After lackluster performance at UFC 289, what’s next for Irene Aldana?

Jun 10, 2023; Vancouver, BC, Canada; Irene Aldana moves iin for a hit as Amanda Nunes defends during UFC 289 at Rogers Arena. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

This past Saturday at UFC 289, the women’s bantamweight title was on the line in the main event. Two-division champion Amanda Nunes (23-5) returned to defend her title against rising contender Irene Aldana (14-7).

Despite Nunes’ greatness, Aldana’s betting odds were pretty good coming into the fight. While she was still a decent-sized underdog, there was a lot of money on her as a live underdog. Many thought because of her boxing and size, she could give Nunes problems.

However, she ended up giving the champion no problems. There was a moment in the first round where Aldana caught and briefly rocked Nunes, however, that was her one moment for the fight. Aldana just wouldn’t throw and looked to be frozen inside the octagon.

It was five-round target practice for Amanda Nunes who landed more than 100 more significant strikes than Aldana. In fact, Nunes was landing more shots than Aldana was even throwing. It was a lopsided decision win for the UFC champion who retired after the bout concluded.

What’s next after UFC 289?

Aldana took to social media and made no excuses for her bad performance. She congratulated Nunes and vowed to come back better than ever. After Nunes retired, there’s a void at the top of the division with the championship being vacant.

Earlier today, I pondered who would fight for the title next. Really don’t see Aldana being an option for the next title fight. However, given how thin the division is, I think she’s still very much in the title picture despite the lopsided loss to Nunes.

In looking at the division, perhaps a bout with Karol Rosa makes sense. Rosa is currently ranked ninth and just fought and lost to Norma Dumont at featherweight. However, she’s 5-1 in the bantamweight division and could use a step up in bantamweight competition.

Another option would be Aldana’s original opponent before she got the title fight and that’s Raquel Pennington. There’s some talk that Pennington might fight Julianna Pena for the title next, but I could see the UFC opting for Holly Holm instead should she win next month given the name recognition.

If that happens and Pennington is left without a dance partner, perhaps the promotion runs it back with Aldana. The division is very thin so there aren’t a ton of great matchups out there currently.