UFC 289 will continue the promotion’s long history with Canada when they bring a card of elite fighters to the city of Vancouver. While frequent visitors to Canada, this card will be the UFC’s first event in the Roger’s Arena since Cerrone vs. Gaethje in 2019. UFC 289 is a card stacked with talent from the main event all the way down to the early prelims. Despite the spotlight being on the main card, the prelims often feature highlight performances from newcomers and vets brutalizing each other for a chance to climb the ladder.
The UFC 289 prelims will feature many talented Canadian fighters such as Kyle Nelson, Aiemann Zahabi, and Jasmine Jasudavicius. Let’s take a deeper look at these fighters along with everyone else. Perhaps learning the history of the fighters will help us predict who will emerge victorious.
Official Preliminary Card
- Middleweight: Nassourdine Imavov vs Chris Curtis
- Flyweight: Miranda Maverick vs Jasime Jasudavicius
- Bantamweight: Aiemann Zahabi vs Aoriqileng
- Featherweight: Kyle Nelson vs Blake Bilder
Early Preliminary Card
- Flyweight: David Dvorak vs Stephen Erceg
- Strawweight: Diana Belbita vs Maria Oliveira
Fight 1: Diana Belbita vs Maria Oliveira
Diana Belbita (14-7-0)
“The Warrior Princess” is a Romanian born competitor fighting out of Ontario Canada. Belbita is coming off a year layoff after a decision loss to Gloria De Paula in 2022. Belbita has a great variety of combat skills that have seen her compete at a high level in multiple combat sports. Shes won gold medals in kickboxing and kempo in European promotions before signing with the UFC.
In her 4 fights she has gone 1-3 with her debut loss being to Molly McCann. Those losses certainly don’t count her out as she has had 6 KO victories throughout her career and at one point was on a 5-fight win streak.
Maria Oliveira (13-6-0)
“Spider-Girl” is a Brazilian fighter coming off a decision loss to Vanessa Demopoulos and is 1-2 overall in the UFC. When looking at the record books Maria has had a similar career to her opponent Diana. Maria actually has a split decision victory over Gloria De Paula. Maria has an impressive record of 7 KO victories with 6 of them being in the first round.
Oliveira loves to live fast inside and outside of the cage. Last year a famous Brazilian singer named Anitta announced to her 60 million Instagram followers that Maria had crashed one her of parties. This did not end up being a bad thing because the popstar ended up loving Oliveria and they even became friends.
Prediction: Maria Oliveira
The first fight of the UFC 289 prelims is super close! At the time of writing the oddsmakers have this fight dead even which is a very fair assessment. Either of these competitors could pull off a win but I must give the edge to Oliveira. She has a win over someone who beat Belbita and having 6 first-round KO victories is a factor that’s hard to pick against.
Fight 2: David Dvorak vs Stephen Erceg
#10 David Dvorak (20-5-0)
“Undertaker” is a Czech fighter with a 3-2 record in the UFC. Despite losing his previous fight to Manel Kape, Dvorak made the fight incredibly anxiety-inducing. Dvorak survived several sequences that landed him within moments of defeat. It is unclear whether Dvorak’s ability to maintain focus or just pure willpower allowed him to push through to the end.
Dvorak’s ability to make split-second decisions may come from his background in chess which he played competitively until he was 17. Dvorak has had to work himself to the bone to make his dream come true. He even spent 5 years working as a gravedigger which is why his nickname is “undertaker.”
Stephen Erceg (9-1-0)
Making his UFC debut “AstroBoy” enters the UFC 289 prelims on a crazy 8-fight winning streak. The Aussie fighter was originally going to compete on the Contender’s Series in 2020 but unfortunately was unable to make it due to visa issues. Erceg was not discouraged by the setback at all and simply went back to crushing more opponents. Erceg got 3 more victories which included back-to-back 1st round submission victories. His last victory was only a of couple months ago, and ESPN reported that Erceg was offered a UFC contract on the spot.
Prediction: Stephen Erceg
Erceg is the betting favorite to win this one and I am inclined to follow those odds. Erceg’s streak is very impressive, and I expect him to be the first person to submit Dvorak. Even though I am picking against David, I expect him to still have an exciting performance. This fight is certainly a strong contender for the fight of the night.
Fight 3: Kyle Nelson vs Blake Bilder
Kyle Nelson (13-5-1)
“The Monster” is a Canadian fighter who has been on the UFC roster 2018. Coming into the promotion Nelson had a good record of 12-1 but after many tough fights has gone 1-4-1 in the Octagon. Nelson has faced some harsh challenges. His last fight against Doo-Ho Choi ended in a draw and Dana White believed that Choi had one the fight.
Nevertheless, only a couple months later Nelson will be stepping into the cage again with the support of his country in his corner. Nelson’s opponent will need to be wary of his flashy kicks and powerful hands if he hopes to leave the cage in one piece.
