UFC returns to Canada for the first time in four years with a championship headliner and a potential Fight of the Year contender on the UFC 289 marquee. Amanda Nunes defends her women's bantamweight championship against Irene Aldana while Charles Oliveira vs. Beneil Dariush should produce the next lightweight title challenger. It all goes down at Rogers Arena in Vancouver on Saturday.
Nunes was originally preparing for a third consecutive fight against rival Julianna Pena, but a broken rib forced Pena off the card. Enter Irene Aldana, the latest in a wave of Mexican fighters primed to take over the UFC. Aldana, flanked by newly crowned UFC women's flyweight champion Alexa Grasso, looks to dethrone an all-time great in Nunes much like Grasso did against Valentina Shevchenko.
"(This run) has given us a lot of strength, at least just speaking from my point of view, and I'm sure that's how it's been for the rest of them," Aldana said in an interview with MMAJunkie this week. "It's given us strength. This has motivated and inspired me a lot. I got a lot of strength from watching Brandon win and from there then watch Yair and Alexa."
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Saturday's co-main event is sure to produce fireworks. Oliveira and Dariush appear to be next in line for a lightweight title fight with Islam Makhachev. It's hard to imagine a fight between two submission savants with knockout power will go the full 15 minutes. Oliveira is determined to bounce back after losing a world title fight with Makhachev. Dariush is in rare form, boasting an eight-fight winning streak that stands as the best among all active contenders.
CBS Sports will also have live coverage of the fight with round-by-round scoring and blow-by-blow updates to keep you up to date throughout the night.
The rest of the undercard fills out with a welterweight showdown between rising prospects when Mike Malott takes on Adam Fugitt. Plus, veteran showmen Dan Ige and Nate Landwehr are set to scrap it out at featherweight. And another set of veterans open the PPV portion of the card when Marc-Andre Barriault takes on Eryk Anders at middleweight.
With so much happening on Saturday night, let's take a closer look at the full fight card with the latest odds from Caesars Sportsbook before we get to our staff predictions and picks for the PPV portion of the festivities.
UFC 289 fight card, odds
Odds via Caesars Sportsbook
- Amanda Nunes -320 vs. Irene Aldana +250, women's bantamweight championship
- Beneil Dariush -150 vs. Charles Oliveira +126, lightweights
- Mike Malott -220 vs. Adam Fugitt +180, welterweights
- Dan Ige -260 vs. Nate Landwehr +210, featherweights
- Marc-Andre Barriault -135 vs. Eryk Anders +115, middleweights
- Nassourdine Imavov -160 vs. Chris Curtis +135, middleweights
- Miranda Maverick -260 vs. Jasmine Jasudavicius +210, women's flyweights
- Aoriqileng -120 vs. Aiemann Zahabi +100, bantamweights
- Blake Bilder -260 vs. Kyle Nelson +210, featherweights
- David Dvorak vs. Steve Erceg, flyweights
- Diana Belbita -125 vs. Maria Oliveira +105, women's strawweights
With such a massive main event on tap, the crew at CBS Sports went ahead with predictions and picks for the main card. Here are your pick makers: Brent Brookhouse (Combat sports writer), Brian Campbell (Combat sports writer, co-host of "Morning Kombat"), Shakiel Mahjouri (writer), Michael Mormile (producer) and Brandon Wise (senior editor).
UFC 289 picks, predictions
|Nunes (c) vs. Aldana||Nunes||Nunes||Nunes||Nunes||Nunes|
|Oliveira vs. Dariush||Oliveira||Oliveira||Dariush||Dariush||Oliveira|
|Malott vs. Fugitt||Malott||Malott||Malott||Malott||Malott|
|Ige vs. Landwehr||Landwehr||Ige||Ige||Ige||Ige|
|Barriault vs Anders||Barriault||Barriault||Barriault||Barriault||Anders|
|Records to date (2023)||17-13||17-13||18-12||21-9||16-14|
Nunes vs. Aldana
Campbell: Fight fans received an upgrade when Julianna Pena's rib injury opened the door for Aldana to challenge for the title. With one-punch power, the native of Mexico is as tough of a challenge to Nunes' title as there is in the division. The question will be whether Aldana has sured up the holes in her ground game, which former champion Holly Holm exposed in a decision win three years ago. If Nunes' rematch against Pena last year was any indication when "The Lioness" regained her bantamweight title, her fire and focus are still there at 35. Her performance also went a long way in making Nunes' initial upset loss to Pena feel more like an injury-plagued fluke. Aldana, who is actually two months older than Nunes, will certainly have no shortage of motivation as she aims to become the fourth active Mexican-born UFC champion. But Nunes remains the more well-rounded fighter and dangerous finisher of the two.
