UFC 289 Report: Amanda Nunes defends title, retires from MMA
On Saturday night, UFC 288 took place from the Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Originally, the card was set to be headlined by UFC Featherweight and Bantamweight Champion, Amanda Nunes, defending her bantamweight championship against Julianna Peña, but a rib injury forced Peña to withdraw from the fight. As a result, Irene Aldana was removed from her scheduled fight with Raquel Pennington to face Nunes here, in what would mark Aldana’s greatest test to date. Aldana has won three of her last four fights by knockout, so she certainly possesses legitimate power, but Amanda Nunes is a heavy hitter herself, and the most decorated fighter in the history of women’s mixed martial arts was naturally a sizeable favorite going into this fight. This card also featured a notable bout in the lightweight division, as the division’s former champion, Charles Oliveira, looked to rebound from his loss to Islam Makhachev against Beneil Dariush, who had won eight consecutive fights going into this one.
The commentary team for this card consisted of Jon Anik, Paul Felder, and Daniel Cormier. Performance of the Night bonuses were awarded to Charles Oliveira, Mike Malott, and Steve Erceg. Fight of the Night bonuses went out to Eryk Anders and Mac-Andre Barriault. The announced attendance for this event was 17,628, with a gate of $ $5,140.482.16 (CAD).
- Diana Belbita def. Maria Oliveira by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
- Steve Erceg def. David Dvorak by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)
- Kyle Nelson def. Blake Bilder by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
- Aiemann Zahabi def. Aoriqileng by KO a 1:04 of Round 1
- Jasmine Jasudavicius def. Miranda Maverick by unanimous decision (29-28 all)
- Nassourdine Imavov vs. Chris Curtis resulted in a No Contest at 3:04 of Round 2
- Marc-Andre Barriault def. Eryk Anders by unanimous decision (30-27 all)
- Dan Ige def. Nate Landwehr by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)
- Mike Malott def. Adam Fugitt by guillotine choke at 1:06 of Round 2
- Charles Oliveira def. Beneil Dariush by TKO at 4:10 of Round 1
- Amanda Nunes def. Irene Aldana by unanimous decision (50-44, 50-44, 50-43) to retain the UFC Bantamweight Championship
DIANA BELBITA (14-7, 114.5) VS MARIA OLIVEIRA (13-6, 115.5) – STRAWWEIGHT
Belbita and Oliveira exchanged strikes throughout the first minute of the fight, standing right in front of each other as they both attempted to land their shots. Oliveira was attempting to dodge the majority of Belbita’s strikes as opposed to blocking them, and she was looking for knees up the middle whenever Belbita ducked her head. Roughly halfway through the round, Oliveira opted to take Belbita to the ground, where she began to work from the guard of Belbita. Oliveira decided to drop down for a heel hook attempt, but she was unsuccessful, and Belbita was able to return to her feet as a result. Belbita connected with a heavy left hook before time expired in the round. 10-9 Belbita.
Oliveira quickly took Belbita back to the ground at the start of the second round. Belbita was active off of her back, and she did a good job defensively to keep Oliveira advancing her position. Eventually, Belbita was able to escape to her feet, and she landed several knees to the body in the clinch, before the fighters were separated. Belbita was able to secure a takedown of her own late in the round, and she ended the round in top position, throwing down sharp elbows. 20-18 Belbita.
Belbita began the third round with another heavy left hook. While Oliveira was still hunting for takedowns, she no longer had the energy to complete them effectively, and Belbita was able to defend her attempts throughout the round. Belbita appeared to be packing a bit more power behind her punches, and while the strike count was fairly similar between the two fighters, I thought that perceived edge in power for Belbita was the difference maker in what was otherwise a competitive round. 30-27 Belbita.
WINNER: Diana Belbita by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
Oliveira seemed content to stand and trade with Belbita early in the fight, but it quickly became apparent that Belbita was the heavier hitter, and Oliveira opted to take the fight to the ground instead. I did not think Oliveira was quite active enough offensively on the ground, and as a result, what Belbita accomplished on the feet outweighed what Oliveira did on the ground throughout the first two rounds, putting her up on the scorecards going into round three, which played out entirely on the feet. I thought that this was Belbita’s best performance in the UFC to date, and her promotional record improved to 2-3 as a result of this win.
