The UFC returned to Abu Dhabi this past weekend with UFC 253. Leaving no gaps in their schedule, they're back on 'Fight Island' this weekend for UFC on ESPN: Holm vs. Aldana.
Naturally, this is a big step down from the pay-per-view in terms of card quality. In fact, it's far weaker – on paper at least – than the UFC's last Fight Night show. Still, there are at least a couple of fights to look forward to here, including three former UFC champs in action.
Here are the predicted outcomes for UFC on ESPN: Holm vs. Aldana.
#1 UFC Bantamweight Division: Holly Holm vs. Irene Aldana
The UFC's Women's Bantamweight division is in an odd spot right now. Champion Amanda Nunes has essentially cleaned the division out and beaten everyone, meaning that a title shot isn't too far away from anyone's grasp – including fighters who've already lost to 'The Lioness.'
Holm falls into that category. A former UFC Bantamweight champion herself – although her upset win over Ronda Rousey now seems like a lifetime ago – 'The Preacher's Daughter' fought Nunes in July 2019. To say the fight didn't go well for her would be an understatement, as the Brazilian knocked her out with a head kick in the first round.
Since then, Holm has fought in the UFC just once – a dull decision win over Raquel Pennington that largely took place in the clinch. Could she be granted another title shot with a win here? Potentially. There aren't that many other contenders out there right now and the UFC like Holm and her star power.
To get to that point, though, she'll have to get past Mexico's Aldana. 'Robles' has been in the UFC since 2016, but has been steadily improving to the point where she's now 5-1 in her last six. And the lone loss – a split decision to Pennington – could easily have gone the other way.
Aldana is a fascinating fighter to watch. Originally more of a brawler, she's now developed an extremely sharp boxing game, tending to sit behind her jab to pick her opponents off. At 5'8" with a 69" reach, she's got plenty of range, and we've seen her use it to full effect, particularly in her KO win over top contender Ketlen Vieira last December.
On the ground, too, Aldana isn't lost at all. She was able to submit Bethe Correia – a solid grappler – with an armbar at UFC 237, and has steadily improved her takedowns too. Basically, she's a dangerous fighter in all areas.
The issue for her here is going to be how she matches up with Holm, a former professional boxer. 'The Preacher's Daughter' has been outstruck before, most notably by Nunes, Cris Cyborg, and Germaine de Randamie. But all three were more well-rounded strikers than Aldana, and all three enjoyed a size advantage over Holm.
In this fight, however, Holm is the same height as her foe and will also enjoy a slight reach advantage – perhaps negating Aldana's ramrod jab. So is the best bet for the Mexican to look to take the former UFC champion down?
Perhaps. Holm's ground game has improved somewhat over the years, but it still isn't perfect, and if she could put her on her back, there's the chance that Aldana could submit her. But Holm isn't easy to take down, and her constant movement makes her a tricky target for a single or double leg.
Another issue may be the main event status of the fight. Sure, there will be no fans in attendance to add pressure, but Holm has main-evented multiple UFC shows in the past and has gone five rounds on numerous occasions. Aldana, meanwhile, was TKO'd on the only occasion she went out of the third round.
Overall, it'd be far better for the UFC and for the division as a whole if Aldana were to win impressively. Nunes needs opponents, and 'Robles' would be an interesting test for her. However, styles make fights, and on this occasion, I think the styles favor Holm.
If there's a finish here, I'd bet my bottom dollar on it being from Aldana – Holm is 38 and is somewhat shopworn after all – but I suspect 'The Preacher's Daughter' will edge out a close and rather dull decision.