Julianna Pena and Amanda Nunes battle in their thrilling UFC Women's Bantamweight Championship bout (Zuffa LLC)

This Saturday night, the “Lioness” Amanda Nunes defends her bantamweight title against the fearless Mexican striker, Irene Aldana.

Nunes is a titan in the women’s divisions and is regarded as one of the greatest fighters to ever step foot in the octagon. Aldana, on the other hand, is getting her first shot at a UFC title, and it comes against the very best.

We’re breaking down this main event in detail for you, from fight predictions to betting odds, to help you make your best bet. This analysis comes from our top-notch analysts who have a keen eye for detail when it comes to UFC fights. You can also find our predictions for the other fights on this card over at our UFC predictions page.

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Remember, the only way to watch this event is on ESPN+ PPV with the action starting this Saturday evening. Now, let’s get to the odds and predictions.

Betting Odds

It’s always a thrilling moment when a fighter of Nunes’ caliber steps into the octagon. This time she enters as a -330 favorite, while Aldana sits as the underdog with odds at +250. But, as we all know, anything can happen in the world of MMA.

  • Amanda Nunes: -330 (BetUS)
  • Irene Aldana: +250 (BetUS)

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Michael Pounders

Amanda “Lioness” Nunes, now 35, is, yet again, defending her bantamweight strap after winning it back with a unanimous decision win in July of 2022. Nunes, now fighting out of her own gym, seems to be nearing retirement. In interviews, she’s mentioned that she didn’t want to retire while Juliana Pena held the belt; but, is more willing to walk away even if someone else holds it.

This mindset is an important variable to consider when breaking down a Nunes fight because most people, myself included, feel Nunes first lost her belt because she coasted into her first fight with Pena, coming in out of shape and disinterested. You can’t really fault her for coasting considering she was on a 12-fight winning streak and seemed to have cleared out her division. Still, it shows that coming in unprepared for a title fight, even for the best in the world, can result in a catastrophic loss.

Assuming Nunes is properly motivated and focused- both of which I am confident she is despite the hints at retirement- she is truly the most dangerous woman on the planet. Nunes carries incredible power, strikes with precision and accuracy, can out-wrestle nearly every opponent she’s faced, and has a lethal submission game when she’s on top. Nunes is considered the woman’s GOAT for a reason, she does everything better than nearly every one of her opponents.

The issues throughout her tenure have primarily been with a persistent jab and pressure. When an opponent is not scared off by the power of Nunes, of which she has a tremendous amount, they have found success in peppering a jab forward, landing with consistency and able to push Nunes back or entice a brawl. When moving backward, Nunes’ power and ability to wrestle are reduced. However, the danger in an aggressive approach is that, eventually, the “Lioness” will stop backing up, plant her feet, and take off the head of her opponent with a killer overhand right or knee-buckling left hook. Only a handful of fighters have been able to implement this game plan and survive, only one fighter has done so since 2014.

Irene Aldana is getting a shot at the title for the first time in her long career. Aldana is a boxer from Mexico who fights like many of her fellow countrymen and women in the UFC- pressure, toughness, and a fearless jab. Aldana is large for the division, standing 5’9 with a 68” reach and uses her size well in the cage. She tends to stand with a wide boxing stance and carries, as many boxers do, weight on her front leg. Because of this, Aldana is more susceptible to calf kicks and can be immobilized if kicked cleanly. She typically pushes a high output, often fighting behind her long jab.

However, despite her high volume and typical edge in length, Aldana has a negative strike differential and only lands 39% of her significant strike attempts. A reason for her lack of striking success, at times, is she struggles to cut off the cage and can get caught chasing her opponents laterally. When she does cut an angle, and trap her opponent in a difficult position, Aldana can sit down on her shots and land with real power. Her right hand especially packs some heat and she can end the fight quickly. 3 of her last 4 fights have been knockout wins. Aldana has unique size and power for the division, both of which have helped her earn this title shot.

