Beneil Dariush is one victory away from securing the next crack at the lightweight crown.
The means to that end is taking out former 155-pound champion Charles Oliveira in the UFC 289 pay-per-view (PPV) co-main event, locked and loaded for this Sat. night (June 10, 2023) inside Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
Once-beaten lightweight sensation Islam Makhachev currently rules the lightweight roost.
“I spoke with Hunter (Campbell) when they rebooked this fight and that’s what they said, that I will be No. 1 contender,” Dariush told MMA Junkie at the UFC 289 media day. “They’re very honest with me. I called them and when we speak it’s very clear. Whatever they want with me is very clear. We don’t play games. So this is the first time they said, ‘Yeah, you’re No. 1 contender if you win this fight.’ So I just take it at their word. I’ll figure out the rest afterward, but right now, take Charles out and if they say something different we’ll talk about it then.”
Oliveira has also been promised a title shot with a victory at UFC 289.
I think it’s almost a guarantee that “Do Bronx” earns a Makhachev rematch by defeating Dariush. The Brazilian is a former lightweight champion who is tied for the most performance bonuses in promotion history and holds the UFC record for most finishes, as well as the most submissions wins.
He’s also headlined half-dozen UFC events, including four straight PPV cards prior to UFC 289. Dariush holds zero UFC records and headlined zero UFC events. That doesn’t make him any less talented or any less deserving of a 155-pound title shot, we just have to be realistic about the business of prize fighting.
Star power matters when the success of the promotion lives and dies on ticket sales and PPV buys.
That’s why the unproven Dariush could be at risk of losing his spot to the winner of Dustin Poirier vs. Justin Gaethje 2, who collide atop the UFC 291 PPV card next month in Salt Lake City. The winner gets to leave Utah with the “BMF” belt which is supposed to celebrate the badassery of the winner, but the cynic in me is convinced it’s a prop to help market a future title fight against Makhachev.
The lightweight champ takes on the BMF champ!
If either Poirier or Gaethje scores a highlight-reel finish, and Dariush scrapes by with a close decision, is it unreasonable to think the promotion will find a way to keep Dariush in a holding pattern for the remainder of 2023? Remember, UFC had no problem passing over Belal Muhammad to give Colby Covington a third (and nonsensical) shot at the welterweight title, despite the fact that “Chaos” came up short in his two previous attempts.
The best thing Dariush can do to help his cause is to go out there and make a statement on Sat. night in Vancouver. A definitive finish or lopsided victory on the judges’ scorecards could be enough to seal the deal; then again, all bets are off when you’re talking about two savages like Poirier and Gaethje, who combined hold 24 post-fight performance bonuses.
The next few weeks are going to be very interesting for the lightweight division.
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 “Prelims” matches at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN/ESPN+, followed by the remaining “Prelims” undercard balance at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN/ESPN+, before the final PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+ PPV.
To check out the latest and greatest UFC 289: “Nunes vs. Aldana” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here. For the updated and finalized UFC 289 fight card and PPV lineup click here.