Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is back stateside to stage UFC Columbus later TONIGHT (Sat., March 26, 2022) inside Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. Headlining the event is a Heavyweight showdown between Curtis Blaydes and Chris Daukaus. In the co-main event, Joanne Wood will face Alexa Grasso in women’s Flyweight action.
Tom Aspinall made a statement in the Heavyweight division last week, submitting Alexander Volkov in the first round at UFC London (see it here), so the pressure is now on Blaydes and Daukaus to do the same if they want to move into the championship picture themselves. Having spent the majority of his career at the top of the food chain, Blaydes has always come up just short of earning his first-ever shot at the title. Losses at the hands of Francis Ngannou (twice) and Derrick Lewis are the only ones on his record, so it goes to show you just how good “Razor” really is, so counting him out of the title picture isn’t smart. By taking out Daukaus, Blaydes could leap into the Top 3 and make the top just a bit more crowded. But, Daukaus is making moves of his own, too.
Just five fights deep into his UFC career, Daukaus has really made an impression so far thanks to four consecutive knockout wins (three in the first round). The former police officer came up short in the biggest fight of his career against the aforementioned Lewis in his last outing, so he is looking to bounce back in a big way by upsetting Blaydes. Ranked No. 9 at the moment, defeating “Razor” gets Daukaus closer to the Top 5, though I am not sure it breaks him in. Still, he needs a staple win to really stand out in a division that is pretty wide open. Blaydes will obviously try to utilize his wrestling to get the job done, while Daukaus will look to implement his striking attack early and often to get “Razor” off track. Expect this to be a long and grueling 25-minute war.
UFC matchmakers need to show Neil Magny a bit more love and get him off the “Prelims.” The man has been putting in work inside the Octagon for nearly a decade now and is always been pretty much in the Top 10. He will be facing Max Griffin in the featured bout of the undercard over a fight between Marc Diakiese and Viacheslav Borschev, and it just doesn’t sit right with me that they chose that fight over Magny and Griffin for the main card. I get that a lot of fighters don’t care, but Magny deserves a bit more shine.
Original Card Vs. Actual Card:
Chris Gutierrez stepped in to face Danaa Batgerel after Montel Jackson was forced out of the fight for undisclosed reasons. David Onama agreed to step in and face Nate Landwehr after Lerone Murphy was forced out of the fight. Weeks later, Ladweher was the one pulling out, prompting UFC officials to scrap the fight altogether.
Former Light Heavyweight champion, Jan Blachowicz, was set to headline the event against Aleksandar Rakic before he was forced out of the event with an unfortunate injury, allowing Blaydes and Daukaus to slide into the main event. Though details are still sketchy as to what exactly happened to Michelle Waterson, an emotional “Karate Hottie” announced her withdrawal from her scheduled bout against Amanda Ribas as a result of suffering a potential career-ending injury. But, things were not as devastating as initially thought since the bout was moved to UFC 274 in May.
Undefeated at 13-0, Aliaskhab Khizriev will finally get to make his UFC debut when he battles fellow newcomer Denis Tiuliulin in a Middleweight affair. Khizriev has a big knockout win over Rousimar Palahares, which made him champion in a little under a minute. That proves that the powerful wrestler doesn’t solely rely on his grappling to get the job done, because his knockout power is viable, as is his jiu-jitsu. Against Tiuliulin, he will be battling an experienced veteran who hasn’t been too consistent in the win department, going 9-5 with his longest win streak being three in a row in 2019. That said, when he does get to the winner’s circle, he gets there in impressive fashion having earned eight of his victories via knockout.
How The ‘Prelims’ Look:
Sara McMann is still chugging along after a near 10-year UFC career that has seen her get to the big dance just once, losing to Ronda Rousey in 2014 in the first round. She has picked up some nice wins since, but she hasn’t been too consistent thanks to big losses at the hands of Amanda Nunes and Miesha Tate. She is just 1-3 in her last four fights as she prepares to battle Karol Rosa, who is scorching hot with six straight wins, four under the UFC umbrella.
Jennifer Maia made it to a UFC title shot with an average 3-2 UFC record, but ultimately got dominated by division queen, Valentina Shevchenko, over the course of 25 minutes. She will look to get back in the win column following her loss to Katlyn Chookagian as she gears up to face Manon Fiorot in the first fight of her new UFC contract. As for Fiorot, she is on fire with eight straight wins and a victory over a former title contender moves her to 4-0 under the UFC banner and also gives her a huge bump in the rankings.