DAVID DVORAK (20-5, 125.5) VS STEVE ERCEG (9-1, 125.5) – FLYWEIGHT
Erceg applied forward pressure as Dvorak circled away from Erceg’s right hand, throwing the occasional heavy leg kick. A heavy hook from Erceg found its target, and Dvorak responded with a solid right hand. The fighters traded leg kicks throughout the round, and they were quickly beginning to add up for both fighters, with visible redness showing on the lead leg of both men. In the round’s final minute, Erceg stepped in aggressively but ate a hard hook in response. 10-9 Dvorak.
Dvorak continued to do a good job of countering Erceg on his way in throughout the second round. Erceg was having a lot of trouble finding his target and was starting to fall behind in this fight as a result, as Dvorak slowly picked him apart. Just as the pace of the fight was really starting to slow, a big right hand from Erceg rocked Dvorak, and Erceg sent him to the ground with a head kick just moments later, where he attempted to finish the fight with a guillotine choke. Dvorak escaped the submission, returned to his feet, and traded strikes with Erceg to end the round. 19-19.
Dvorak attempted to change levels on Erceg early in the final round but opted to return to his feet after Erceg threatened to scramble to Dvorak’s back. The action was playing out fairly evenly on the feet, but Dvorak was clearly starting to tire and was looking to bring the fight to the ground as a result. He repeatedly attempted to take Erceg down, and while he was successful on occasion, Dvorak was unable to establish top position for any meaningful period of time, and instead, it was Erceg who had the slight edge in terms of control time, ending the fight in dominant position, throwing knees Dvorak’s way. 29-28 Erceg.
WINNER: Steve Erceg by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)
Originally, Dvorak was scheduled to face Matt Schnell on this card, but Schnell was forced to withdraw from the fight due to injury on fight week, resulting in promotional newcomer, Steve Erceg, taking this fight on just a few day’s notice. Despite the circumstances, Erceg was clearly in fight shape here, and he even seemed to have the advantage in cardio over Dvorak, who seemed tired by the fight’s final round. It was a very strong performance from Erceg against a top-ten ranked opponent, and despite this being just his first fight in the UFC, he will likely be moved into a top-ten position in the UFC Flyweight rankings after they are next updated, ensuring that his next fight will be against strong competition as well.
KYLE NELSON (13-5-1, 145) VS BLAKE BILDER (8-0-1, 145.5) – FEATHERWEIGHT
Nelson defended Bilder’s first takedown attempt of the fight, which resulted in a lengthy period of inactivity against the cage. With two minutes remaining in the opening round, the fighters finally separated, and Bilder went on the attack, looking to make up for the time wasted against the cage. Bilder’s speed and activity seemed to be overwhelming Nelson, but Nelson weathered the storm, and he slowed Bilder down with his jab, as well as the occasional heavy leg kick. Nelson appeared to hurt Bilder with a heavy right hand towards the end of the round, but he could not capitalize on the moment before time expired in the round. 10-9 Nelson.
An accidental low blow from Nelson went uncalled, and he flurried forward as Bilder registered the damage. To Bilder’s credit, he was able to fight through the pain and wrap Nelson up against the cage, giving himself some time to recover. The fighters eventually separated, and Nelson found a home for a skillful head kick, catching Bilder as he circled left. As the round progressed, Bilder began to turn up the pressure, just as he did in the previous round, but once again, Nelson weathered the storm before responding with powerful shots, arguably securing the round with the damage dealt from his leg kicks in the second round’s final minute. 20-18 Nelson.
Bilder shot for a takedown at the start of the final round, but Nelson was able to defend the attempt. Much like the first round, a considerable portion of this fight was spent wrestling against the cage, and when the fighters eventually broke apart after a lengthy period of inactivity, both men were in need of something big to secure this final round. Bilder pressured forward in an attempt to make that moment happen, and while he certainly gave it his all, he was unable to overwhelm Nelson, who fired back with power to end the fight. 29-28 Nelson.
