Charles Oliveira has not tasted victory in the Octagon since May 2022.

He seeks to change that at UFC 289.

Oliveira (33–9, 1 NC) fights in the 289 co-main event against Beneil Dariush, a lightweight bout with title ramifications. A win for Dariush (22-4-1), who is looking to extend the streak to eight, would give him a title shot against reigning champ Islam Makhachev—the man who defeated Oliveira in October for the belt.

The loss to Makhachev ended a remarkable 11-fight win streak for Oliveira. It was a disappointing showing, with Makhachev forcing his will upon Oliveira before ending the bout by submission in the second round.

“I’m not the champ anymore,” says Oliveira, speaking through a translator. “That changes everything. I’m waking up early, I’m staying up late thinking about getting my belt back. It’s always on my mind. Getting the belt back, that’s my focus. That’s my goal. With a good performance on Saturday, I’ll be fighting for the title.”

Whether Oliveira is next in line, even with a win, is not a certainty. Another bout with title implications happens later this summer when Dustin Poirier and Justin Gaethje meet in July at UFC 2921. Though both Poirier and Gaethje are contenders, Oliveira has an edge, considering he beat both within the past year and a half.

This bout against Dariush at 289 is must-see. It is the most significant fight of Dariush’s career, a pathway to his long-awaited title shot, but Oliveira is confident that his attack will overwhelm him.

“Dariush is a great fighter,” says Oliveira. “He’s one of the best in the world. If he thinks he will dominate me, he is wrong. I will be the one leaving with my hand raised.”

As compelling a bout as this is, Oliveira was willing to wait longer for a fight if his opponent was Conor McGregor. Yet that was not going to materialize, as Oliveira believes McGregor wanted no part of that bout. Instead, McGregor will fight Michael Chandler to conclude the newest season of The Ultimate Fighter.

“Everyone knows that Conor is avoiding me,” says Oliveira. “His fight against Chandler will be great, but everyone can tell he is avoiding me. Personally, I think Chandler will win. Conor is very strategic, and he can fight—but he won’t fight me.”

With a bout against McGregor not going to happen, Oliveira is keeping his focus on Dariush.

“I need to win on Saturday,” says Oliveira. “I’m hungry to get my belt back.”

Kai Kara-France did almost everything right—yet still lost

Amir Albazi defeated Kara-France on Saturday in the UFC on ESPN main event, a befuddling finish to a fight that should have been awarded to Kara-France.

Despite accumulating a convincing advantage in strikes (133-64 in strikes, 99-43 in significant strikes), Kara-France lost to Albazi by split decision.

How did that happen?

Kara-France (24-11, 1 NC) landed a higher percentage of significant strikes. He landed two takedowns and stopped eight of Albazi’s nine attempts. A key difference was Albazi’s takedown in the third round, which put him on the cusp of a submission victory, yet Kara-France was able to scramble out. Albazi’s biggest strength was his six-plus minutes of control time, but Kara-France landed more shots and did more damage over the course of five rounds.

Israel Adesanya, who is a City Kickboxing teammate of Kara-France, tweeted his disgust with the judging: “I tweeted that before even seeing the scorecards because I knew them two will f--- it up!! Hoooow many times will they rob athletes of their moments of glory, if their money, their livelihood for their family.”

For those interested, there was even more to that tweet. Adesanya did note that judge Mike Bell scored the fight properly. Bell’s scorecard was marked 48–47 in favor of Kara-France, while Chris Lee and Sal D’Amato scored it the same but in favor of Albazi. It is nearly impossible to understand how Lee scored the fourth round, 10–9 for Albazi.

The win is important. Albazi (17–1) now puts himself in title contention. This is his sixth straight win, fifth in a row in the Octagon, and he will be ranked in the top three flyweights in the division. Inversely, it is especially painful for Kara-France. This marks his second loss in a row, and he will need at least two or three more victories against top-five opponents before reentering the title picture.

Mamed Khalidov closes out KSW 83: Colosseum 2 with knockout victory

KSW put forth an outstanding card Saturday. In front of a packed crowd in Warsaw, the KSW 83: Colosseum 2 show stood out as a true success.

The main event saw Khalidov defeat Scott Askham, ending their trilogy with a memorable knockout. One of the most incredible moments of the night occurred early on in a heavyweight bout, when Krzysztof Głowacki knocked out Patryk Tołkaczewski from bottom mount, which is such a rare sight to see.

Highlights also included Artur Szpilka knocking out former five-time World’s Strongest Man Mariusz Pudzianowski, and Pawel Pawlak defeating Tomasz Romanowski to win the middleweight title. The low point was Marian Ziółkowski vacating the lightweight title after apparently suffering an injury backstage before the fight. As a result of that and further inactivity, he forfeited the belt.

The card was built around the main event. Khalidov and Askham (19-6) had split their first two bouts, but there was no doubt about the finish in their third meeting. Khalidov (37-8-2) added to his brilliant career with another main-event victory, ending the bout with a vicious switch kick to Askham’s cranium.

The 42-year-old Khalidov has had tremendous success throughout his 19-year career. He is one of the most decorated fighters in the sport, though less known because he has never fought in the UFC. If he ever did fight in the Octagon, he knows exactly who he would like to match up against.

“I have always admired the likes of Anderson Silva, Lyoto Machida and Shogun Rua,” says Khalidov. “Any of these would have made for a great fight for fans.”

Khalidov has performed at an elite level for nearly two decades. He attributes his longevity to a healthy interior and exterior.

“I live a clean and healthy life, and I make sure my training is structured in a way that helps me improve without taking too much damage,” says Khalidov. “I also enjoy life. I do not take things too seriously, and I do not let any stress into my life. Being positive has such a major impact on your overall health.”

The overwhelming majority of Khalidov’s fights have taken place in Poland. Fifteen years ago, he made his U.S. fighting debut in Hammond, Ind. Asked whether he would ever fight again in the states, Khalidov shared that it interests him.

“Fighting in America in Elite XC against Jason Guida, who is the brother of Clay Guida, was a great experience and one I will always remember,” says Khalidov. “Hopefully KSW will come to America one day and I can compete on that card.”

Justin Barrasso can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.