Coach: Irene Aldana can ‘surprise’ Amanda Nunes


On June 10, the main event of UFC 289 will feature Irene Aldana vs. Amanda Nunes for the UFC bantamweight championship. Diego Lopes, Aldana’s jiu-jitsu instructor at Lobo Gym in Mexico, predicts another surprise upset.

Aldana’s quick hands may prove to be too much for Nunes, according to Lopes, a UFC featherweight who previously helped Alexa Grasso prepare for her spectacular rear-naked choke victory against formidable flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko in March.

On a recent episode of MMA Fighting’s Trocaço Franca podcast, Lopes stated that Amanda is a difficult opponent for anyone in the division. “Amanda is a tough fight for anyone in the division. We know she’s the best in the division, but I think our team is used to fighting that, like Alexa did with Valentina. Everybody saw Valentina as unbeatable, and we went there and did our job to win the fight.”

With victories in 13 of her last 14 UFC fights dating back to 2015, Nunes, who twice defeated Shevchenko by decision while “Bullet” was competing at 135 pounds, most recently avenged her lone loss to Julianna Pea. On June 10, “The Lioness” was scheduled to face Pea a third time, but Aldana filled in.

In her most recent octagon appearances, the Mexican prodigy knocked out Yana Santos and Macy Chiasson, adding to a series of UFC victories that also includes a first-round knockout of top-ranked bantamweight Ketlen Vieira.

Aldana’s chances, according to Lopes, “I think we can surprise Amanda like that. To go in there and show something Amanda hasn’t faced yet, which is the level of boxing Irene has, to surprise her and bring the second [UFC] belt to the team and the fourth to Mexico.”

According to Lopes, the UFC has not yet decided what would happen to Grasso at flyweight. The squad is “keeping an eye at” up-and-coming competitors Manon Fiorot and Erin Blanchfield in addition to an urgent rematch with Shevchenko.

According to Lopes, “It really depends on what the UFC has in mind for Alexa. We’ll be ready to fight any opponent the UFC gives us.”

Additionally, two Mexican fighters will compete for titles at UFC 290 on July 8: interim champion Yair Rodriguez will defend his 145-pound crown against Alexander Volkanovski, while Brandon Moreno will defend his 125-pound crown against his rival Alexandre Pantoja in the co-main event.

In his UFC debut earlier this month, Lopes shined in a tough decision loss to 17-0 prospect Movsar Evloev. “I’ll be watching them, especially Yair’s fight with Volkanovski, because I like to watch every fighter in my division and see at what level they are. It’s a hard fight, and it might be surprising. Yair could win, but Volkanovski could dominate the fight. I think it’s going to be very dynamic, and will go down to the small details.”

“[Moreno vs. Pantoja] will be very interesting because Pantoja already beat Brandon twice, once on [The Ultimate Fighter] and then in the UFC, so let’s see what they bring to the table now. I had the opportunity to train with Brandon a few times and see his evolution. It’s going to be a very tough fight and we stay on the fence — having trained with Brandon and having a friendship with him, I hope he gets to defends the belt and keep it in Mexico because the country is working really hard for years to get to this point.”

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