WINNER: Kyle Nelson by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
Bilder was the quicker fighter, and while his speed and output gave Nelson problems, Nelson’s power was the difference maker, getting big reactions out of Bilder whenever he landed. While a considerable portion of this fight was spent wrestling against the cage, the striking exchanges between the two fighters were quite fun to observe, and the crowd was definitely behind Nelson, who came on strong at the end of each round to secure the fight on the scorecards. Nelson held a UFC record of 1-4-1 going into this fight, so this was an extremely important win for Nelson, likely securing himself another fight in the promotion as a result of this win.
AIEMANN ZAHABI (9-2, 135.75) VS AORIQILENG (24-9, 135) – BANTAMWEIGHT
Just over a minute into the fight, Zahabi caught Aoriqileng with a heavy right hand as Aoriqileng went for a leg kick, dropping Aoriqileng hard. Zahabi was ready to walk off, but the referee did not stop the fight, and Aoriqileng began to pick himself up, forcing Zahabi to follow him to the ground, ending the fight with ground-and-pound strikes.
WINNER: Aiemann Zahabi by KO a 1:04 of Round 1
Aoriqileng had never been knocked out across his thirty-three professional fights, but that streak came to an end in brutal fashion here against Aiemann Zahabi. Aoriqileng was actively attacking the lead leg of Zahabi throughout the opening minute, and while he was able to avoid Zahabi’s initial counterattack, Zahabi intelligently opted to strike in combination, catching Aoriqileng off guard with the follow-up right hand. It was an excellent finish for Zahabi, who has now won three consecutive fights, finishing two of those opponents in the first round.
MIRANDA MAVERICK (11-4, 125.5) VS JASMINE JASUDAVICIUS (8-2, 125.25) – FLYWEIGHT
Jasudavicius took Maverick down roughly two minutes into the fight, after defending a takedown attempt from Maverick. Maverick was looking for an armbar off of his back, which kept Jasudavicius from capitalizing on her top positioning, resulting in a lengthy stalemate near the cage. This was an incredibly close round, where neither fighter did much to separate themselves from their opponent, and thus, Jasudavicius’s one successful takedown may have very well been the difference maker. With that being said, I thought that Maverick did slightly better work, simply by attempting to go for the submission off of her back, and I gave her the slightest of edges in the round as a result. 10-9 Maverick.
A strong combination of strikes from Jasudavicius landed with power towards the start of the second round, before she successfully defended a takedown from Maverick, taking top position on the ground. Jasudavicius took the back of Maverick with a minute remaining in the round, and she began to look for a rear naked choke, but Maverick was able to defend Jasudavicius’s submission attempts until time expired in the round. 19-19.
Maverick was looking for spinning attacks early in the third but was getting countered by Jasudavicius more often than not. A lengthy combination of strikes from Jasudavicius seemed to stun Maverick, but she weathered the storm, remaining on her feet despite Jasudavicius’s onslaught. Maverick’s strikes did not appear to be doing the same level of damage as the shots from Jasudavicius, and eventually, she decided to take the fight to the ground. Once again, Jasudavicius was able to defend the attempt and take top position on the ground, a position that she was able to maintain until time expired. 29-28 Jasudavicius.
WINNER: Jasmine Jasudavicius by unanimous decision (29-28 all)
The first round of this fight was very close, but as the bout progressed, Jasudavicius realized that she possessed a considerable edge in power on the feet. From this point onwards, Jasudavicius flurried forward recklessly, overwhelming Maverick with lengthy combinations of strikes on the feet, stunning her repeatedly. Maverick shot for takedowns in response, but Jasudavicius was able to defend the attempts and take top position every time, dominating the fight on the ground as well. It was a great performance from Jasudavicius, who was the underdog going into this fight, and she will likely take Maverick’s fifteenth ranked spot in the flyweight rankings when they are next updated.
NASSOURDINE IMAVOV (12-4, 185.5) VS CHRIS CURTIS (30-10, 185.25) – MIDDLEWEIGHT
Curtis attacked the body and lead leg of Imavov throughout the opening minutes of the fight, as Imavov used his height advantage to headhunt. Roughly halfway through the round, Imavov opted to take the fight to the ground, dragging Curtis down repeatedly, but he was unable to keep Curtis down for any lengthy period of time. Imavov connected with a right hand as well as a short elbow after returning to his feet, before taking Curtis down once again, this time taking the back of his opponent. Imavov hunted for a rear naked choke, but Curtis was able to escape to his feet before time expired in the round.
