The greatest female fighter in MMA history returns to the Octagon on Saturday night when Amanda Nunes defends her bantamweight championship against Irene Aldana in the main event of UFC 289. The action goes down from Rogers Arena in Vancouver and airs live on pay-per-view.
Nunes is making the first defense of her title since regaining the championship from Julianna Pena. Pena upset Nunes in December 2021 but Nunes dominated their July 2022 rematch to once again become two-division champion, as she also hols the featherweight title.
Aldana is stepping in for Pena, who was forced out of a trilogy bout due to injury. She has won two fights, both by knockout, since dropping a decision to former champion Holly Holm.
"Honestly, I will stop her. No doubt in my mind," Nunes said at the UFC 289 pre-fight press conference on Thursday. "This belt is Brazilian. This belt is mine. I'm completely ready for this fight.
"She's a better fighter than Julianna, for sure. She's going to bring the challenge, and I'm ready for this battle. I'm more ready than ever. She's going to bring the challenge, and I'm going to be ready to answer it. You guys have a great main event."
UFC 289 is generally light on star power as it leans on a tremendous co-main event. Former UFC lightweight champion Charles Oliveira meets streaking contender Beneil Dariush in a fight expected to determine the next challenger for reigning lightweight champ Islam Makhachev. Oliveira's loss to Makhachev snapped a memorable 11-fight winning streak. Meanwhile, Dariush is in rare form with eight straight wins.
After a hot start to the year in our monthly Best Bets column, things have cooled off, with our record for the year now standing at 15-14. There are some tough calls on the UFC 289 card, but we have once again identified our choices for the best bet for each fight on the pay-per-view broadcast.
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Let's take a look at our picks for the best bets on the UFC 289 main card with odds from Caesars Sportsbook.
Marc-Andre Barriault vs. Eryk Anders
Fight to go the distance: No (+100)
Both Barriault and Anders have seen half of their fights end by stoppage. Both are also durable, which adds some risk to taking the fight not to go the distance, but both land often and get hit just about as often. The mix of finishing ability and style clash here works together to create a high probability for a stoppage. Picking either man here is a tough task, with Barriault a slight favorite and the odds being relatively unappealing considering the risk of either man getting the finish in a flash.
Dan Ige vs. Nate Landwehr
Dan Ige moneyline (-250)
I usually stay away from a line this big in these columns. But Ige is a bad style matchup for Landwehr, who tends to get hit with a lot of clean shots. Ige is just a bit more of a precision striker who can take advantage of Landwehr's wild, wide-open approach to fighting. Ige is hard to crack with strikes and is a competent enough grappler that Landwehr isn't going to have an easy time if he decides to try and wrestle his way to victory. It's also tricky to figure out if Ige will get a stoppage or if Landwehr will prove durable enough to make it to the scorecards. This all makes the Ige moneyline the best value available unless you want to risk a Landwehr upset bet.
Mike Malott vs. Adam Fugitt
Fight under 1.5 rounds (-115)
Malott has only had one career fight go past the first round. In those fights, he has four wins by knockout and five by submission, along with one knockout loss. All but two of Fugitt's fights have ended in finishes, including two stoppage losses. Fugitt looked outstanding in his most recent fight, beating Yusaku Kinoshita by first-round TKO. These are guys who simply don't see the judges' scorecards often. Sometimes these kind of fights play out in the opposite direction of what you expect, but Malott and Fugitt are likely simply going to bring the heat from the opening bell and find their way to a finish in the first half of the fight.
Charles Oliveira vs. Beneil Dariush
Fight over 1.5 rounds (-145)
It's tempting to see Oliveira as the underdog and throw money at him. After all, Oliveira has one of the best resumes in lightweight history and has faced -- and succeeded against -- higher-caliber opponents than Dariush. Still, Dariush is a handful and more than capable of pulling off a win here. Both Dariush and Oliveira are as capable of doing big damage as they are of getting hurt by incoming fire. This is such an important fight to both men that I don't expect either to come out guns blazing, instead taking a measured approach while looking for openings and avoiding the dangers the other presents. For those reasons, lean toward the fight going past the halfway point of Round 2.
Amanda Nunes vs. Irene Aldana
Fight over 3.5 rounds (+125)
With Julianna Pena upsetting Nunes and Alexa Grasso dominating Valentina Shevchenko, we have to be careful about considering previously dominant women's champions to be invincible. That said, it's hard to look at this fight and give Aldana that much of a shot. Throughout her career, Aldana has come up short when stepping up against top-level opposition, though occasionally as a result of questionable decisions. Nunes came back and righted the ship in the rematch with Pena, but the loss in the first fight is carrying a lot of weight in Nunes being only a -350 favorite. Without that loss to Pena, Nunes would likely be -550 or higher here.
The search here is for value. Nunes' moneyline isn't a great value unless added to a parlay. Aldana hasn't been finished since July 2015 and Nunes has only scored the finish in one of her five most recent fights. Getting plus-money on the fight to go over 3.5 rounds feels very good here.
Who wins UFC 289: Nunes vs. Aldana, and how exactly does each fight end? Visit SportsLine now to get detailed picks on every fight at UFC 289, all from the incomparable expert who's up nearly $11,000 on MMA in the past three-plus years, and find out.