UFC 289: Amanda Nunes vs. Irene Aldana – Winners and Losers

Get the lowdown on who the real winners and losers are from UFC 289.

By: Dayne Fox | 4 months ago
UFC 289: Amanda Nunes vs. Irene Aldana – Winners and Losers
IMAGO / Tomaz Jr

UFC 289 has come and gone with mixed reception. Up until the main event, the action was an unmitigated success. There were some spectacular finishes and most of the contests at least had a spirited showing from the Canadian-heavy card. Then the main event came. Bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes wasn’t to blame; she did what she was supposed to do. The challenger, Irene Aldana, had the worst case of stage fright. I’m not sure that was Aldana. I’d believe the real Aldana was kidnapped and it was an imposter in the cage. 

However, the card ended on a better note than the uncompetitive contest we got. A better note, but still bittersweet. Nunes announced her retirement, capping off one of the most legendary careers in the history of the sport. Nunes celebrated her career with her family in the cage, but it’s always a bit sad to see the great ones walk away. Then again, it’s even more sad to see them stick around for too long. If nothing else, her retirement provides a legacy for UFC 289 besides Canadians kicking ass.

That ended up complicating things on my end. At this point, we’re only picking three winners and three losers for each card. That way, there’s no doubt who did and didn’t have a good night. Thus, let’s dig in…. 

UFC 289 Winners 

Amanda Nunes 

I wasn’t going to put her here immediately after the fight. Not because Nunes looked bad; she did what she was supposed to do. It’s not her fault Aldana didn’t show up to fight. But when Nunes announced her retirement, it kind of became a given she was going to end up here. You think I could have the women’s GOAT leave with her two titles intact and not call her one of the big winners on the night? No way in hell that was going to happen. 

Nunes’ haters will point out there’s a blemish to her record based on her loss to Julianna Pena. However, Nunes did what someone is supposed to do in that situation; not only did she get her belt back, she delivered one of the all-time legendary beatings on her. Nunes tended to fight up or down to her opposition, but got the job done time and again, putting together a seven year run in which she held at least one belt, two for about half the time. Hard to argue Amanda Nunes won’t forever be an all-time great.

Charles Oliveira 

Even though Oliveira had his 11-fight win streak snapped just last fall, he still entered UFC 289 as the underdog to Beneil Dariush. Not that it wasn’t understandable. Oliveira has a history of being broken mentally and was coming off his first loss in a long time. Plus, Dariush is one of the few fighters on the roster with the credentials to hang with Oliveira on the mat. In fact, Dariush was getting the better of Oliveira when the fight hit the mat. It looked like the smart money deserved to be on Dariush after all. 

Then Oliveira connected with a head kick late in the first round and it was all over from there. Dariush struggled to recover, but Oliveira wasn’t having any of it. He laid the punishment on thick, punching away until it was obvious Dariush wasn’t in a good mental state any longer. Oliveira has not only defeated anyone else who might challenge Islam Makhachev for the belt, he’s finished them too. Given that, it’s hard to deny the former champion an opportunity to regain his belt. It’s hard to come out a bigger winner than that. 


Okay, I’m cheating a bit. Sue me. But given all six fighters who were either born in or have been training out of Canada managed to leave the cage with their hand raised, it’s hard to pick just one. Especially given none of them turned in a boring performance either. Kyle Nelson managed the best performance of his career. The same could be argued for Diana Belbita. They both saved their jobs in the process. How can I not include them? 

When it comes down to it, the other four Canadians looked downright awesome. Aiemann Zahabi turned in the most explosive KO of the night. Jasmine Jasudavicius and Mike Malott were dominant in their contests. And Marc-Andre Barriault managed to turn in the most back-and-forth entertaining contest on the evening with Eryk Anders. Given most expected that to be a grinding slog, that’s a hell of an achievement. It was a damn good night to be a Canadian. 

UFC 289 Losers 

Irene Aldana 

I try very hard not to have both participants from a single contest on here, but I had to make an exception for Nunes. There was no way in hell I could exclude Aldana from being one of the big losers from this event. Aldana just didn’t show up. There’s no other way to put it. She was given the biggest opportunity of her career and she just froze. I don’t know if it was the spotlight itself or the opponent standing across from her. Most likely a combination of the two. Regardless, Aldana has forever damaged her reputation as an action fighter with this showing. 

Had Aldana at least managed to bring the fight to Nunes, it’s possible the UFC would have considered re-booking her for the now vacant women’s bantamweight title. Y’all remember Dana White’s reaction to Magomed Ankalaev and Jan Blachowicz? Yeah, Aldana isn’t getting an immediate crack at the belt. In fact, it’s reasonable to suggest the UFC will be hesitant to book her in a title fight at all after her fight with Nunes. It won’t be an impossibility for Aldana to fight her way back, but this performance will be in the back of the minds of the UFC brass. 

Nassourdine Imavov 

Some may argue Chris Curtis was a bigger loser from their fight. After all, for the second fight in a row, Curtis got the worse end of an inadvertent and illegal collusion of heads. This time around, the referee caught it and stopped the action as opposed to Curtis attempting to survive while recovering. That’s just bad luck. Not that bad luck isn’t nothing, but provided nothing significantly changed in the course of the fight, Curtis was on his way to losing. Curtis was bailed out. Imavov was robbed of a victory. 

Imavov is one of the more curious names in the official rankings. Wins over Ian Heinisch and Edmen Shahbazyan haven’t aged well and Joaquin Buckley has opted to move down to welterweight. A win over Curtis would have been the biggest of his career. Instead, the referee stopped the fight when Curtis claimed he couldn’t see and a no contest was declared. Curtis has been around long enough to know the fight would be stopped if he said he couldn’t see. If he really wanted to keep going, he would have said he could see. I’m not saying it was the right or wrong move. I’m saying he didn’t want anymore of Imavov.

Blake Bilder 

Of all the prelim fights that saw a Canadian score an upset win, Bilder’s felt like the one where the favored fighter gave it away more than any other. Not that Kyle Nelson didn’t look like the best version of himself; he absolutely did. But Bilder wasted time down the stretch by spamming spinning kicks and showboating. It turned out he would have needed the finish, but there was every reason to believe securing that final round could have been enough. Bilder opted to play to the crowd – which was against him — rather than the judges. Bad call. 

Some fighters never look the same after suffering their first loss. Others use that as a valuable learning experience and come back stronger than ever. Bilder is older for a featherweight prospect – he’ll be 33 next month – so it Isn’t like he has a high ceiling. Regardless, how he responds will say a lot about his shelf life in the organization. 

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About the author
Dayne Fox
Dayne Fox

Dayne Fox is a contributing writer and analyst for Bloody Elbow. He has been writing about combat sports since 2013 and a member of Bloody Elbow since 2016. Dayne primarily contributes opinion pieces and event coverage. Dayne’s specialties are putting together the preview articles for all the UFC events and post-fight analysis. Outside of writing on combat sports, Dayne works in the purchasing department of a construction company, formerly working as an analyst. He is also a proud husband and father. In what spare time he can find, he enjoys strategy games and is a movie enthusiast. He is based in Utah.

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