UFC 289 is on the horizon and our MMA guru Chris Coates has put together his best bets for the card in his preview of the action…
The UFC returns to Canada for the first time since 2019 this Saturday as the Rogers Arena in Vancouver plays host to Amanda Nunes vs Irene Aldana for the Women’s Bantamweight Championship.
Originally the card was set to be headlined by the trilogy fight between Nunes and Julianna Peña, but broken ribs for the challenger saw fit to put that one on the back burner, for now.
Elsewhere in the co-main, Charles Oliveira looks to bounce back from defeat against Islam Makhachev last time out as he takes on no. 4 ranked lightweight contender Beneil Dariush.
Let’s get into our picks…
Amanda Nunes to win on points – 3/1
Despite the originally scheduled trilogy fight falling through, we’ve been handed an interesting contest in its place.
Aldana comes into this one off the back of four wins in five, her only loss since 2019 coming against former champion Holly Holm.
This fight becomes intriguing when we consider the potential advantages the Mexican has over the champion, such as her more diverse striking repertoire and longer reach.
Nunes of course has the power factor, with 13 of her 22 wins in MMA coming via KO (only Cris Cyborg has a better ratio).
But it’s because of Aldana’s skillset that we believe Nunes may attempt to drag her to the mat and utilise her BJJ black belt.
The biggest question mark for us here is the mindset of Nunes. The champion hasn’t fought for almost a year, and the first Peña fight showed she isn’t always a relentless monster and is capable of switching off.
With that said, if Nunes enters this one with her usual verve we can’t see anything other than a title defence here in a five-round war of attrition.
Beneil Dariush win – 4/6
The co-main on Saturday throws up a fight with huge implications for the lightweight division.
Charles ‘do Bronx’ Oliveira has quickly become a star of the sport and many fans would love nothing more than to see the Brazilian pull off another big win after defeat last time out to champion Islam Makhachev.
But in Beneil Dariush he faces a tough, powerful fighter with world-class wrestling skills that has some serious momentum.
The Iranian-born contender is on an eight-fight win streak, stretching all the way back until 2018 and should he get past Oliveira, some say he may just prove to be the man to take down Makhachev.
Oliveira is a very lively dog of course, and the fact he comes in as an underdog represents some serious value, with us thinking this one’s a straight up 50/50.
His best chance here may be to create absolute chaos from the opening bell by pushing the pace, seeking scrambles to create submission attempts and striking in close with Dariush. Essentially, make it a war.
If that happens, it’s entirely possible Oliveira cements himself back atop the lightweight division and sets up a rematch for the belt.
However, we’re going with the momentum of Dariush here.
Mike Malott to win by Submission – 5/2
There’ll be significant interest in the arena for our next bout as Canadian Mike Malott looks to get a win in front of his home crowd against Adam Fugitt.
Malott came through Dane White’s Contender Series before picking up wins against Micky Gall and Yohan Lainesse.
‘Proper’ has shown he’s a fast starter in the octagon, only going past round 1 on one occasion in his MMA career.
We’re backing him to start early again and overwhelm Fugitt to get an early submission victory.
Dan Ige to win on points – 2/1
There’s a lot on the line for Dan Ige in this one as a loss here to Nate Landwehr would make it four losses from his last five, meaning he could pretty much kiss any dreams of occupying the upper echelons of the featherweight division goodbye.
His losses recently have been to quality operators such as Calvin Kattar, Josh Emmett, Korean Zombie and Movsar Evloev, but were he to fall to defeat here, he perhaps won’t get the same leeway.
With all that said, we’re backing Ige to come through and get the decision victor.