Romanian Diana Belbita, living in and training out of Stoney Creek, Ontario in Canada, took on her toughest test to date in Polish ex-title challenger Karolina Kowalkiewicz at UFC Vegas 80.
Belbita was coming off a big win at UFC 289, the promotion’s first event on Canadian soil since 2019. Looking to capitalize on that momentum, and with Karolina coming in on her own head of steam, the two got right to work on Saturday. Coming together in a clinch, they went to the ground, Kowalkiewicz coming out on top trying to flatten Belbita out. But Belbita was hip to the attempt, and managed to reverse before getting back to her feet.
Back at center, Belbita worked combinations, working in kicks. Kowalkiewicz clinched, doing her best work in close and forcing Diana Belbita to fend off a takedown. Kowalkiewicz fired an elbow off the break, but Belbita had remained upright, a small victory.
Later in the round, the pair traded across numerous exchanges, Kowalkiewicz getting the better of many. She would fire and miss with a spinning back fist, but just clipped her with another spinning attack in the dying seconds of the round. They went to the ground in a heap at the buzzer, not that it would matter.
Belbita landed a low kick early in round two, but had to fend off another takedown attempt by Kowalkiewicz. Showing some impressive balance, Belbita stayed upright, then landed a jab as the fighters reset. Kowalkiewicz answered with an uppercut. Belbita went to the body with a jab, but was having some trouble getting through Kowalkiewicz’s defenses. Kowalkiewicz, meanwhile, was finding more and more success with her jab. With about 90 seconds to go, they’d clinch up, with Belbita in control. That wouldn’t last, and in the final minute, the uppercut would again be there for Karolina Kowalkiewicz.
Mixing things up, however, Belbita caught Kowalkiewicz in a guillotine late in the round, and used it to land a throw, scoring her first takedown of the fight.
The pair went right to work again in round three, trading with Kowalkiewicz flashing a front kick at times. Belbita put a bit of power behind a kick, jumping into it. A clinch along the fence would again see Belbita fend off a takedown attempt; Kowalkiewicz backed off, then re-engaged, jabbed the body and landed a few shots as Belbita covered up.
The back-and-forth continued, with Kowalkiewicz getting the better of things. By the end of the round, Belbita was showing some damage by one eye. Kowalkiewicz would fire a spinning back kick, and the pair would trade right to the bell in an active, fun little strawweight scrap between two very game athletes. And while there might have been an argument for the first to go to Belbita, all three judges gave all three rounds to Karolina Kowalkiewicz.
Official Result: Karolina Kowalkiewicz def. Diana Belbita by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)