The UFC makes it long (LONG) awaited return to the Great North! June 11th sees UFC 289 rolling in to Vancouver, B.C, headlined by a huge Women's bantamweight title matchup starring Amanda Nunes and Irene Aldana. Here though, we are looking at what is sure to be a barnstormer of a co-main event, featuring two of the most skilled fighters in the lightweight division: Charles “Do Bronx” Oliveira and Beneil Dariush.
Charles Oliveira: “Do Bronx” aiming to get back to form
Wow – what a few years it has been for Charles “Do Bronx” Oliveira.
It was not all that long ago that Oliveira was the king of the division. A man who was involved in epic, epic fights over the likes of “Iron” Michael Chandler, Justin “The Highlight” Gaethje and Dustin “The Diamond” Poirier to boot. Unfortunately, it seems that recency bias has worked against Oliveira, perhaps unfairly so. There is certainly no disgrace in losing to a fighter as good as Islam Makhachev, yet it feels as if many people have forgotten just how good Charles Oliveira actually is.
That being said, he has the opportunity to remind people what he is made of this weekend, where he faces off against Beneil Dariush. Oliveira has seemed like a man on a mission for quite a while now, so it will be extremely intriguing to see if he can put himself firmly back in the lightweight title mix on Saturday night.
Beneil Dariush: The darkest horse in the lightweight division?
Like Oliveira, it appears apparent that Beneil Dariush is another fighter that does not get the credit/respect that he actually warrants.
Dariush is currently ranked No. 4 in the lightweight rankings, a ranking that is certainly warranted. What is fascinating about Dariush is that he has actually been scheduled to face the current lightweight champion, Islam Makhachev, several times, and yet the fight simply has not happened. Many have speculated that, stylistically speaking, Beneil Dariush could actually be the kryptonite to the dominance of Dagestan wrestling, the style that makes up the heart of Makhachev's arsenal.
But I digress. Beneil Dariush has a mammoth opportunity to pick up a huge scalp on Saturday night against a former lightweight champion. If Beneil Dariush can win against Charles Oliveira, especially convincingly, then it becomes very difficult to deny that he could be next to stand in the batter's box and take a swing at the current king of the lightweights.
Now that we know what is at stake for both fighters, let's have a look at the potential routes to victory for both Oliveira and Dariush on Saturday night…
Charles Oliveira: Evoke the stand-up of Chute Boxe
To be totally honest, because both Oliveira and Dariush are so damn skilled on the ground (the BJJ pedigree is unquestionable in this fight), I actually think they will cancel each other out, therefore opting to keep the fight standing. However, just because BJJ plus BJJ often equals standup war, this does still, theoretically, offer a significant advantage to “Do Bronx”.
Charles Oliveira's standup game has improved MASSIVELY over the last couple of years. The left hook that sat Michael Chandler down was such a beautifully timed shot that it really was not given the respect that it deserved. Similarly, the man was able to sit down Justin Gaethje, of all people! To be able to say that you've done that is an entirely impressive feat on its own merits.
Basically, I believe that Charles' best route to victory in this fight is really to take advantage of how well rounded and developed his striking game has become, because I do believe it to be significantly more developed and proven than that of Beneil Dariush. If/when both fighters get into close quarter combat or a clinch situation, I trust Oliveira to throw lots of those razor-like elbows that have a tendency to completely split people's heads open. If Charles has success with this, then Beneil could be in serious trouble.
Beneil Dariush: Keep calm and trust experience
As mentioned above, I believe this fight will ultimately stay an on-the-feet affair, and I still think that will be the case. However, you would be foolish to count out Beneil Dariush and his years of extensive years and versatility of facing all styles and approaches.
Beneil is an incredibly experienced fighter – he's been around the block once or twice. He's also been in every conceivable scenario and situation, both good and bad. This experience will be essential for him if he wants to win this fight. Dariush has been the distance many times, and has even KO'd opponents before (Edson Barboza in 2017, anyone?). Therefore, even if this fight stays standing, relying on his extensive past experience will serve Dariush very well in this fight against Charles Oliveira.
In short, Beneil's best chances of winning this fight come back to being able to rely on a wealth of past experience. Whatever game plan Oliveira has, it is highly likely Dariush has seen and experienced it before. Even if the fight should somehow hit the deck, then Dariush will be very confident about his chances. If the fight stays standing, then he will be able to rely on past experience to persevere against “Do Bronx”.
So – who wins?
I know this might be a bit of an unpopular pick, but I'm picking Charles Oliveira to win this fight.
Why? That part is relatively simple. I simply think that Oliveira's increasingly developed stand-up game could prove to be too much for Dariush. Beneil's boxing has gotten a lot better over the years, but Chute Boxe have worked wonders with Charles Oliveira and his much more impressive stand up game. I think we might see a dominant decision for “Do Bronx” in this fight, and a renewed charge at the lightweight title could well be in the offing as a direct result.
Make sure to check out UFC 289 on Saturday from Vancouver, B.C.