After suffering brutal knockout losses in their most recent bouts, Curtis Blaydes and Chris Daukaus will look to prove they still belong among the Heavyweight elite this Saturday (March 26, 2022) inside Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. Also on tap are a pair of pivotal Flyweight battles and what looks like pure violence between Matt Brown and Bryan Barberena.
Four UFC Columbus “Prelims” undercard bouts remain to be examined (check out the first batch here). Let’s get cracking ...
125 lbs.: Jennifer Maia vs. Manon Fiorot
An armbar finish of Joanne Wood earned Jennifer Maia (19-8-1) a crack at division champion, Valentina Shevchenko, who survived a shaky first round to comfortably out-point the Brazilian over five rounds. She has since split a pair of bouts, defeating Jessica Eye before dropping a decision to Katlyn Chookagian for a second time.
She gives up three inches of height and one inch of reach to “The Beast.”
Manon Fiorot (8-1) started her UFC run with consecutive (technical) knockouts over Victoria Leonardo and Tabatha Ricci to extend her finishing streak to five. Though she needed the judges her next time out, she nonetheless emerged victorious against fellow division standout Mayra Bueno Silva.
Seven of her professional victories have come by form of knockout.
That win over Silva was the biggest of Fiorot’s career, but also one of the most concerning. Her insistence on throwing the same combination over and over instead of mixing in body and leg strikes showed a lack of variety that could doom “The Beast’s” chances of being a title threat. It was only Silva’s refusal or outright inability to adapt that got Fiorot the win.
Honestly, though, even that version of her should win here. Maia is far more fearsome than Jessica Eye (Fiorot’s original opponent), but will still have all sorts of trouble getting through that reach disadvantage to corral the Frenchwoman. In addition, she lacks the wrestling to pierce Fiorot’s takedown defense, meaning her Brazilian jiu-jitsu advantage is a non-factor. With all due respect to Maia, the question here isn’t whether Fiorot will win, but how good she’ll look doing it. In the end, Fiorot takes her apart at range with her usual blend of volume, power and footwork.
Prediction: Fiorot via unanimous decision
170 lbs.: Neil Magny vs. Max Griffin
A 10-1 run for Neil Magny (25-9) gave way to a 3-3 skid, all three losses coming inside the distance. He has since rebounded with wins in four of his last five, including upsets over Li Jingliang and Geoff Neal.
He boasts four inches of height reach on Max Griffin (18-8).
Despite his obvious abilities, Griffin struggled to find his footing in the Octagon, dropping six of his first nine UFC bouts. He’s gone on to find the consistency that previously eluded him with three straight wins, among them a bonus-winning knockout of Song Kenan.
He’s knocked out nine professional foes and submitted another two.
For all of Griffin’s recent success, Magny’s been at or above his level for years. He’s taller, rangier, more durable, more proven with his cardio, and has the wrestling to put Griffin on his back like so many others have before. Griffin’s superior power won’t make much of a difference when his opportunities to use it will be few and far between.
This should be a classic Magny performance, mixing long-range offense with regular takedown attempts to keep Griffin from ever getting comfortable. Max “Pain” has some pop, sure, but only a perfect shot from Santiago Ponzinibbio has ever managed to put Magny down for good. This will end with a clear decision for Magny.
Prediction: Magny via unanimous decision
155 lbs.: Marc Diakiese vs. Viacheslav Borshchev
Marc Diakiese (14-5) started his UFC career 3-0 before dropping three straight to dangerous contenders Drakkar Klose, Dan Hooker and Nasrat Haqparast. Though he got back on track by beating Joe Duffy and Lando Vannata, he enters Saturday’s bout having lost his last two.
“Bonecrusher” will enjoy a four-inch reach advantage despite being the shorter of the two by an inch.
Viacheslav Borshchev (6-1) punched his ticket to the world’s largest mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion by poleaxing unbeaten Chris Duncan on Contender Series. “Slava Claus” was similarly effective in his UFC debut, which saw him fold Dakota Bush with a bonus-winning liver shot late in the first round.
All but one of his professional victories have come via (technical) knockout.
It’s probably still too early to write off the 29-year-old Diakiese, but it’s clear he’s peaked well below where we thought he would. The top-notch athleticism, legitimate power and sneaky wrestling at his disposal still haven’t coalesced into a consistently effective game.
That’s not to say he’s totally doomed here because those evil low kicks of his have defused strong strikers in the past and his wrestling is legit. Either one could trip up the still-inexperienced Borshchev. More likely, though, Borshchev’s superior technical striking and excellent ability to get back to his feet keep Diakiese on the defense for the full 15 minutes.
Prediction: Borshchev via unanimous decision
135 lbs.: Sara McMann vs. Karol Rosa
Undaunted by a 1-3 slump, Sara McMann (12-6) fought her way back into contention by defeating her next three foes. She now sits at 1-3 since 2017, however, most recently suffering a comeback submission loss to Julianna Pena.
This will be her first fight in 14 months due to injury.
Brazil’s Karol Rosa (15-3) kicked off her UFC tenure with a war against Lara Procopio, which saw her claim a split decision in her first trip to the judges in more than three years. Assorted issues have held her to just three appearances in the 2.5 years since, though she’s won via unanimous decision each time out.
She’s the younger of the two by 14 years and sports a one-inch reach advantage.
What’s so frustrating about picking a McMann fight is that she clearly can beat just about any Bantamweight on the planet ... even in her 40s. Outside of her bouts with Ronda Rousey and Amanda Nunes, she never gets dominated — she’s always winning until she suddenly isn’t.
I like her chances here better than the bookies do because Rosa isn’t a submission threat, but I simply cannot trust a fighter this prone to implosion. While it wouldn’t be surprising to see McMann wrestle her into the dirt, her inability to consistently execute has me leaning toward Rosa’s high-volume offense.
Prediction: Rosa via unanimous decision
Weird bout order or no, UFC Columbus has a lot of potential. See you Saturday, Maniacs.
Current UFC “Prelims” Prediction Record for 2022: 41-18
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Columbus fight card right here, starting with the ESPN/ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance (also on ESPN/ESPN+) at 7 p.m. ET.
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