Two-division champion and pound-for-pound menace, Amanda Nunes, faces her most interesting challenge in years this Saturday (June 10, 2023) when she battles Mexican knockout artist, Irene Aldana, atop UFC 289. Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, will also hosts a pivotal Lightweight battle between former champion, Charles Oliveira, and eternal 155-pound contender, Beneil Dariush, as well as Canadian prospect Mike Malott’s return to action against Adam Fugitt.
125 lbs.: David Dvorak vs. Steven Erceg
David Dvorak (20-5) extended his win streak, which dated back to 2012, to 16 with three consecutive Octagon victories. An attempted jump into contention proved too ambitious, resulting in back-to-back decision losses to Matheus Nicolau and Manel Kape.
His professional finishes are split evenly between knockouts and submissions.
Steven Erceg (9-1) proved himself the peak of Australia’s Flyweight scene with eight straight wins and a reign as Eternal MMA champion. He was slated to make his UFC debut against Contender Series graduate, Clayton Carpenter, in March 2023, but missed his chance when Carpenter withdrew.
“Astro Boy” steps in for Matt Schnell on less than two weeks’ notice.
I honestly felt that Erceg had a great shot of upsetting Carpenter, possessing both the counter-striking to punish Carpenter’s poor striking defense and the submission skills to capitalize on Carpenter’s shaky wrestling. Dvorak also gets hit too often, so a quick club-and-sub from Erceg wouldn’t be terribly surprising.
That said, Dvorak also hits a heck of a lot harder than Carpenter, and his heavy right hand looks to synergize painfully with Erceg’s tendency to keep his own left low. On top of that, Dvorak is incredibly difficult to finish and Erceg has slowed down before, so things will rapidly go downhill for Erceg if the first-round stoppage isn’t there. In the end, expect “Astro Boy” to rock Dvorak early, but fail to capitalize and ultimately succumb to the Pole’s power down the stretch.
Prediction: Dvorak via third round technical knockout
115 lbs.: Diana Belbita vs. Maria Oliveira
Diana Belbita (14-7) kicked off her UFC tenure with consecutive losses to Molly McCann and Liana Jojua, the latter of whom caught “Warrior Princess” in an armbar to hand her a fourth career submission defeat. She finally reached the scoreboard by beating down Hannah Goldy one year later, but fell short in a subsequent striking battle with Gloria de Paula.
She fights for the first time in nearly 16 months.
Two years after a technical knockout loss to Marina Rodriguez on Contender Series, Maria Oliveira (13-6) made her first Octagon walk, dropping a decision to countrywoman, Tabatha Ricci, at UFC APEX. She’s since scored a controversial decision over Gloria de Paula and fallen short against fellow Contender Series alum, Vanessa Demopoulos, five months later.
Seven of her professional wins have come via knockout.
As promising as Belbita is, she still needs to tighten up her grappling and improve her ability to hunt down elusive opponents if she wants to become a contender. Luckily, neither of those skills figure to be tested here. Oliveira is a willing scrapper, and luckily for Belbita, “Warrior Princess” has a clear edge in punching power and durability.
Belbita throws enough volume that Oliveira can’t expect to out-land her, and if they exchange for any length of time, Belbita figures to do quite a bit more damage. In short, Belbita punishes Oliveira’s awkward blitzes with power punches and body shots to secure either a decision or mid-round stoppage.
Prediction: Belbita via unanimous decision
Four more UFC 289 “Prelims” undercard bouts remain to preview and predict, including a potential banger between Chris Curtis vs. Nassourdine Imavov. Same time tomorrow, Maniacs.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 289 fight card right here, starting with the early ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard on ESPN/ESPN+ at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+ PPV.
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