clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

UFC 289 predictions, preview, and analysis

UFC 213 & TUF Finale Open Workouts Photo by Brandon Magnus/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is finally making its return to Canada with the UFC 289 pay-per-view (PPV) event this Sat. night (June 10, 2023) at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, though not everyone in the “The Big Smoke” is jumping for joy. That’s because UFC 289 will be headlined by the women’s bantamweight title fight between reigning champion Amanda Nunes and No. 5-ranked Irene Aldana — a late replacement for the injured Julianna Pena. Before that five-round showdown gets underway, former lightweight titleholder Charles Oliveira looks to blast his way back into the 155-pound title chase opposite No. 4-ranked Beneil Dariush. Adam Fugitt, Dan Ige, and Eryk Anders are also scheduled to compete.

LIVE! Watch UFC 293 PPV On ESPN+ Here!

MASSIVE MIDDLEWEIGHT MATCH! Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) makes its highly anticipated return to Sydney, Australia, for the first time in five years on Sat., Sept. 9, 2023, with a 185-pound world title fight inside Qudos Bank Arena. In the ESPN+-streamed pay-per-view (PPV) main event, Middleweight roost-ruler, Israel Adesanya, plans to silence No. 5-seeded contender, Sean Strickland. In UFC 293’s hard-hitting Heavyweight co-main event, No-6-ranked fan favorite, Tai Tuivasa, locks horns with towering Russian, Alexander Volkov (No. 8).

Don’t miss a single second of EPIC face-punching action!

Before we break down the five-fight PPV main card, be sure to take a closer look at our comprehensive preview and predictions for all the UFC 289 preliminary undercard action on ESPN and ESPN+ by clicking here and here. The latest UFC 289 odds and a complete betting guide for the entire “Nunes vs. Aldana” PPV event can be located here. Remember, you’ll need a subscription to ESPN+ to order this weekend’s fight card (get one here), but it comes with complete access to all the subsequent UFC “Fight Night” events in 2023 and beyond (or until you cancel your subscription).

Let’s get down to business.

135 lbs.: UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion Amanda “Lioness” Nunes (22-5) vs. Irena Aldana (14-6)

Amanda Nunes regained her bantamweight title by mauling Julianna Pena in the UFC 277 headliner last July, proving that a motivated, in-shape “Lioness” is still the most dangerous fighter in women’s MMA. That said, the Brazilian is now 35 and can’t be too far off from retirement, so we don’t know what level of motivation she’ll bring into this fight camp, regardless of the lesson she learned from “The Venezuelan Vixen” at UFC 269. In addition to the Pena misstep, bookies are still reeling from the fall of Valentina Shevchenko, which may explain why Irene Aldana is just a +250 underdog. I say “just” because the Mexican bruiser would have probably been double that number (or more) less than a year ago. Aldana is also 35 so they’re playing on an even field in that regard, but I cannot overstate the importance of the champion’s motivation, or lack thereof, because Aldana is hungry and ferocious to grab that title. Is Nunes as hungry and ferocious to keep it? If so, she wins this fight without breaking a sweat.

Aldana is competing for the bantamweight belt because Pena got injured and was forced to withdraw from the UFC 289 main event. Without that recent turn of events, would she have been able to score a crack at Nunes based primarily on her own merits? Perhaps. Aldana, currently ranked No. 5 at 135 pounds, holds decision losses to No. 2-ranked Raquel Pennington and No. 3-ranked Holly Holm, but scored a knockout win over No. 4-ranked Ketlen Vieira. Working in her favor is the fact that Pennington and Holm have already been smashed by Nunes in separate title fights, so outside of the Pena rubber match, it would be hard to sell fans on bantamweight reruns. I understand it’s hard to sell fans on anything related to women’s MMA, but that’s a different story for a different article.

Aldana has been competing under the UFC banner for nearly seven years and holds a 7-4 record inside the Octagon. Good, but not great. I also don’t know how excited I should be for back-to-back finishes over Yana Santos and Macy Chiasson. Remember, we’re trying to build a case for Aldana beating the greatest female fighter of all time, who has knocked out Cris Cyborg, Holly Holm, and Ronda Rousey, just to name a few. Perhaps if Aldana had stopped Holm and Pennington instead of losing to them I might have a more confident case for the upset. Based on what we’ve seen thus far, I don’t. All I have are concerns about the champion’s cardio. Not only can Nunes land the knockout punch, she can also wrestle and has sneaky submissions. I do believe Aldana is tough enough to hang around for the first couple of rounds, I just can’t make a case for her crossing the finish line when I’ve seen her get stopped by the likes of Tonya Evinger, who is nowhere near the level of Nunes — or any other Top 10 contender.