Imavov continued to do a good job of controlling the range in the second round, landing numerous right hands, while keeping himself out of Curtis’s range whenever Curtis attempted to mount his own offense. As the round progressed, Curtis really started focussing his attack in on the body of Imavov, which proved effective. Eventually, the fighters stepped in at the same moment, and the fighters clashed heads, resulting in a severe cut near the right eye of Curtis. The doctor was brought into the cage to check on Curtis, and as Curtis was unable to see out of his right eye, the fight was stopped.
RESULT: No Contest due to an unintentional clash of heads at 3:04 of Round 2
After an inadvertent headbutt arguably cost Chris Curtis his last fight against Kelvin Gastelum, this was an especially tough result for Curtis, who desperately tried to convince referee Jason Herzog to continue the fight despite his impaired vision. I thought that Imavov was winning the fight prior to the clash of heads, and was largely impressed with his performance throughout the bout, so this was certainly not the desired result for Imavov either, who was in need of a bounce-back win after losing his last fight to Sean Strickland. It would not shock me if the UFC decides to run this fight back, but if Curtis is sidelined for a considerable period of time due to his injury, I would not mind seeing Imavov get another shot at a top-ten-ranked opponent after seeing how sharp he looked here.
MARC-ANDRE BARRIAULT (15-6, 1 NC, 185) VS ERYK ANDERS (15-7, 1 NC, 184.75) – MIDDLEWEIGHT
Barriault dropped Anders with a right hand in the first exchange of the fight, and he followed Anders to the ground as he attempted to finish the fight. Anders picked himself up against the cage, but he was eating huge shots repeatedly, testing his chin early. Anders managed to weather the storm, and he started firing back as the fighters exchanged heavy shots against the cage. Barriault appeared to be landing the heavier strikes, but Anders was finding success as well whenever he pressured forward, landing big knees up the middle. Anders attempted to take Barriault down, but Barriault shrugged him off, ending the round on his feet. 10-9 Barriault.
Barriault caught Anders with a kick that landed low at the start of round two, and Anders was given time to recover as a result. Anders connected with a straight left hand as the action resumed before he took Barriault down with a single leg. Barriault made it back to his feet and landed a strong kick to the body. Another kick from Barriault caught Anders low, resulting in yet another pause in the action, with Barriault being issued a hard warning this time. I thought Anders did better work throughout the round, landing with more power, and I scored this round in his favor. 19-19.
Barriault cracked Anders with a combination of hooks as Anders worked his way inside, which led to Anders wrapping him up in search of a takedown. While Anders was unable to take Barriault down, he did land a number of solid knees to the body before letting go, as the fighters reset in the center of the cage. A number of kicks from Barriault caught Anders in the midsection, and he landed a number of right hands as Anders stepped in moments later. With a minute remaining in the fight, momentum seemed to be on Barriault’s side, and his jab went to work for the remainder of the round, winning him this fight. 29-28 Barriault.
WINNER: Marc-Andre Barriault by unanimous decision (30-27 all)
Anders was in trouble early, and it looked as though Barriault was on his way to a quick victory, but Anders showcased some impressive resilience to bring himself back into this fight. Barriault was largely getting the better of Anders with his straight shots and bodywork, but Anders did a good job of attacking the body himself, occasionally flustering Barriault when he pressured forward with combinations. It was a fun fight to start the main card, and in the end, Barriault had his arm raised in front of the Canadian crowd, finally getting that big UFC win in front of his countrymen. Barriault now holds an overall record of 5-5 (1 NC) in the UFC, with three wins throughout his last four fights.
DAN IGE (16-6, 145.5) VS NATE LANDWEHR (17-4, 144.25) – FEATHERWEIGHT
Both fighters were somewhat hesitant to engage throughout the first round. Ige had the slight edge in activity, attacking the body and lead leg of Landwehr whenever the opportunities presented themselves, but was not really throwing in combination. While neither fighter was particularly busy throughout the round, Ige was just a bit busier, and in the final seconds of the round, Ige cracked Landwehr with a strong left hand that likely secured the round for him on the judge’s scorecards. 10-9 Ige.
