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UFC Columbus

No. 4 Curtis Blaydes faces off with No. 9 Chris Daukaus in a UFC heavyweight showdown. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC)

UFC Columbus Preview

UFC Columbus
No. 4 Curtis Blaydes faces off with No. 9 Chris Daukaus in a UFC heavyweight showdown. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC)

UFC Columbus Preview

It had been two years between fights in England, but when the UFC returns to Columbus, Ohio for UFC Columbus it will be the first time since 2016 that the Buckeye State has hosted a UFC event. That event was UFC 203 which was held in Cleveland. The last time the UFC fought in Columbus was for UFC 96 on March 7, 2009. That fight was held at Nationwide Arena which will be the site of UFC Columbus an event headlined by two heavyweights looking to stay in the title picture. With seven of the 13 fights including ranked fighters, it should be a night that will shake up the UFC rankings and separate contenders from pretenders. All of the fights will be live on ESPN with the preliminary card starting at 4:00 PM ET before the main card opens at 7:00 PM ET.

Main Card 

Curtis Blaydes (4) vs Chris Daukaus (9) – Heavyweight

Curtis “Razor” Blaydes looks to win his second straight when he steps into the octagon against Chris Daukaus who looks to get back to winning ways at UFC Columbus. Two fights ago Blaydes was knocked out by Derrick Lewis ending a four-fight win streak. In his last outing, Blaydes came out on top beating Jairzinho Rozenstruik by decision. His loss to Lewis was the third of his career and both times previously Blaydes responded by putting together a winning streak.

In his last fight, Daukaus also fell victim to the power of Lewis as he was knocked out by Houston’s best in the first round of the last main event of 2021. Daukaus ended a five-fight win streak with that loss and fell two spots in the highly competitive heavyweight rankings. The loss was also Daukaus’s first in the UFC after starting 4-0 with four knockout wins. His last win came in late September at UFC 266 in which he beat Shamil Abdurakhimov by TKO.

This fight sets up to be a banger between two of the heavyweight division’s strongest knockout artists. Neither fighter has ever won a fight with a submission, but Blaydes has 10 knockout wins while Daukaus has 11.

Prediction

This fight will very likely end with one fighter laying on the canvas and a place in the top five could be waiting for the winner. I have Blaydes winning by knockout.

Joanne Wood (7) vs Alexa Grasso (9) – Women’s Flyweight

Scotland’s Joanne Wood is looking to snap a two-fight losing streak at UFC Columbus against a fighter in Alexa Grasso who has won her last two bouts. At UFC 263 in June 2021 Wood lost to Lauren Murphy by split decision before being submitted by Talia Santos in November. In the loss to Santos, Santos stepped in on short notice replacing Grasso. This was her first time losing two consecutive since 2016-17 when she lost to Jessica Andrade and Cynthia Calvillo. Wood started her 2021 on a winning note by beating Jessica Eye by decision.

Grasso has started strong in the flyweight division after having to move up from strawweight due to weight-cutting issues. She has won two straight fights by unanimous decision beating Ji Yeon Kim and then Maycee Barber. Both fighters could benefit from a win to try and make a move into the top five.

Prediction

This fight should be mostly spent on the feet as both are much more of strikers than wrestlers. Grasso has been on fire while Wood has struggled the previous two times in the octagon and I don’t think that will be changing. I have Grasso winning by decision

Matt Brown vs Bryan Barberena – Welterweight

The last time the UFC was in Columbus, Matt Brown beat Pete Sell by TKO. Now, 13 years later, Brown will be the only fighter to walk through Nationwide Arena for a second time at UFC Columbus. Brown ended a two-fight losing streak in his last fight by defeating Dhiego Lima with a knockout punch that slept the Brazilian. The knockout of Lima was the 15th career win for 41-year-old Brown by knockout and his 23rd overall.

Opposing him, 9 years younger, is Bryan Barberena. The pair were originally scheduled to fight on December 4, 2021, but Brown had to pull out after testing positive for Covid-19. He was replaced by Darian Weeks, who lost via unanimous decision to Barberena. This was his second win in his past three fights along with a unanimous decision win over Anthony Ivy. In his time at welterweight, he has fought some of the division’s best in No. 1 ranked Colby Covington and No. 3 ranked Leon Edwards and proved he can hang with the toughest as both of those fights went the distance.

Prediction

Two fighters with a chance to win their second straight face off in what could be a banger as both also win more by knockout than decision and submission combined. This fight should be very even, but I give a slight advantage to Brown as he is an Ohio native. I have Brown winning by knockout.

Askar Askarov (2) vs Kai Kara-France (6) – Flyweight

The flyweight division gets an absolute banger when undefeated Askar Askarov takes on New Zealand’s rising star Kai Kara-France. Askarov holds a record of 14-0-1 and has won three straight since drawing with Brandon Moreno in his UFC debut. Before moving to the UFC, the Russian was the Absolute Championship Berkut (ACB) flyweight champion and defended his belt twice. In the UFC Askarov has wins against Tim Elliot, Alexandre Pantoja, and Joseph Benavidez with all three coming via unanimous decision. At 29 Askarov could very easily become the UFC flyweight champion in the near future. A win against Kara-France at UFC Columbus will have him next in line for a shot at the belt.

Kara-France is about as dangerous a fighter as there is in the flyweight division and that was on display last time out. In his last fight, Kara-France welcomed Cody Garbrandt to the division with a flurry of punches ultimately finishing the former UFC bantamweight champion with a TKO in round one. The win over Garbrandt was the second straight for the Kiwi to go with Rogério Bontorin. This small streak has come at a good time for Kara-France as he had lost two of his three prior fights against Brandon Moreno and Brandon Royval.

