Diana Belbita returned after a year off to face Maria Oliveira at UFC 289, a battle of athletes who have losing UFC records in a fight for their jobs. This women’s strawweight fight opened the prelims of the UFC’s first card in Canada since before the pandemic. Fans at the fight in Vancouver got behind Belbita, a resident of Canada by way of Romania, as she faced her Brazilian counterpart.
The fight started with the ladies trading heavy leather in the center of the cage. Belbita landed the better strikes; she seemed both faster and sharper with the striking. Oliveira came close with knees to the frequently dipping head of Belbita a few times, though. After two minutes Oliveira clinched up and got a takedown with a knee tap, landing on top in guard. Belbita was aggressive off her back with her guard and strikes, but was unable to get to her feet despite making multiple attempts to do so with hip heists. Belbita landed some up-kicks but then Oliveira grabbed a leg and went for a heel hook.
That proved to be a mistake as she never got close to a finish with it and Diana was able to get on top. Oliveira did stand up but ate a knee in the clinch on the way to her feet around one minute left. Belbita continually finished striking combinations with low kicks, mixing up her attacks. Her jab was sharp, but the biggest strikes were wide overhand rights which often stumbled her Brazilian foe backwards, though Oliveira’s chin was impressive in continuing to fight in the pocket.
More intense pocket brawling kicked off round two but this time Oliveira ducked in for an easy takedown. Belbita was once again aggressive off her back, though, and actually landed more strikes from her back. The Canadian then got to the fence and wall-walked to her feet, though she was still trapped in the clinch until two minutes left in the round when she got to the stronger position and landed knees to the belly of Maria Oliveira. The body work seemed to be sapping Maria’s gas tank, who began to breathe somewhat heavily from her mouth.
The referee separated the fighters, seemingly early as Belbita was landing short strikes and it had not been too long stalling. With forty seconds left in the round Belbita caught a kick and got right back to a strong clinch position. Belbita was then able to perform a lat drop and end the round in a strong top half-guard position.
A big left hook landed from Belbita opened the final round but Oliveira’s chin held up still, though she was unable to answer and land strikes of her own. The jab of Diana interrupted every almost attempted combination of Oliveira, and then she was able to land bigger strikes after building off of it. Most importantly, this round Oliveira was not able to end up on top as Belbita defended the takedowns better than previously. The rest of the round passed mostly without incident; Oliveira did throw a lot of flying knees and land a few, but Belbita was unperturbed and they were not enough to truly hurt the Canadian.
The toughness and never-say-never attitude of Oliveira kept her in the fight, but she clearly had lost when the bell rang. Two of the judges gave Diana Belbita all three rounds while one had it 29-28. Regardless, Diana got the victory comfortably in front of her adopted home country and she thanked the Canadian crowd for supporting her and being kind to her since she moved there, even when she did not speak English originally. She also revealed a broken foot that kept her from kicking with her left during the fight, making the performance even more impressive.
Diana Belbita def. Maria Oliveira by Unanimous Decision (30-27. 30-27, 29-28)