Landwehr was fighting with more aggression in the second round, which was leading to more success offensively. Ige worked his jab throughout the round, leading to consistent success, especially whenever he would switch things up with combinations of powerful hooks. As the round wore on, I thought it was Dan Ige who was landing the more impactful shots, and in terms of offensive activity, Ige was really pulling ahead in the fight. Much like the first round, Ige landed his best shot at the end of the round, dropping Landwehr hard with a left hook just before time expired. 20-18 Ige.
A left hand from Ige seemed to stun Landwehr near the start of the final round. If Landwehr was hurt, he recovered quickly and began marching forward in pursuit of a much-needed finish. Landwehr connected with some solid elbows in the clinch, before a left hand from Ige put him on the retreat momentarily. Ige was packing more power behind his punches, and while Landwehr was remarkably resilient, there was no question as to which fighter was doing more damage with their strikes, and I scored this round for Dan Ige as well. 30-27 Ige.
WINNER: Dan Ige by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)
Ige fought intelligently, out-landing Landwehr throughout the fight without getting reckless, landing big when he needed to in order to secure the early rounds. Landwehr seemed somewhat hesitant to engage Ige early, but he picked it up after getting hurt, and while he did not ultimately win the fight, it was impressive that he managed to win the third round on two of the three judges’ scorecards after sustaining so much damage at the end of round two. It was not long ago that Ige was on a three-fight streak of losses, but this now marks his second consecutive win, and Ige has positioned himself to ascend the featherweight rankings once again.
MIKE MALOTT (9-1-1, 169.5) VS ADAM FUGITT (9-3, 170.75) – WELTERWEIGHT
A kick to the body of Fugitt seemed to hurt him in the fights opening minute, and Malott continued to throw kicks to the body throughout the remainder of the round, generating big reactions from Fugitt each time. One powerful kick from Malott landed low, but Fugitt waived off the referee and the action continued. Fugitt wrapped Malott up against the cage but was instantly taken down, where Malott began to work from half guard. Fugitt scrambled to his feet with a minute remaining in the round, but Malott took him right back down to end the round.
Malott dropped Fugitt in the opening seconds of round two with a left hand, and Malott immediately jumped on the guillotine. The choke was locked in tight, and Fugitt was quickly forced to submit.
WINNER: Mike Malott by guillotine choke at 1:06 of Round 2
When Malott was walking to the octagon, the barricade between the fans and the walkway actually collapsed, resulting in numerous fans falling down to the floor. Thankfully, all involved were fine, but it was quite the sight that really illustrated how popular Mike Malott was to this Canadian crowd, who were overjoyed to see him pick up the second-round stoppage here. Malott was firmly in control throughout the entirety of the bout, and this actually marked the first professional fight Malott has won that has gone past the first round. It was a solid performance, and his UFC record now stands at 3-0, with three finishes.
CHARLES OLIVEIRA (33-9, 154) VS BENEIL DARIUSH (22-4-1, 156) – LIGHTWEIGHT
Oliveira cracked Dariush with a head kick to start the fight. Dariush wrapped Oliveira up in the clinch, where Oliveira attempted to trip him to the ground, resulting in Dariush taking top position. Oliveira rolled for a heel hook, but Dariush was wise to it, moving back into Oliveira’s guard. Oliveira returned to his feet with ninety seconds remaining in the round, where he landed another head kick before sitting Dariush down with a right hand. Oliveira followed Dariush to the ground and he started throwing down ground and pound shots until the fight was stopped.
WINNER: Charles Oliveira by TKO at 4:10 of Round 1
While both of these fighters are talented grapplers and heavy hitters, Oliveira had a considerable advantage in terms of speed, and his offensive flurries were too much for Dariush to handle. After a tough loss to Islam Makhachev in his last bout, Oliveira certainly seemed to have his doubters as he closed as the betting underdog against Dariush, but he answered all questions with his performance here, putting an end to Beneil Dariush’s title hopes in devastating fashion. Oliveira was the most popular fighter on the card to this Vancouver crowd, and after the fight, he spoke to the crowd in English, asking them who the real champion at 155 lbs is. This win may have very well been enough to earn Oliveira another shot at Islam Makhachev, but for my money, Charles Oliveira is the most entertaining fighter in the world today, and I do not think there is a single matchup for him at lightweight that I would not look forward to. Oliveira extended his promotional record for most finishes in UFC history with this win (20), and he now holds a total of 22 wins in the UFC, tying him with Demian Maia for third all-time, behind Jim Miller (25), Andrei Arlovski (23), and Donald Cerrone (23).