Prediction: Nunes def. Aldana by technical knockout

155 lbs.: Charles “Do Bronx” Oliveira (33-9) vs. Beneil Dariush (22-4-1)

Charles Oliveira will make his return after what has been an incredible run through the top of the lightweight ranks over the last five years. To put his accomplishments into perspective, UFC recently booked a fan-friendly PPV main event between Dustin Gaethje and Dustin Poirier — two of the baddest dudes at 155 pounds — for the coveted “BMF” belt. Oliveira finished them both by submission in separate UFC title fights. I don’t know what went wrong for “Do Bronx” in his lopsided loss to Islam Mkahachev at UFC 280 in Abu Dhabi and I’m not sure Oliveira does either. Yes, Makhachev is that good but I think we can all agree the Brazilian laid an egg on fight night, something he can’t afford to do against Dariush if he plans to stay in the lightweight title hunt. Oliveira has 33 wins in his MMA career with 30 finishes, nine via knockout and 21 by way of submission. Like most guys with a high finishing rate, he’s also been stopped in eight of nine losses, split evenly between knockouts and submissions. It’s no wonder this guy has a staggering 18 post-fight performance bonuses worth an extra $900,000 in his pocket.

Dariush has been the Leon Edwards of the lightweight division and continues to get passed over for the big spot because he has the charm and personality of a robocall, which may explain why I spend most of his fights worrying about my car’s extended warranty. Like “Rocky” before him, Dariush can secure the next crack at the division crown by effectively leaving matchmakers with no other choice. Heading into the UFC 289 co-main event, Dariush has secured eight straight wins, half of which have ended by way of knockout or submission. Oliveira has better offensive numbers across the board, but Dariush is much tighter on defensive stats, primarily because he’s far less reckless in his attacks. The winner of this fight is the combatant who controls the wrestling. I would imagine Dariush is more comfortable on the ground than he is on the feet whereas Oliveira is comfortable everywhere — right up until he’s not. The mental game for “Do Bronx” has always been an unreliable variable in big fights, including this one, but part of me thinks Oliveira — relieved of the championship pressure — will return to form at UFC 289. Don’t be surprised to see Dariush rocked during a scramble and wind up eating canvas.

Prediction: Oliveira def. Dariush by knockout

170 lbs.: Adam Fugitt (9-3) vs. “Proper” Mike Malott (9-1-1)

Adam Fugitt joined UFC for the “Pena vs. Nunes 2” card last July, stepping up on short notice to battle Michael Morales after Ramiz Brahimaj withdrew due to injury. Fugitt was stopped in the third round of his “Prelims” affair but got called back and afforded the luxury of a full camp for his second go-round. The result was a technical knockout victory over Yusaku Kinoshita at UFC Vegas 68 and a demonstration of what he’s capable of in the crowded 170-pound division. I don’t want to get too worked up over his destruction of Kinoshita, who is just 22 years old and one fight into his UFC career, but we got to see some of the skills that made Fugitt such a force to be reckoned with on the Pacific Northwest circuit. Now he’ll get a chance to prove himself on the biggest stage of all, thanks to a recent lineup change, moving from the UFC 289 “Prelims” to the PPV portion of Saturday night’s fight card.

Mike Malott got the chance to strut his stuff on Dana White’s “Contender Series” back in late 2021, submitting Shimon Smotritsky in less than a minute. Matchmakers wasted little time in getting him a “Proper” return and Malott made the most of it, knocking out Mickey Gall at UFC 273 before submitting Yohan Lainesse at UFC Vegas 70 — both in the first round. Despite his move to California in recent years Malott — originally from Ontario — should be considered the hometown favorite, at least among the local fans. He’ll have to be careful about the takedowns from Fugitt, who scored four in his most recent performance. Malott will also have to compensate for a drastic disadvantage in reach against an opponent fighting from the southpaw stance. I’m still picking him because “Proper” comes from a great camp at Team Alpha Male and has performed better — over better competition — when compared to the recent run from Fugitt,

