As I touched on with the Bold Predictions on the UFC 289 prelims, this PPV card isn’t great. The main card exemplifies that sentiment. Two of the fights have no business being on PPV main cards and a third merely comes across as being a satisfactory PPV opener – and it isn’t even filling that role. For all the crap I’m dumping on the card, the UFC 289 co-main event is as fantastic as a non-title fight gets, the only complaint being that Charles Oliveira and Beneil Dariush won’t be competing for five rounds. But how will it play out? Keep reading to find out.
UFC 289 co-main event: Charles Oliveira vs. Beneil Dariush | Lightweight
This was an intriguing contest the first time the UFC tried booking it in the fall of 2020. Given we’ve seen Oliveira enjoy a reign as lightweight champion and Dariush hasn’t lost a fight in that time, it’s even more intriguing now at UFC 289. There’s a wide swath of fans and analysts who believe Oliveira and Dariush are the most respected grapplers in the lightweight division. Knowing that, perhaps we should expect it to turn into a striking battle. If it does, it’ll still be a hell of a contest.
Oliveira’s lanky frame has always made him a natural submission threat. It has allowed him to pile up the most submissions in UFC history, presently sitting at 16. The funny thing is, Oliveira has never been a greater submission threat than he presently is… and it’s because he has gained more confidence in his striking. It used to be Oliveira would attempt to lure his opponents to the mat or drag them down himself. Now, he’s been able to rattle his opponent’s brains on the feet before sinking in his signature RNC. Adding another regular method to get the fight to the mat makes Oliveira that much more dangerous.
In the case of Dariush, he’s one of the few who might be able to survive regular trips to the ground with Oliveira without having significant luck playing a part in his escape. Dariush doesn’t get the same recognition for his BJJ exploits as he’s more of a meat and potatoes grappler, more position over submission as the phrase goes. Nevertheless, what can be said is Oliveira can’t compete with the pressure Dariush applies from the top position. With Glover Teixeira now retired, Dariush may be the most effective top position fighter on the entirety of the UFC roster.
Both employ very different styles on the feet. Oliveira is much more free flowing with his Muay Thai, much of that due to his willingness to let his opponent take him down. Dariush’s takedown defense is far more stout, complementing his more boxing-centric attack. Much has been made of Oliveira’s power as of late, but Dariush has his own fair share of highlight reel finishes. Plus, he’s also far more defensively minded than Oliveira.
The recent success of both has a lot to do with both enjoying major confidence boosts that comes with stringing together several wins together. Well, Oliveira is coming off a loss. Many were predicting he’d lose the title sooner than he did due to his history of melting down mentally in the midst of fights. Even in his loss to Islam Makhachev, that didn’t happen. But could the seed of doubt be planted in his mind now that he’s coming off a loss.
I’m shocked this UFC 289 contest isn’t a straight up coin flip. Oliveira has overcome the odds so many times that it feels foolish to make him an underdog against anyone outside of Makhachev. Despite that, I’m picking against him. Dariush has been walking into every fight with a solid strategy mapped out while Oliveira has always been perfectly happy to let chaos reign. At UFC 289, I’ll go with the guy with a plan… or perhaps I should say the guy who seems to have a plan.
Prediction: Beneil Dariush via decision
Dan Ige vs. Nate Landwehr | Featherweight
Don’t let Ige know, but it’s pretty clear he’s a gatekeeper to the top ten and nothing more. That’s not a terrible fate, but a fighter never wants to be told they have a ceiling. With fundamentally sound boxing and underrated power and grappling, Ige is going to win far more fights than he loses if he’s matched up with the entirety of the division. What he’ll want to do against Landwehr at UFC 289 is make sure the fight doesn’t devolve into a wild brawl, the type of environment Landwehr thrives in. Not that Ige can’t win that fight, but why give Landwehr what he wants?
The funny thing is Landwehr isn’t the mindless bruiser he’s often made out to be. There’s intelligence in his approach. And once he gets flowing, he’s difficult to stop, much like his nickname of “The Train” would indicate. However, it takes him a bit to get going. Both his UFC losses, were first round finishes, not to mention being knocked down in the first round against David Onama. Knowing Landwehr is almost certainly to fall behind a round and Ige has never been finished, I’ve got to go with the Hawaiian native at UFC 289.
Prediction: Ige via decision
Mike Malott vs. Adam Fugitt | Welterweight
There’s a lot to like about Fugitt. He’s got good size, a veteran confidence and presence, and underrated power and wrestling. He’s also not a great athlete and is already 34 despite being just two fights into his UFC career. Malott is two fights into his UFC career as well, but he’s also three years younger than Fugitt with superior athleticism. Malott is also recognized as being a highly intelligent fighter who does his homework. Having the Canadian crowd behind him at UFC 289 will help too… provided it doesn’t inflate his head. I don’t think it will.
Prediction: Malott via submission of RD1
Eryk Anders vs. Marc-Andre Barriault | Middleweight
This could get ugly as hell. Both Anders and Barriault are at their best grinding away their opposition against the cage. Anders is probably the better pure athlete at UFC 289, but not by a wide margin. Barriault is the more consistent fighter. Both have been largely durable, but Barriault has less mileage, especially when one adds Anders’ football days to the mix. Knowing Anders has changed camps and it usually takes a fight or two for the positive effects of that to pay off, coupled with Barriault fighting in front of a Canadian crowd at UFC 289, and I’m leaning towards the one who proudly sports the maple leaf on his native flag.
Prediction: Barriault via decision
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