Last night (Sat., March 26, 2022), Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) ventured to Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. Heavyweight action was the selling point in the main event between Curtis Blaydes and Chris Daukaus, but there were really some sneaky good fights throughout the night. Brown vs. Barberena promised action, Askarov vs. Kara-France had significant title implications, and even on the undercard, a Russian world kickboxing champ looked to continue his rise up the Lightweight ladder.
Let’s take a look at the best performances and techniques:
Since I wrote an entire article on Blaydes’ development, I’d like to focus on the defeated man here.
Chris Daukaus is in a difficult position. He has a jiu-jitsu black belt, but seeing as we never really see him wrestle, it’s hard to say it matters much. Instead, Daukaus is pretty much a straight up striker. Up until recently, that’s been enough, but the elite of Heavyweight is proving too large an obstacle.
To succeed consistently against the biggest and best as a striker, a fighter really needs to excel in at least one of the following areas. He can be insanely powerful (like Ngannou), incredibly durable (Tuivasa), or exceptionally skilled (Gane). Daukaus is solid enough in all three of those areas, but if that’s the max of his abilities, he’s found his ceiling.
Realistically, there are two potential paths forward for Daukaus. On one hand, he could try to mix up takedowns into his arsenal, which is a hard sell vs. Blaydes but could make an impact against other opponents. Alternatively, it may be time to diet down to Light Heavyweight and test the waters there.
Title Shot Secured?
Alexa Grasso may have earned herself a showdown vs. Valentina Shevchenko (or Taila Santos) later in the year. Since moving up to 125 lbs., Grasso has won three straight bouts. Her latest win was her best yet, as she really proved herself the superior fighter to Joanne Wood with the first-round rear naked choke win.
It was a very complete performance. Grasso was very prepared for Wood’s pressure early, moving fluidly around the cage and attacking in combination. When Wood kept advancing, Grasso pretty effortless switched strategies to score a takedown. Once the grappling match began, it only took a few minutes for Grasso to find the back and the neck.
This win is a statement, proof that Grasso has come such a long way since her early UFC career. I don’t know if anyone is ready for Shevchenko, but Grasso stands a better shot than most.
If it’s still too soon, fellow UFC Columbus winner Manon Fiorot would make a lot of sense.
Matt Brown vs. Bryan Barberena was the exact war that everyone hoped for. There were heavy trades of right hands, ripping body kicks, and of course, absolutely gnarly clinch violence from both men.
Each left the cage bloody and battered. It was very much up in the air as to who won the decision, as there were several momentum swings in every round. Ultimately, Barberena’s strong finish narrowly edged out Brown’s consistent pressure, but both men should be proud of their performance.
One bummer: why wasn’t Matt Brown given a chance to talk to his hometown crowd?
Kara-France Guts It Out
For about five minutes, Askar Askarov soundly ground Kai Kara-France into dust.
The Russian’s back mount appears a really unpleasant position. He locks in the body triangle and offers his opponent zero space. All the while, he’s landed hard elbows, constantly digging for the throat, and cracking on the face when it proves unavailable. It’s a taxing and miserable spot to be stuck, but Kara-France quickly forgot about all the time spent there.
In round two, Kara-France made a couple key adjustments. First and foremost, he started pressuring a bit more. Targeting the body also helped, as did throwing more in combination. Basically, Kara-France stopped reacting and started initiating his own offense, and low and behold, he started stunning Askarov and forcing bad shots.
The final round was the closest of the fight. Askarov briefly scored a takedown and some decent punches. Kara-France didn’t land anything quite as devastating as in the second, but he continued to push the pace and throw more than his opponent. Perhaps more fun than the striking exchanges were the grappling battles, which saw Kara-France defend expertly as Askarov dug into his deep bag of tricks.
At the end of a great fight, Kara-France successfully pulled off the comeback, resulting in a major upset and maybe even a title shot.
Max Griffin vs. Neil Magny was one of the most grueling scraps in recent memory.
Early on, it was all Griffin. He was chopping his opponent’s legs out from under him and catching Magny clean on the counter. Midway through the round, Griffin caught his opponent with a crisp right down the center as Magny was shifting stances, nearly finishing the contest then and there.
Instead, Magny persevered. As he often does, Magny really turned it up in the second half of the fight. He started pushing the pace hard in the second round, turning the fight into a real scrap. He still got his bell rung a few times, but at least Magny was landing at a good clip too. In the third round, Magny absolutely took over. He was finally able to force the fight into the clinch, where Magny is one of the most active workers in the business. It was constant knees, elbows, and takedowns; there was simply nowhere for Griffin to rest.
All the action added up to a split-decision win for Magny. Not only does Magny now hold the most decision wins in UFC history, but he’s now tied Georges St. Pierre for Welterweight victories.
Most of ‘em were hard fought battles like this, so major props to “The Haitian Sensation.”
If At First You Don’t Succeed ...
Chris Gutierrez improved to 6-0-1 last night vs. Danaa Batgerel, surely earning himself a ranked foe next in the process.
This was a really great clash of strikers! Gutierrez might have the most punishing calf kick at 135 lbs., and it was landing with good consistency early. Once he establishes the low kick, Gutierrez really builds from it nicely, feinting the kick then punching then returning with a heavy chop low.
Fortunately for fight fans, Batgerel didn’t just hang back and let his leg get destroyed. He pressured very heavily, firing in combination whenever Gutierrez’s back touched the fence and landing some stiff shots. When Gutierrez tried to spin near the end of the first, Batgerel slammed him on his head and let loose a huge flurry of ground strikes.
For Gutierrez, that instance of spinning s—t likely cost him the round. Rather than get deterred, he trusted his instincts, adjusted his timing, and tried again shortly into the second. This time, the spinning backfist connected flush, and Batgerel never saw it coming.
It’s still early, but that’s one of the best knockouts yet in 2022.
- Aliaskhab Khizriev defeats Denis Tiuliulin via second-round rear naked choke: What happens when an undefeated Russian champion faces off vs. a short-notice replacement? Shockingly, Khizriev largely handled his opponent in the wrestling department. Tiuliulin was game and fought hard, but he couldn’t keep up with “The Black Wolf” on the canvas. Khizriev requested permission to drop down to 170 pounds in his next bout, so he’s definitely one to watch after quickly strangling a pair of Middleweights.
For complete UFC Columbus: “Blaydes vs. Daukaus” results and play-by-play, click HERE!