AMANDA NUNES (22-5, 135) VS IRENE ALDANA (14-6, 135) – UFC BANTAMWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP
The fighters touched gloves to begin the main event. Nunes took Aldana early in the fight but opted not to follow her to the ground. Nunes was the more active fighter throughout the first round, as Aldana was very hesitant to engage, and the champion spent the majority of the round attacking the body of Aldana, landing numerous jabs as well as the occasional teep kick. Just as Nunes was starting to let loose, Aldana landed a right hand that forced Nunes to respect her power, slowing Nunes’s attack for the remainder of the round. 10-9 Nunes.
Nunes continued to be the busier fighter in the second round, attacking the lead leg of Aldana while mixing in the occasional body shot. On occasion, Nunes would feint takedown attempts, which were creating big reactions from Aldana, but typically, Aldana was able to pick her hands up before Nunes could land her heavy hooks. As the round progressed, Aldana picked up the activity slightly, but not by much, and I thought this was another clear round for Amanda Nunes, based largely on the difference in output between the fighters. 20-18 Nunes.
In the third round, Nunes finally chose to follow Aldana to the ground after taking her down. Aldana made it back to her feet but was instantly powered back to the ground by Nunes, who seemed to be several steps ahead of Aldana at every level here. Nunes attempted to take the back of Aldana, but she was a bit too high, which allowed Aldana to escape to her feet and separate. In the round’s final minute, Nunes just started to go on the attack, cracking Aldana repeatedly with powerful strikes before the horn sounded. 30-27 Nunes.
An elbow from Nunes landed with power in the opening minute of round four, as Aldana threw a right hand. Aldana defended a pair of takedown attempts from Nunes but was still several steps behind Nunes on the feet, who continued to be the more active fighter. Even as Nunes began to slow, Aldana did not pick up the pace, and it was Amanda Nunes who was consistently connecting with more power. Aldana showcased a solid chin, and activity-wise, this was probably her best round of the fight, but once again, Nunes won this round with relative ease. 40-36 Nunes.
Nunes returned Aldana to the ground at the start of the fifth round. Aldana did not have many answers for Nunes on the ground, and Nunes dominated the action from top position for the remainder of the round, peppering the challenger with ground-and-pound strikes. Aldana generated no offense throughout this round, and I thought that Nunes did enough to earn a 10-8 in this fight’s final round. 50-44 Nunes.
WINNER: Amanda Nunes by unanimous decision (50-44, 50-44, 50-43) to retain the UFC Bantamweight Championship
This was an extremely one-sided fight. Aldana’s offensive output throughout the bout was very low, not finding much success outside of a few well-timed counters when Nunes got reckless. It was an excellent performance from the champion, who showcased her well-rounded skillset throughout the fight, dominating Aldana on the feet as well as on the ground. After the fight, Nunes laid both of her titles down in the center of the cage, as well as her gloves, and proceeded to announce her retirement from the sport of mixed martial arts. Considered by many to be the greatest female fighter in the history of the sport, Amanda Nunes has carved a legacy for herself that will be difficult for any future fighter to match, with eleven title fight wins throughout her career, across two divisions. Nunes competed against all of the top fighters at bantamweight and featherweight throughout the past decade, defeating numerous former champions, including the likes of Ronda Rousey, Miesha Tate, Holly Holm, Cris Cyborg, Julianna Peña, Germaine de Randamie, and Valentina Shevchenko. It is a remarkable resume, and her two-division title run at 135lbs and 145lbs will be remembered as one of the most dominant title reigns in the history of the sport. If this was indeed Amanda Nunes’ final fight, she retires from the sport with a record of 23-5, vacating the bantamweight and featherweight titles as a result.