Best game for Charles Oliveira against Beneil Dariush

The lightweight bout between Charles Oliveira and Beneil Dariush is by far the most fascinating and potentially exciting pairing on the UFC 289 card on Saturday. Oliveira lost his championship to Islam Makhachev in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates in October and is fighting for the first time since. He’s a world-class grappler with an elite shot. Dariush is a world-class grappler whose striking has improved to the point where he’s become a legitimate title contender.

This fight is expected to rip the roof off Rogers Arena in Vancouver, BC. Oliveira’s fights almost never go the distance. He’s 33-9 with a no contest. In 33 wins, he’s finished 30, including 21 by submission and nine by knockout. He only won three by decision. Among his nine losses, he was knocked out four times, submitted four times, and lost by decision once.

Dariush is also a finisher, but not at Oliveira’s pace. He’s 22-4-1 and he’s finished 13 of his 22 wins, including eight by submission and five by knockout. He’s finished all of his losses, having been kayoed three times and submitted once.

This is why No is such a big favorite on the props bet, will the fight go all the way. No is -330 and Yes is +225.

Oliveira’s experience against elite opponents gives him every advantage, and that’s why I like him winning. Dariush is a -145 favorite, so I’ll take Oliveira at +125. It’s like a steal for an ex-champ who recently had an 11-game winning streak with more money.

This is the fight of his life for Dariush and there is no doubt that he will be prepared. They are both good at submission defense and so this could be a fight where it is wise to go against the grain. Everyone and their brother are waiting for a submission, and while that’s likely given their track record, you’ll have to pay for it.

But it’s a three-round fight, not a five-round fight, and that makes a difference. More than 2.5 laps is +170 and although I think it will last a long time, I will go for better and more money. I will also take Oliveira to win by decision at +700. I don’t expect either guy to coast and go broke with so much riding on the outcome, including a potential title shot. So I think Oliveira winning at +125 and Oliveira by decision at +700 is the way to go here.

‘Action Man’ an attractive outsider

Chris “Action Man” Curtis is a +135 underdog in his fight with Nassourdine Imavov in the featured preliminary bout. Imavov is at -155 and that seems way too high.

Curtis is coming off an action-packed loss in a Fight of the Night battle with Kelvin Gastelum, a fight he could have won. Imavov is coming off a bombardment by Curtis teammate Sean Strickland.

Curtis is a more versatile and dynamic striker, and Imavov has been underwhelming lately. I’ll take the extra money and play Curtis to win at +135.

Belbita have the advantage in a critical game with Oliveira

Diana Belbita and Maria Oliveira open the show on Saturday in a women’s strawweight bout that is key to both fighters’ futures. Neither have been impressive in their UFC stints and the loser will likely be cut. Oliveira is 1-2 in the UFC and is coming off a unanimous decision loss to Vanessa Demopoulos. Belbita has lost three of her four UFC fights, winning only Hannah Goldy and losing to Gloria de Paula, Liana Jojua and Molly McCann.

Prior to her 1-3 move to the UFC, Belbita was 5-1 in her last six on the regional circuit, and she faced the best competition.

Belbita is a -120 favorite, with Oliveira tied. I will put down the 120 and take Belbita to win. I was tempted to play Belbita to win by submission at +900, but she’s too inconsistent and I’m going to avoid that. But that’s something to look for in this fight.

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA – JUNE 08: (LR) Opponents Amanda Nunes of Brazil and Irene Aldana of Mexico face off during the UFC 289 press conference at Rogers Arena on June 08, 2023 in Vancouver, Colombia. British.  (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

UFC bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes is a -320 favorite to retain her title Saturday in her main event clash against Irene Aldana. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

Nunes expected to retain title against Aldana

In the main event, Amanda Nunes is a solid favorite against challenger Irene Aldana. Nunes is at -320 to win and Aldana at +265.

Although there is a growing feeling that Nunes has become familiar with her huge success, I don’t understand that sense of her. I think she can’t wait to make a statement and will win it over at a distance.

The easy choice would be to take Nunes by knockout, and you could have him at +110 there. But Aldana also has a great striking game and could force the ground fight. I think Nunes is the best fighter on the court and while she’s not really chasing submissions, it’s not out of the question that she could find herself in a position to submit Aldana.

Nunes on finish is -500, so I’m going to put half a unit on that and take it to win on finish.

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