The biggest issue in Aldana’s game, though, is her defensive wrestling and grappling. Aldana’s takedown defense is rooted in size and natural strength rather than technique; however, this technique has proved successful as she’s defended 81% of the shots she’s faced. When an opponent does get Aldana down, as we saw recently against Holm, Aldana can be controlled for a period of time but is difficult to submit. Likely, her best path to victory is to put a pace on Nunes early and keep the fight standing as long as possible.

This fight reminds me a lot of Nunes vs Anderson in 2021. Anderson’s unique size, power, variety, and aggression were supposed to give Nunes issues and she became a popular underdog pick to dethrone “Lioness.” However, as with most of Nunes’ opponents, Anderson never faced an opponent who could crack like Nunes nor wrestle with as much power and technique. Nunes won in dominating fashion via first-round submission. Once again, Aldana’s size, power, striking acumen, and aggression are supposed to be kryptonite for Nunes.

However, Aldana has never faced a striker with the skill or power of Nunes, especially with Nunes’ calf kicks that I expect to be a key attack, nor has she faced anywhere near the caliber of wrestler and grappler. I was burned once by writing that Nunes has no shot of losing so I won’t be as hyperbolic in this one; but, I really expect Nunes to dominate bell to bell in this one. The question is how to bet it. I personally prefer Nunes in parlays because she is just as likely to get a finish as she is to grind out a wrestle-heavy decision; so, in a parlay, a win is the only thing that matters. As a straight bet, historically, Nunes either wins in round 1 or goes to a decision. So, I like playing Nunes in two spots: round 1 finish and via decision.

Best Bet: Nunes to win in round 1 (+360) or via decision (+310)

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Joe Pounders

Amanda Nunes is one of, if not, the best women’s fighter to have competed in MMA. From her technical ability to names defeated, the two-divisional champion is someone to fear, and if properly motivated, someone extremely difficult to beat.

The motivation of Amanda Nunes is a pivotal component of her fights within this portion of her career. To no fault of her own, Amanda has had little adversity in recent years, and that lack of challenge proved fatal two fights ago, as she lost in shocking fashion to Juliena Pena, where, Amanda was uncharacteristically herself and seemingly out of shape which cost her the belt. That loss sparked a fire to avenge her defeat, and Amanda, properly motivated, proved, once again, that she is leaps and bounds ahead of the division as she dominated her way to regaining the title.

The way in which Amanda regained the belt was in a smart, pragmatic way. In that fight, Amanda elected to lean on her wrestling to mitigate danger, control the pace, and secure convincing rounds. This way of fighting is extremely repeatable, but what makes her so dangerous is that if she elects to stand and bang, she has, undeniably, the most power in women’s MMA. Moreover, Amanda is more than comfortable striking but has looked slow from a defensive perspective on the feet of late, particularly with avoiding pepper-like strikes. So, in this bout, I expect Amanda, now training in her own gym with minimal athletes for the second time, to rinse and repeat from her last fight, whereby she shows her power early, and if she wears too many jabs, simply wrestle her way to victory.

The challenge of Amanda is stark, but the blueprint of success is, tentatively, proven. The way in which Irene Aldana will need to win is by keeping the fight off of her back, avoid power, and fight on the outside with constant output. Luckily, for her, is that she is a well-versed boxer with a confident, repetitive jab. This jab will be a pivotal weapon of success to keep Amanda at bay, win the output battle, and hope to avoid a pressure-heavy attack by the Lioness.

While Irene’s style of boxing-heavy striking is valuable to have against Amanda, the biggest issue will be stuffing the takedowns of her. This issue cannot be ignored as she gave up 3 takedowns to Macy Chiasson in her last fight and 5 takedowns to Holly Hom three fights ago. If she does not improve her grappling defense in a substantial way, then she will likely find herself on her back, a position that nobody wants to be in when the octagon door closes against Amanda.

I expect this fight to be quite easy for Amanda so long as she stays within herself, does not allow Irene to find comfort at range, and controls her gas tank. While these qualifiers are at play, the experience of Amanda accompanied by her having leaps and bounds higher end skills in this fight will allow these qualifiers to come to fruition, and if you give Amanda a full five rounds, I expect very few to last the entire duration, as such, I expect her to eventually find a finish here.

Best Bet: Amanda Nunes to win inside the distance (-150)

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