It’s been well-established the UFC’s effort to put together a quality PPV card for their Canadian audience for UFC 289 has been lackluster. Injuries have hurt the quality some, but they can’t be solely to blame for the lack of enthusiasm for the card. Despite that, thanks to unrivaled roster depth, there are still some gems in within the preliminary contests. There’s no good reason why Nassourdine Imavov and Chris Curtis weren’t put on the main card and Miranda Maverick and Jasmine Jasudavicius isn’t as one-sided as it might initially seem. But how will they play out? I’m here to tell you with some bold predictions….
Nassourdine Imavov vs. Chris Curtis | Middleweight
In the year-and-a-half Curtis has been on UFC roster, he’s proven to be one of the most consistent action fighters on the roster. Three violent finishes and a FOTN have solidified that idea. He’s been doing it against quality competition too. However, there does appear to be a ceiling given none of Curtis’ wins came against ranked opponents, dropping both fights against fighters with a number next to their name. That bodes badly for his contest with Imavov, though there may be reason to believe things could be different this time around. After all, Curtis has the higher quality wins.
Of course, Imavov is a stylistic problem for Curtis. Imavov has the lanky frame that has proven problematic for Curtis, an admitted overblown welterweight. And while Curtis is excellent at making reads, he has benefitted from opponents throwing massive amounts of volume, allowing Curtis to make those reads rapidly. Imavov is more selective of his strikes. Plus, Imavov has the advantage on the mat should the fight go there. I would call this a pick ‘em given Curtis’ finishing instincts, but I’ll lean towards Imavov given he still has upside; Curtis is a finished product.
Prediction: Imavov via decision
Jasmine Jasudavicius vs. Miranda Maverick | Women’s Flyweight
Having entered the UFC with a slew of bright prospects in the division – including Manon Fiorot and Erin Blanchfield – Maverick was the favorite of some analysts to deliver big things. While she’s been passed up in the hierarchy by most, Maverick is hardly a disappointment. Built like a bulldozer, Maverick is more than just a physical force when the fight hits the mat; she’s a skilled grappler too. The question is whether her stout frame will be able to get inside the range of the much rangier Jasudavicius.
Jasudavicius is well-rounded and technically sound. Unfortunately, she’s not much of a natural athlete. Nevertheless, there’s every reason to believe she can win the striking battle in this contest, even with Maverick being the harder hitter. There’s also every reason to believe Maverick won’t be content to let the fight stay standing. Jasudavicius appears to be a superior wrestler to those Maverick has defeated, but it’s hard to get the image of Natalia Silva doing whatever she wanted to her. Maverick isn’t the athlete Silva is, but she is clearly superior to Jasudavicius in that sense, even with the size disparity.
Prediction: Maverick via decision
Aiemann Zahabi vs. Aoriqileng | Bantamweight
Zahabi’s lack of activity make it easy to forget he’s not a prospect any longer. In fact, at 35, he’s downright old for 135. Nevertheless, Zahabi is pretty much a pick ‘em against Aoriqileng as his well-rounded game might be enough to outslick or catch the native of China with something powerful. What would seem to be the more likely outcome is Aoriqileng’s constant output ends up overwhelming the native of Canada. It doesn’t hurt that Aoriqileng’s stamina has improved since moving up from flyweight. I’d expect him to get the job done.
Prediction: Aoriqileng via decision
Blake Bilder vs. Kyle Nelson | Featherweight
I really want to like Bilder as a prospect. He’s well-rounded, technical enough, durable, and possesses an natural feel for the sport. He’s also turning 33 next month, which is ultimately what holds me back from thinking higher of him. Nevertheless, there is much less I like about Nelson. The owner of a solitary UFC win despite six appearances, Nelson has some pop and good size, but that’s about it. Stamina has always been an issue for him and I don’t see it getting better the older he gets. I also didn’t mention earlier Bilder’s cardio hasn’t been an issue. This feels like one of the more solid locks of the night.
Prediction: Bilder via submission of RD3
David Dvorak vs. Steve Erceg | Flyweight
Dvorak is your typical steady handed veteran. There isn’t a lot of flash to his game, but he’ll be in his opponent’s face from start to finish, all the while proving to be exceptionally difficult to put away early. We know what we’re getting out of him. It’s a lot harder to know what we’ll get out of Erceg. While the Aussie has looked great in several of his contests, he’s also done so against questionable competition. Erceg may yet prove to be a UFC mainstay, but he’s getting a tough task on short notice for his UFC debut. Dvorak steadily outworks newcomer from bell to bell to walk out of UFC 289 the victor.
Prediction: Dvorak via decision
Diana Belbita vs. Maria Oliveira | Women’s Strawweight
While both Belbita and Oliveira have the physical tools to be effective outfighters, neither has been able to put everything together over the course of an entire fight. Much of that has to do with neither of them having figured out how to continually stay sharp on defense. There isn’t a lot that separates these two as their age and size are nearly identical. Ultimately, I’m leaning towards Oliveira as she appears to have more pop in her strikes. I know it’s a miserable separator for a fight, but you’d have to be a severe gambling addict to be betting on this fight anyway. There’s better fights to throw your money at for UFC 289.
Prediction: Oliveira via decision
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