Brookhouse: Aldana is a dangerous fighter, of that there is no doubt. She has the kind of power to finish any fight on the feet. However, Aldana also has issues with her grappling. Holly Holm was able to exploit that weakness in her dominant win over Aldana and it's hard to believe Nunes' team hasn't built a strategy around minimizing risk by putting Aldana on her back and going to work. Nunes also has plenty of her own power on the feet, making her the woman entering the bout with more options for how and where to attack. This should be an interesting fight but it's one Nunes should take over by the second round.
Oliveira vs. Dariush
Campbell: The often overlooked Dariush is hungry and riding an eight-fight win streak that should lead him directly to a title shot with a win against Oliveira. But for as much as this fight offers Dariush the chance to declare himself as a legitimate threat to the title, there's just as much motivation for Oliveira to remove the bad taste from his one-sided title loss to Makhachev. Oliveira believes the loss, which snapped an incredible 11-fight win streak, was simply "one bad night" at the office. And while he will need to be more thoughtful in his offensive attack against a stingy and durable opponent who possesses similar intangible qualities to Makhachev, Dariush isn't the same threat as the current and defending champion. If Oliveira can be more patient and make Dariush come to him, the openings for explosive counter attacks could be there. He can't wait too long, however, as this is just a three-round fight. But Oliveira, who holds UFC records for submission wins and total finishes, didn't come this far without being able to make adjustments, similar to how he used wrestling to wear down Dustin Poirier before finishing him in 2021. Oliveira has always excelled when creating chaos for his opponents and this will be no different. He will just need to be more selective and creative in getting Dariush to chase him.
Brookhouse: Oliveira's story is one of the absolute best in recent UFC history. Going from a longtime member of the mid-ranks at lightweight to one of the best 155-pound fighters of all time with incredible wins over top talent. In Dariush, he faces someone who is looking to make his own breakthrough to the elite. The pairing is fascinating on paper, with two durable fighters who have the ability to get rocked and come back to snatch the win. Dariush will have to remain supremely disciplined against Oliveira, who can flip a fight in an instant either with striking or his submission game. Oliveira is just a bit better at making adjustments in fight and figuring out a way to flip his opponent's strategy into his own path to success.
Mahjouri: Oliveira and Dariush are two world-renowned grapplers who have rounded out their games with dynamic striking. Their clash at UFC 289 is a Fight of the Year on paper. Dariush technically has the more impressive grappling accolades pre-UFC, but Oliveira is a record-setting submission threat inside the Octagon. Dariush's biggest leg up is his overall defensive soundness. Dariush dodges strikes and fends off takedowns with more success than Oliveira. Dariush even has a slight edge in strikes landed per minute. Most concerning perhaps is Oliveira's attitude coming off a loss to Makhachev. Oliveira told reporters at media day that he hasn't watched the Makhachev fight and didn't learn from it, labeling the Oliveira that fought Makhachev as someone else entirely. I'll give the edge to Dariush in both overall skills and mindset.
Ige vs. Landwehr
Campbell: Is Nate "The Train" simply a fun TV fighter who says wild things into a microphone or is he a future contender at 145 pounds? His fight against No. 13 Dan Ige should answer that question as Landwehr looks to extend his winning streak to four. While the action in this one is expected to be fast and furious, that's the way Landwehr likes it. An opportunistic grappler, he isn't afraid to take risks in key moments in order to get a finish. Landwehr is dangerous enough to begin with but he seems to be riding the type of momentum that can't be ignored. Ige's eagerness to fight and flaky takedown defense could be the perfect mix to produce the biggest victory of Landwehr's career.
Mahjouri: Ige hasn't been lighting the world on fire lately, but that is actually indicative of his talent. Ige is a very good fighter. As a consequence, he's been paired against some of the division's best: Calvin Kattar, Josh Emmett, Chan Sung Jung and Mosvar Evloev. Ige won't be a world champion without a major overhaul, but he's 31 years old and still very much a threat for most featherweights. Landwehr has that dog in him but anyone would be hard-pressed to beat Ige on sheer toughness. Landwehr wears down foes with ridiculous output, nearly doubling Ige, but he also absorbs significantly more blows. Ige's power is not to be trifled with and I expect he'll land a fight-ending bomb.
Who wins UFC 289: Nunes vs. Aldana, and which fighter is a must-back? Visit SportsLine now to get detailed picks on every fight at UFC 289, all from the MMA expert who profited more than $6,200 in 2022, and find out.