For those unfamiliar with the featured women’s bout of UFC 264, former featherweight title challenger Yana Kunitskaya will take on Mexico’s own Irene Aldana. The fight will be contested at 135 pounds.
Yana Kunitskaya, a former Invicta bantamweight champion, enters the bout on a two-fight win streak, with decisive victories over Julija Stoliarenko and Ketlen Vieira. Although her background is in Taekwondo and Muay Thai, she has evolved over the years into a well-rounded mixed martial artist. Between her experienced striking game, and her vicious ground and pound abilities, Kunitskaya is a constant danger in the cage, able to cut and batter anyone at any time.
Irene Aldana is one of the hardest-hitting 135-pound women in the UFC. Watching her when she is on her game somehow feels different, and it doesn’t take an expert to see how dangerous she is when she connects. Although acquiring a defeat at the hands of former champion Holly Holm in her last outing, Aldana has won two of her last three, including her spectacular knockout of Ketlen Vieira.
Kunitskaya vs. Aldana betting odds
As of now, the two fighters are almost dead equal according to the bookies. As the #4 and #5 ranked in the division, it has essentially been deemed a “pick’em” fight.
- Yana Kunitskaya: -110
- Irene Aldana: -120
Kunitskaya vs. Aldana breakdown
The two fighters are known for their physicality in the division. Yana Kunitskaya joined the UFC as a featherweight and Aldana enjoys a consistent height and size advantage over most of her opponents. In the past, both women have exploited this, however, both having such a physical presence may cancel out this factor for one another.
Aldana’s knockout of Vieria happened with Aldana on the outer perimeter of the cage. Although traditional logic would dictate that an aggressive power striker like Aldana should take the center of the octagon, I tend to disagree. Aldana’s largest issue in her last fight was due to her habit of chasing rather than cutting off the cage, and while she has tremendous hand speed, her ability to spring into range isn’t particularly special. Due to this, she has her best moments when she allows her opponent to push forward and invites them to exchange.
While she and Kunitskaya both have a reach of 68 inches, Aldana’s 3-inch height advantage will allow her to keep her head just a bit further out of range when they exchange boxing combinations, and if Kunitskaya is committed to moving forward, Aldana can exploit her power advantage.
In contrast, Kunitskaya should look to invite Aldana forward, and stay “on her bike” as the popular combat phrase goes. If she can stay consistently moving out of range and be patient, we could see a frustrated Aldana as in the Holm fight. When this happens, Aldana out of frustration may resign to charging forward with a bit more recklessness, perfectly setting up Kunitskaya’s reactionary takedowns. Against Cris Cyborg, Kunitskaya utilized a low single leg when she found herself being charged at.
Kunitskaya has a variety of good long kicks, especially to the body via roundhouse and teep. Even if these don’t do a large amount of damage, keeping Aldana from entering will force her to become desperate and open up her takedowns.
Both in the clinch and with top control, Kunitskaya is very good at giving up little to no room. Her chest to chest pressure leaves no gap, allowing her to stay on top and advance position slowly but with little risk of giving up control. Once in a position she likes, she also has devastating ground and pound, especially elbows that have led to massive cuts in her previous fights.
Aldana is explosive from the bottom and in the past, she has been able to get back to her feet using her physicality, power, and quickness. However, due to the combination of Kunitskaya’s tight grappling style and a comparable size factor I think, Aldana’s ability to get to her feet is largely negated.
Kunitskaya vs. Aldana prediction
Ultimately, I think that while Aldana has the potential to land a knockout shot at any time, Kunitskaya has more tools in her overall MMA game.
If Kunitskaya can keep moving and frustrate Aldana, I think Aldana will make mistakes and leave room for Kunitskaya to secure the takedown. We should see a full arsenal of mixed martial arts in this one, but ultimately there are more areas for Kunitskaya to win
Prediction: Yana Kunitskaya by decision
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How to watch Yana Kunitskaya vs. Irene Aldana
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Braeden Arbour is an aspiring journalist out of Ontario, Canada. He is a recent graduate of Trent University, with a black belt in Karate and a blue belt in Judo. He has also been an avid fan of MMA for the last decade.