UFC 289 may only have six preliminary card fights, but they should bring plenty of heat to Rogers Arena in Vancouver.
The card is headlined by a bantamweight championship clash between dual-weight champ Amanda Nunes and Mexican challenger Irene Aldana. Fans appear to be more excited for the co-main, however, between former lightweight champion Charles Oliveira and surging contender Beneil Dariush in a bout with heavy title implications at 155.
Before we get to the top billing, though, we have six fights on the prelims. While we usually select five to preview, we didn’t want an odd fight out here. Let’s dive in:
Nassourdine Imavov vs. Chris Curtis
A middleweight clash between ranked middleweights Imavov (#12) and Curis (#14) is set to highlight the preliminary portion of UFC 289. With both combatants ranked, the fight clearly has divisional ramifications at 185.
It should be a fun fight, too, between two men who will likely strike with one another. A built-in storyline is that Imavov’s three-fight winning streak was just snapped by Sean Strickland, a friend and teammate of Curtis. It should be interesting to see if Strickland passes on some knowledge on how to fight Imavov to “The Action Man.”
Curtis is coming off a controversial decision loss to Kelvin Gastelum in which Curtis was headbutted. Curtis is still 4-2 since joining the UFC, as is Imavov. The difference? Imavov came in as an 8-2 prospect, while Curtis was established on the regional scene at 26-8. Curtis competed in the 2019 season of the PFL.
Jasmine Jasudavicius vs. Miranda Maverick
Maverick will look to make it three straight when she fights Jasudavicius at flyweight. Maverick is coming off wins over Sabina Mazo and Shannon Young after a loss to surging flyweight contender Erin Blanchfield and a controversial decision loss to Maycee Barber.
Jasudavicius is 2-1 in the UFC, defeating Kay Hansen and Gabriella Fernandes while losing to Natalia Silva.
Maverick will likely look to take Jasudavicius to the ground where she does her best work. Jasudavicius has a height (4 inches) and a reach (2.5 inches) advantage, which she’ll need to use to keep Maverick from taking her down.
Maverick is the No. 15-ranked UFC flyweight, so Jasudavicius could very well be fighting for a number next to her name come Monday.
Aiemann Zahabi vs. Aoriqileng
Both Zahabi and Aoriqileng will look to make it three straight wins when the two meet at bantamweight. Zahabi got back into the win column with a knockout over Drako Rodriguez and followed it up with a unanimous decision against Ricky Turcios.
Aoriqileng finished Cameron Else with ground and pound and then took a unanimous decision against Jay Perrin in his last outing.
In a talent-rich bantamweight division, both men need a victory here to separate themselves from the pack.
Blake Bilder vs. Kyle Nelson
In one of the more intriguing fights on the card, undefeated prospect Bilder, entering at 8-0-1, will look to win his second UFC bout against Nelson.
Bilder punched his ticket to the UFC off a rear naked choke against Alex Morgan on the Contender Series. “El Animal” took a unanimous decision over the established Shane Young in his UFC debut. More than half of Bilder’s wins have been finishes, making him an exciting and fun prospect at featherweight.
Nelson, who has more than twice the amount of professional experience, will look to stop him in his tracks. “The Monster” could be fighting for his UFC gig here, as his lone Octagon win came against Polo Reyes. Nelson KO’d Reyes in just 96 seconds. His losses have come against stiff competitors like Diego Ferreira, Billy Quarantillo and Jai Herbert. He fought to a draw against Doo Ho Choi in his last bout.
Nelson is an excellent test to see where Bilder is at in his fledgling career, while Nelson will look to turn his career around.
David Dvorak vs. Steve Erceg
Dvorak will look to re-enter the winner’s circle when he meets UFC debutant Erceg. Dvorak was riding high, entering his bout with Matheus Nicolau on a 16-fight win streak. Nicolau took a decision, and Dvorak lost another fight on the scorecards to Manel Kape in his follow-up outing.
“The Undertaker” is still 3-2 in the UFC, having wins over the likes of Bruno Silva and Jordan Espinosa, but he may have lost some of his luster on the back of two losses. Dvorak needs a big win over Erceg to re-establish himself as a 125’er to watch.
Erceg will look to make his own name off Dvorak. And add a number next to his name immediately. Dvorak is the No. 10-ranked flyweight, so a win over him would all but guarantee Erceg a ranking. Erceg is taking the bout on short notice after Matt Schnell withdrew.
The Australian, “Astroboy,” enters the promotion with a 9-1 record. Most of his pro wins came under the Eternal MMA banner, an Australian regional show. With seven of his nine wins by finish (six submissions), Erceg impressed the UFC brass enough to bypass the Contender Series. A win over Dvorak could really impress the promotion.
Diana Belbita vs. Maria Oliveira
The strawweight bout between Belbita and Oliveira promises a lot of strikes. Belbita (6.43 sig. strikes landed per minute, 6.18 absorbed) and Oliveira (5.27 landed, 5.35 absorbed) both chuck with volume, so the pace should be frenetic. In other words, not a bad curtain jerker for UFC 289.
Belbita will look to climb to 2-3 in the UFC – her win came over Hannah Goldy. She has also fought the likes of Molly McCann and Liana Jojua.
Oliveira is also looking for her second UFC win, which would equalize her record at 2-2 in the Octagon. Her win came over Gloria de Paula, who defeated Belbita. Oliveira came up short against No. 15-ranked Tabatha Ricci and Vanessa Demopoulos.
Belbita will look to overcome the dreaded MMAth against Oliveira.
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