not-very-young Featherweight who entered the fight with a 1-4 record. He was not favored to win this at all, yet he ended up picking apart Bilder with heavy kicks and clearly proved himself the better man. He didn’t win via stoppage, but is there any doubt that this will standout as the greatest moment of his UFC career?
He was given an extra chance ... and he capitalized.
Tristar’s Aiemann Zahabi scored a stellar knockout in a near walk-off stoppage (watch it). He’s not known for doing that to people! Jasmine Jasudavicius of Niagara Top Team went after the well-regarded and ranked Miranda Maverick like a flood. She’s known as a wrestler, and sure, she did beat up Maverick from top position in the second.
It was really her overall aggression that won the fight, however. Spurred on by the moment, Jasudavicius chased Maverick around the cage and straight up kicked ass!
The French Canadians picked up a win as well. In a fun, competitive fight, Marc-Andre Barriault was simply a sharper striker than Eryk Anders. After an uninspired (0-3) start to his UFC career, “Power Bar” has really turned things around, now having won three of his last four bouts.
It all built up swimmingly to Mike Malott’s PPV debut. Riding a major win streak consistently of nothing but finishes, Malott burst onto the UFC scene last year, and he’s widely regarded as Canada’s best hope at an elite UFC fighter.
“Proper” Mike did not falter on this massive stage. He executed clinically, picking apart Adam Fugitt and generally taking the path of least resistance to yet another stoppage. The body kicks, takedowns, guillotine choke — it was all so smooth. Malott lived up to the hype, and he served as a cherry on top of the best day of Canadian MMA that I can remember.
For complete UFC 289: “Nunes vs. Aldana” results and play-by-play, click HERE.