The flyweight division has been controlled by Moreno and Deiveson Figueiredo who it was reported are in talks to fight for a fourth straight time with each having gone 1-1-1 in the first three. This series will likely be closed after this fourth fight, and that means that a win by Askarov guarantees a title shot for the Russian and a win for Kara-France will give him the chance to fight for UFC gold next time out.

Prediction

Askarov is tied for the second-biggest favorite of UFC Columbus and that is no surprise as he has dominated his last three opponents. However, Kara-France is as tough as they come and will be no easy out, especially considering he is fighting on his 28th birthday. This is my upset of the card as I have Kara-France winning by knockout ending Askarov’s undefeated MMA career.

Ilir Latifi vs Aleksei Oleinik – Heavyweight

Since moving to heavyweight, Sweden’s Ilir Latifi has gone 1-1 with a unanimous decision loss to Derrick Lewis before beating Tanner Boser via split decision. The move came after two consecutive losses at light heavyweight for the now 38-year-old. 

Opposing him is the oldest fighter on the UFC roster, 44-year-old Aleksei Oleinik. Oleinik has lost his last three fights in pursuit of reaching his 60th career win. Two TKO losses to Lewis and Chris Daukaus followed by a decision loss to Sergey Spivak created the longest losing streak of the Russian’s 76 fight career. Spivak last won a fight in 2020 when he beat Fabrício Werdum by split decision. 

Prediction

Two fighters with recent three-fight losing streaks face off in what could be a milestone night for Oleinik. It will not be a fourth time lucky for Oleinik in his pursuit for his 60th win as Latifi gets the win by decision.

Marc Diakiese vs Viacheslav Borshchev – Lightweight

It has been a tough stretch as of late for Marc Diakiese. Coming from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Diakiese has lost two straight against lightweights named Rafael. First, he fell on the wrong side of the judges’ scorecards to Rafael Fiziev, before being submitted less than two minutes in by Rafael Alves. His last win came against Lando Vannata, the second of two consecutive unanimous decision wins that ended a three-fight slump.

Standing across from him is Viacheslav Borshchev. The Russian fighter will be making his second appearance of 2022 following a TKO win over Dakota Bush. The fight in January was Borshchev’s UFC debut after winning a contract on Dana White’s Contender Series with a knockout last October. Now sitting at 6-1 “Slava Claus” looks to keep gifting the lightweight division with his fists and will get the chance to do so at UFC Columbus.

Prediction

Diakiese has been on a cold streak while Borshchev has won four straight. The talented striking of Borshchev will be too much for the Congolese fighter. I have Borshchev winning by knockout.

Prelims to Watch

Neil Magny (9) vs Max Griffin – Welterweight

Neil Magny bounced back from a loss to Michael Chiesa to start 2021 with a unanimous decision win over Geoff Neal. The win over Neal was the fourth in the last five fights for Magny. Approaching nearly a decade in the UFC, Magny has consistently competed with some of the toughest the welterweight division has to offer.

This time at UFC Columbus he will be taking on Max Griffin, a fighter from California who has won his last three fights. Last time out Griffin needed the scorecards to defeat Carlos Condit after knocking out both Song Kenan and Ramiz Brahimaj beforehand. The win over Brahimaj ended a very tough stretch in which Griffin lost two straight and four of five fights.

Prediction

Magny has nearly as many UFC fights (25) as Griffin has professional MMA fights (26) despite being two years younger. Magny’s length and expertise have him as the betting favorite coming in. I have Magny winning by decision.

Sara McMann (9) vs Karol Rosa (12) – Women’s Bantamweight

Sara McMann has lost three of her last four and now faces Karol Rosa who is on a six-fight win streak and has yet to lose in the UFC. It has been eight years since McMann fought Ronda Rousey for the UFC women’s bantamweight title and in that time she has fought numerous current or former champions including the women’s GOAT, Amanda Nunes. In her last fight, she lost to the same opponent in the same way as Nunes’ shock loss. Julianna Peña sunk a rear-naked choke and submitted McMann in January 2021. This loss came after a unanimous decision win over Lina Länsberg.

Rosa has started 4-0 in the UFC with four decision wins. Most recently she beat Bethe Correia in a catchweight bout after Correia missed weight. Sitting at 15-3 Rosa looks to be one of the more promising prospects in the bantamweight division that needs new faces following years of dominance from Nunes. 

Prediction 

Two fighters moving in opposite directions collide with a place in the top 10 on the line. McMann has had her time in the top part of the UFC rankings, but it is now Rosa’s time to shine and that is exactly what she will do. I have Rosa winning by decision.

Matheus Nicolau (7) vs David Dvorak (10) – Flyweight

A pair of flyweight contenders will step into the octagon at UFC Columbus looking to put a stamp on the division. Matheus Nicolau is ranked No. 7 and has won both of his fights since returning to the UFC and the flyweight division after a short change in 2019. A win over Tim Elliot extended the Brazilian’s win streak to four. Following his only loss in the UFC to Dustin Ortiz and second overall, Nicolau left the UFC and fought two fights elsewhere at bantamweight before moving back to the UFC flyweight division. 

David Dvorak started his MMA career going 4-3 but has since gone on a run of 16 straight wins to propel him into the top 10 of the UFC flyweight division. His last time out was a quick one as he submitted Juancamilo Ronderos in the first round. In his defense, Ronderos stepped in on short notice after Raulian Paiva pulled out the day before the fight. With the win moved to 3-0 in the UFC and 20-3 overall.

Prediction

This is a great fight early in the night and could have been the preliminary card headliner. I am going to give a slight advantage to Dvorak as he has a lot of momentum behind him and bears a two-inch reach advantage. I have Dvorak winning by submission.

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