It isn’t the main event, but all eyes are on the lightweights at UFC 289.
Charles Oliveira returns to the cage in the 289 co-main, his first fight since dropping the lightweight title in unceremonious fashion to Islam Makhachev. Standing across from him will be Beneil Dariush, who is seeking to extend his winning streak to nine and finally earn himself a title shot.
The result should be an outstanding three rounds between two elite mixed martial artists. This is the final bout Dariush needs to win to secure a title shot, but Oliveira is a real threat. He is dangerous both on his feet and on the ground, and his size, versatility, and strength will all pose significant problems.
Despite impressive victories against the likes of Mateusz Gamrot and Drew Dober, this is a whole new caliber of opponent for Dariush at 289. Oliveira’s jiujitsu is a threat, but he can also strike—and his chin can absorb some ferocious shots. Dariush is working to reach that elite level—but Oliveira proved in victories against Justin Gaethje and Dustin Poirier that he is already there. Makhachev certainly got the better of Oliveira, but that should only add to his hunger against Dariush.
Regardless of the odds entering the bout, Oliveira should not be underestimated. A way puts him one step closer to the title. While Dariush has been promised a title shot if he wins, the same opportunity should be afforded to Oliveira.
Irene Aldana looking to knock off Amanda Nunes
The main event at UFC 289 could very well be Nunes’s last fight. If that is the case, it will mark the end to one of the most successful, dominant careers ever in the sport.
There is always the possibility Nunes returns if she loses to Aldana, or she could come back for a trilogy bout against Julianna Peña. But neither of those is likely: Nunes is a far more complete fighter than Aldana, and Peña lost her chance for this fight when she was injured during training camp.
Aldana is slightly older than Nunes. She has looked impressive in her last two bouts, and there is a path to victory that would lead her to the bantamweight title with her boxing.
“It is the classic Mexican boxing technique adapted to MMA,” says Aldana, who is looking for an upset victory. “My coach has me ready.
“I’m very motivated. I am inspired by the UFC champions from Mexico—Alexa [Grasso], Brandon [Moreno], and Yair [Rodriguez]—they all fought for the belt and won. It’s not just that they won, it’s the way they won. That has been motivation for me. I can’t wait to join them.”
Aldana will need to showcase more tools than just boxing. Nunes is dangerous in every area, and she can instantly change a fight by taking it wherever she wants. This is the toughest challenge of Aldana’s career, and it will forever be part of her highlight reel if she emerges victorious.
“I’m expecting the best version of Amanda,” says Aldana. “The waiting is almost done. Now it’s time to go in there and have some fun.”
The pick ‘em section:
UFC 289 women’s bantamweight title bout: Amanda Nunes (c) vs. Irene Aldana
Pick: Amanda Nunes
UFC 289 lightweight bout: Beneil Dariush vs. Charles Oliveira
Pick: Charles Oliveira
UFC 289 welterweight bout: Adam Fugitt vs. Mike Malott
Pick: Adam Fugitt
UFC 289 featherweight bout: Dan Ige vs. Nate Landwehr
Pick: Dan Ige
UFC 289 middleweight bout: Nassourdine Imavov vs. Chris Curtis
Pick: Nassourdine Imavov
Last week: 3-2
2023 record: 55-39