Blake Bilder (8-0-1)
“El Animal” is an undefeated American fighter who came into the UFC through the Contender’s Series. Back in February Bilder got his first official victory in the company and is hoping to make it two with a victory over Nelson. Bilder is very confident going into this fight and had this to stay to Combat Sports UK “Stylistically it’s a perfect matchup for me. I just feel like overall I’m so well-rounded and I really haven’t shown anybody like my true capabilities.”
Bilder stated that he is aware that he will be going into enemy territory and relishes the opportunity to get booed by a big crowd of people. He believes that a good performance will win him the favor of the Canadian crowd.
“It’s gonna be a finish, we’re gonna get a bonus, I’m gonna get a finish and I’m excited.”
Prediction: Blake Bilder
Bilder’s confidence is very high and it’s hard to blame him when comparing the records of the two fighters. Nelson could on his way out of the UFC if he loses this fight and the challenge in front of him is very dangerous. Definitely not an enviable situation, but if Nelson pulls off the upset it would be spectacular.
Fight 4: Aiemann Zahabi vs Aoriqileng
Aiemann Zahabi (9-2-0)
Aiemann Zahabi is another fighter on the UFC 289 prelims who is getting to fight in his home country. Zahabi is on a 2-fight win streak and his last win was against TUF 29 winner Ricky Turcios. Zahabi has a great combat sports background being the proud owner of a black belt in BJJ. He also is fortunate enough to train at the Tristar Gym in Montreal. Elite fighters such as Robert Whittaker and George St-Pierre have trained there in the past. Zahabi is actually the younger brother of GSP’s coach Firas Zahabi
“The Mongolian Murderer” is also coming into this fight with a 2-fight win streak after his victory over Jay Perrin last year. Even though he is 6 years younger than his Canadian opponent, Aoriqileng has more than twice the amount of experience inside the ring as Zahabi. Aoriqileng competed in a form of Chinese kickboxing called Sanda before transitioning to MMA in 2015. Before entering the UFC, he amassed a 23-7 record split between 3 different weight classes.
While Zahabi is highly skilled I have to give the edge to Aoriqileng based on his extensive experience. The oddsmakers have him as a slight favorite as well.
Fight 5: Miranda Maverick vs Jasmine Jasudavicius
#15 Miranda Maverick (13-4-0)
American fighter Miranda Maverick began MMA as soon as she legally could. In high school, Maverick wrestled for the men’s varsity team and only transitioned into MMA when she learned she was not going to be wrestling in college. At age 18 she began her amateur career going 7-1 in her local regional circuit. She gained a reputation for being the toughest fighter her in area all while working towards a degree.
Maverick entered the UFC right in the middle of the pandemic and over the past couple of years, she has gone 4-2 with one of those losses being a very controversial decision loss to Maycee Barber.
Jasmine Jasudavicius (8-2-0)
Jasmine is the final prelim fighter from Canada and is a graduate of The Contender’s Series. Since appearing on the 2021 season Jasmine has won 2-1 of her fights and is hoping a win over Maverick will slide her into the rankings. Her fights so far have shown she has strong wrestling defense which could be beneficial in her fight against Maverick.
Prediction: Jasmine Jasudavicius
I am going to pick the underdog for this one. While Maverick is the betting favorite, I believe Jasmine might be able to defend her wrestling offense and pick up a victory by decision. Although for the record my accuracy with picking fights is usually horrendous.
Fight 6: Nassourdine Imavov vs Chris Curtis
#12 Nassourdine Imavov (12-4-0)
The French powerhouse Imanov is coming off his first UFC Fight Night main event. While he sadly was not victorious against Sean Strickland the situation certainly was not ideal, as his original opponent Kelvin Gastelum pulled out 5 days before the fight. While that bout took place at light-heavyweight this fight with Chris Curtis will be at middleweight. Imanov has had an exciting career in the UFC so far with middleweight wins over Joaquin Buckley and Edmen Shahbazyan. A victory over Chris Curtis could potentially push Imanov to a higher spot in the middleweight rankings and 1 step closer to a title shot.
#14 Chris Curtis (30-10-0)
American fighter Chris Curtis is fresh off a crazy performance at UFC 287 and is bouncing right back for the UFC 289 prelims. While in that back-and-forth fight he came up short against Kelvin Gastelum, it won them both a Fight of The Night performance bonus for their blood loss. It is very shocking to see Curtis back so soon after such a violent fight. Hopefully, none of that damage will affect his performance against the very dangerous Imanov. If Curtis is in top form the “Action-Man” could end up with his 3rd post-fight bonus in the UFC. These two fighters are both at a tight spot in the rankings and could use a big win to push them on to the next step in their careers.
Prediction: Nassourdine Imavov
While both of these fighters are elite, I am worried about Curtis fighting again so soon after a war with Gastelum. Because of that, I am going to give the edge to Imanov.
Despite not having the same amount of spotlight, the UFC 289 prelims are filled with so many hungry fighters from all over the world. A great performance in the prelims could land a fighter a much higher spot during their next appearance. Make sure you grab a seat early; it’s going to be a bumpy ride.
Featured image credits to Embed from Getty Images