David Dvorak is one of the hottest 125-pounders in the game thanks to his 16-fight win streak. He is perfect (3-0) inside the Octagon and is currently ranked No. 10. The surging 29-year old wants to inch closer to the top and a win over Matheus Nicolau would be a step in the right direction. Nicolau has won four straight and is coming off a huge win over Tim Elliott.
After having his 10-fight win streak snapped in his UFC debut, Bruno Souza looks to right his ship when he takes on Luis Saldana in his sophomore UFC effort. Saldana is also coming off a tough loss at the hands Austin Lingo, so he, too, is hungry for a win after going unbeaten in the last four years after racking up five straight wins.
Who Needs A Win Badly:
We are going to go with two people this week because both Joanne Wood and Alksei Oleinik need wins here. Oleinik is currently riding a three-fight losing streak and is just 2-5 in his last seven fights inside the Octagon. With a lot of young blood making their way up the Heavyweight ranks, the window of opportunity is closing for Oleinik to make one last run, and things won’t get easier when he battles longtime veteran Ilir Latifi, who recently snapped his own three-fight skid with a huge win over Tanner Boser via split-decision.
Once considered a potential future title contender, Wood was really fallen on hard times, losing two in a row and three of her last four. Somehow, someway, she is still ranked No. 7, but another loss should take all of that way. She will be battling Alexa Grasso in the co-main event, who, despite winning two straight and three of four overall, is still two spots behind Wood.
Interest Level: 6.5/10
It’s a pretty decent card that should fulfill fight fans’ hunger for some good old face-punching action, especially when Matt Brown is on the card. The long-time veteran will make his return to action to fight in his home state and is coming off a huge knockout win over Dhiego Lima, putting an end to his two-fight losing streak. In facing Bryan Barberena, Brown will get a willing dance partner who loves a good old fashioned brawl. “Bam Bam” got back in the win column by defeating Darian Weeks in Dec. 2021, but is just 2-3 in his last five outings.
Also on the main card, top Flyweight contenders Askar Askarov and Kai Kara-France will collide in what should be a title eliminator fight, in my opinion. France is coming of two straight first-round knockout wins over Rogerio Bontorin and former Bantamweight champion, Cody Garbrandt. Ranked No. 6, France could make the leap into the Top 4 by taking out Askarov (No. 2), who is the owner of a highly-impressive 14-0-1 record, 3-0-1 inside the Octagon. With UFC deciding to book Deiveison Figueiredo versus Brandon Moreno for a fourth straight time, the winner of this fight could easily slide into the face the winner or fill the void should either of them not be able to make it to fight night.
Marc Diakiese came in red-hot to the Octagon with nine straight wins as the BAMMA Lightweight champion. He earned three straight wins to kick things off in his UFC career, two via knockout, but hasn’t looked the same since. He is just 2-5 over his last seven and is currently on a two-fight losing streak. One more could be disastrous for him as he gears up to face Viacheslav Borshchev, who is currently on a four-fight win streak, making good on his UFC debut earlier this year with a win over Dakota Bush.
Enjoy the fights!
UFC Columbus Main Event On ESPN/ESPN+:
265 lbs.: Curtis Blaydes vs. Chris Daukaus
UFC Columbus Main Card On ESPN/ESPN+ (7 p.m. ET):
125 lbs.: Alexa Grasso vs. Joanne Wood
170 lbs.: Matt Brown vs. Bryan Barberena
125 lbs.: Askar Askarov vs. Kai Kara-France
265 lbs.: Ilir Latifi vs. Aleksei Oleinik— CANCELED (details here)
155 lbs.: Marc Diakiese vs. Viacheslav Borshchev
170 lbs.: Neil Magny vs. Max Griffin
UFC Columbus Prelims Card On ESPN/ESPN+ (4 p.m. ET):
135 lbs.: Sara McMann vs. Karol Rosa
135 lbs.: Danaa Batgerel vs. Chris Gutierrez
185 lbs.: Aliaskhab Khizriev vs. Denis Tiuliulin
125 lbs.: Jennifer Maia vs. Manan Fiorot
125 lbs.: David Dvorak vs. Matheus Nicolau
145 lbs.: Luis Saldana vs. Bruno Souza
*Fight card, bout order and number of fights remain subject to change due to COVID-19.*
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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