UFC 269, the UFC’s final numbered event of 2021, plays out in Las Vegas on Sunday morning UAE time, and boasts several exciting bouts. Here’s a look at three of the highlights set for T-Mobile Arena.
Charles Oliveira (c) v Dustin Poirier (lightweight title)
The much-anticipated clash between the current belt-holder and many people’s champion-in-waiting. Oliveira, whose professional record reads 31-8-1, rides an incredible nine-fight win streak, with his superb turnaround victory against Michael Chandler last time out in May capturing the vacant title. It was veritable vindication for a career full of notable highs and lows.
Poirier, meanwhile, fights for the undisputed crown for the second time having lost in Abu Dhabi two years ago to former champion Khabib Nurmagomedov. Since, the American (28-6-1) has rebuilt his career, with a sublime rebound victory against Dan Hooker and then successive wins this year against Conor McGregor – the first of which came in Abu Dhabi in January.
It put Poirier, the No 1-ranked contender and former interim champion, in pole position for the title shot. Viewed primarily as the submission artist against the supreme striker, this could play out a number of ways. What’s certain, though, is it will constitute must-see viewing.
Amanda Nunes (c) v Julianna Pena (women’s bantamweight title)
So, Pena becomes the latest contender attempting to dethrone the woman widely considered the greatest female to have ever graced the UFC. Nunes has been beaten once in 15 fights in the promotion, way back in 2014, and has since gone on to win 12 straight. In fact, the Brazilian (21-4) is both the bantamweight and featherweight champion.
As the bantamweight division’s No 3-ranked challenger, Pena obviously has serious credentials, and has been calling loudly for a shot at gold since defeating Sara McMann in Abu Dhabi in January. However, two of those losses inside her 10-4 record have come in the past four bouts. Nunes, though, has competed only once since becoming a mother last year; albeit she cruised to a first-round win against Megan Anderson in March.
What’s more, the fight was postponed in July after the title-holder tested positive for Covid-19. Are there any lingering effects? If so, Pena could cause a huge upset.
Sean O’Malley v Raulian Paiva (bantamweight)
Although not yet ranked, O’Malley represents one of the most intriguing athletes on the entire UFC roster. A firm fan favourite, he graduated spectacularly from the second season of Dana White’s Contender Series in 2017 and, from there, the hype has built and built. In seven UFC bouts since, O’Malley (14-1 overall) has racked up six wins, with his surprise TKO defeat to Marlon Vera 15 months ago the only blemish. In fact, the outspoken O’Malley does not even recognise the loss, saying it occurred only because of a debilitating leg injury sustained early in the fight. He has responded with two wins this year.
In Paiva, O’Malley meets a surging Brazilian on the back of three consecutive victories, with the middle triumph coming during the inaugural Fight Island in Abu Dhabi in July last year. Paiva’s most recent win, a decision success in the short-notice encounter against Kyler Phillips in July, marked his bantamweight bow. No matter what, expect O’Malley to put on a display full of fireworks.