Prediction: Malott def Fugitt by unanimous decision

145 lbs.: Dan “50k” Ige (16-6) vs. Nate “The Train” Landwehr (17-4)

It was roughly two years ago when Dan Ige was ranked in the featherweight Top 10, clocking in at No. 8 after putting together a torrid 7-1 win streak with three stoppages, including a lights-out finish over Gavin Tucker at UFC Vegas 21. Then it all fell apart and “50k” dropped three straight to some of the top names in the division, including Josh Emmett and “The Korean Zombie.” Ige was able to rebound with a second-round knockout over Damon Jackson at UFC Vegas 67, which kept the Hawaiian featherweight in the Top 15 at No. 13. Hard to believe it’s been nearly six years since his breakout performance on Dana White’s “Contender Series” back in summer 2017 and still just 31, Ige has an opportunity to build on his recent win and get something going in the wide-open 145-pound division.

Don’t expect Nate Landwehr to make it easy for him. The 35 year-old “Train” has been red-hot over the past 18 months, racking up three straight wins with two nasty submission finishes. His recent streak — which also netted three post-fight performance bonuses and an extra $150,000 in cash — went a long way in erasing memories of his shaky UFC start, where the former M-1 Global Featherweight Champion dropped two of his first three, with both losses coming by way of knockout. This bout would have been my pick to open the UFC 289 PPV main card because it’s probably going to be fireworks from bell-to-bell, or until somebody goes nighty-night. Landwehr is a ferocious featherweight with a punishing pace, I just can’t pick him to win because Ige is a little more polished. More importantly, Ige has fought (and beaten) far better competition over the course of his UFC career. If this fight lasts all three rounds it’s likely to win “Fight of the Night.” If not, Ige will remind everyone why his nickname is “50k” with another highlight-reel finish.

Prediction: Ige def. Landwehr by knockout

185 lbs.: Eryk “Ya Boi” Anders (15-7, 1 NC) vs. Marc-Andre “Power Bar” Barriault (15-6, 1 NC)

Eryk Anders has been competing for UFC for over six years and in 15 trips to the Octagon, has compiled a 7-7 record with one No Contest. “Ya Boi” — which is one of the worst nicknames in UFC — is currently unranked at 185 pounds, largely because of his inconsistency. That said, he’s coming off an impressive win over Kyle Daukaus at UFC Orlando late last year, though I’m not sure a victory over “The D’Arce Knight” (another goofy nickname) is enough to have anyone in the Top 15 worried, There’s not a lot to say about Anders when it comes to his MMA skills. Like Dominick Reyes, Anders was a standout collegiate football player who used his athleticism to run over a bunch of scrubs on the regional scene before getting called up to the big show. Since then, he’s done enough to stay employed — even headlining a card opposite Lyoto Machida — but never really evolved into a legitimate threat in any particular area. On the plus side, he’s got quick hands and remains extremely durable and will prove to be a tough out for anyone in the division.

Marc-Andre Barriault has experienced a similar trajectory in his UFC career. After a rough start back in 2019, which led to three straight losses, “Power Bar” (ugh) was able to right the ship and win four of his next six, with a No Contest sandwiched somewhere in the middle. His last trip to the cage resulted in a second-round technical knockout victory over the rough-and-tumble Julian Marquez, which proved the 33 year-old Canadian is not out of the conversation just yet. My concern for this fight is the fact that “Power Bar” has been taken down 20 times in his UFC career and Anders is a competent wrestler, scoring 16 takedowns of his own. Takedowns are an easy way to score points and quickly steal rounds in a three-round fight, but the more likely scenario is this contest will play out on the feet where both combatants appear to be more comfortable. If that’s the case, it’s hard to pick against Anders. He’s got the faster hands, a longer reach, and is fighting from the southpaw stance. A first-round finish would not surprise me.

Prediction: Anders def. Barriault by knockout will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 289 fight card RIGHT HERE, starting with the early “Prelims” matches at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN/ESPN+, followed by the remaining “Prelims” undercard balance at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN/ESPN+, before the final PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+ PPV.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC 289: “Nunes vs. Aldana” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here. For the updated and finalized UFC 289 fight card and PPV lineup click here.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the MMA Mania Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of all your fighting news from MMA Mania