Photo Credit: Josh Hedges of Zuffa LLC
*This was originally posted March 27, 2022*
After coming off a potential card of the year in London, Columbus didn’t quite bring the same level of excitement, BUT it was still a night with some highlight reel performances. Blaydes capped off the night with an impressive finish over Chris Daukaus, Alexa Grasso got the first submission win of her career and Chris Gutierrez SMOKED Danaa with a spinning backfist. We also saw two incredible fights that made it all the way to the final bell; Kai Kara-France got a HUGE upset win over Askar Askarov and Matt Brown and Bryan Barberena had a blood-filled brawl to win BLÜ’s Brawl of the Night. All of the bouts from UFC Columbus are covered below along with BLÜ’s favourite performances of the night: the BLÜ BONUSES.
Luis Saldaña def. Bruno Souza by Unanimous Decision
Only the first fight of the night and these guys were already trying to put on a show! The fight started off with some great striking from both sides; the one difference came from Saldana who started to throw in some takedowns to try and steal the momentum and the decision. Despite the takedowns, it was tough to see who was edging ahead on the cards after the 2nd Round. Souza was walking forward and had the striking numbers, but Saldaña was landing some takedowns to throw off his momentum. If it were me scoring this fight, I’d have been 1-1 going into the final round. In the third it was dead even; both guys were trying to give some last minute offence to try and sway the judges. Interestingly, it may have been Saldaña’s showmanship to put him ahead on my card to win the fight. The judges ended up seeing it the same way and gave it 29-28 to Luis Saldaña.
BLÜ’s Prelim. Pick #1
David Dvorak vs. Matheus Nicolau
It was early in the card but we already had a clash between two explosive, ranked flyweight contenders. Dvorak was ranked 10th leading up to this fight after going 3-0 in his first three fights here in the UFC. After getting kicked from the UFC in 2019, Nicolau came back last year and beat Kape and Elliott to rise into 7th in the division. As far as ranked fights go, this was intriguing because both only had a couple of fights in the UFC. Dvorak was on a 16 fight win streak, but again, only three of those had been in the UFC and none of them over someone who is currently ranked. Nicolau, on other hand, only had two wins since his UFC return last year, but they were over the fiery, currently ranked contenders Manel Kape and Tim Elliott. This seemed like it’d be an extremely close and entertaining three-round slugfest that could head either way. Physically speaking and in terms of their records, they were essentially identical. The only difference came down to the people they had fought in the UFC. While Dvorak hadn’t competed against anyone noteworthy, Nicolau’s recent wins came over the veteran Elliott and the young, rising Manel Kape. Thanks to that edge in competition, I gave the slight edge to Nicolau.
Nicolau by Decision
The crowd was restless in this one! There were only about 10 strikes thrown by each man in the 1st Round and the crowd was booing the entire time. With that little action it’s hard to tell who won the round; either Nicolau stole it with a couple of bigger shots or Dvorak took it with forward pressure. In the second, they started to wake up a little more but it was still dead even… until Nicolau landed a BOMB to drop Dvorak on his back and busted open his nose with an elbow on the ground. After taking that momentum at the end of the 2nd Round, Nicolau opened up the final round by stumbling Dvorak again and landing some good combos throughout the first part of the round. He found himself in a bit of trouble after Dvorak got a sneaky takedown to end the last half of the final round on his back. With that close of a fight, it’s impossible to say how the judges would score it, but I probably would’ve said 29-28 for Nicolau. The judges ended up agreeing and all gave it 29-28 to Matheus Nicolau.
Matheus Nicolau def. David Dvorak by Unanimous Decision
After this one, Nicolau has beaten 3 ranked opponents in a row: Kape, Elliott and now Dvorak. After this, you have to believe he’ll be granted his wish to fight someone in the top 5. After tonight, Askarov could make sense, maybe even Pantoja, but I think he’d have a much better chance against Royval or Perez. The thing is, he has the potential to be someone like Moreno or Figgy, but he seems hesitant to let himself loose. Whenever he let loose, he was tearing Dvorak apart in every department… but he chose instead to cruise through each round and BARELY squeak through a decision win. If he can let that go, I think he could easily compete for a title soon. As for Dvorak, he still looked good; someone like Kape or Ulanbekov, someone on their way up would make the most sense.
BLÜ’s Prelim. Pick #2
Jennifer Maia vs. Manon Fiorot
It was still early in the night but we had ANOTHER ranked fight, this time with the flyweight women. Just like the flyweight men before them, this seemed like another extremely close one. Maia is a veteran of the UFC, fighting the most dangerous contenders since 2018. She’s beaten the likes of Modaferri, Wood and Eye. Although she’s had a few losses here, they’ve all been by decision to the toughest women in the division; this includes Chookagian TWICE and the champ, Valentina Shevchenko. Fiorot is much newer after joining the UFC just last year. Although she may be new, her record speaks for itself; she’s 8-1 with three wins in the UFC, all in her rookie year of 2021. The odds were VERY much in favour of Fiorot before the fight, likely due to her record, but I thought people were overlooking the fact that Maia had only lost to the champ and the number two contender since 2019. Maia’s last performance was earlier this year against Chookagian. If you go back and read my analysis of that fight, I distinctly remember saying that Chookagian looked okay… but nowhere near good enough to beat Shevchenko or Andrade and that Maia didn’t really do much to threaten her. Fiorot didn’t have the experience going into this one, but she had the momentum and the hunger to make a move towards a title shot. I figured it’d be close and could go either way, but I leaned towards Fiorot.
Fiorot by Decision
One thing that was immediately obvious was the size advantage that Fiorot had over Maia; she didn’t just look taller and longer, she also just looked bigger and somehow still may have had a speed advantage. Even though Fiorot had the fairly obvious striking advantage going into this fight, Maia was still doing some great work, landing some big shots on Fiorot. Interestingly, to open up the 2nd Round, Fiorot went in and completed a WILD judo throw to get on top of Maia. This strategy almost ended her night early though after Maia grabbed her leg and started to work for a submission. Amazingly, she got out of that, was taken down for the first time in her UFC career and somehow still ended up on top of Maia. Then it was Maia who landed a huge strike as she threw up a HUGE head kick right after standing up. The final round was just as even as the other two rounds, but it just seemed like Fiorot had edged ahead on the cards each round with that extra bit of activity and control time. In the end, the judges all saw it 30-27 for the rising French contender Manon Fiorot.
Manon Fiorot def. Jennifer Maia by Unanimous Decision
There’s no doubt that there’s something special about Manon Fiorot. Maia is one of the few fighters that have been able to even remotely challenge Valentina in any regard. Even though she’s a kickboxer, she managed to stuff most of Maia’s takedowns, get back up when she got taken down and even managed to land some HUGE takedowns of her own. Not only that, she outstruck Maia by a decent amount on all 3 levels (head, body and legs). She asked for Chookagian next and I can’t think of a better opponent other than perhaps Andrade. If she can get past her, there’s nobody left but the champ herself.
Aliaskhab Khizriev def. Denis Tiuliulin by Submission in the 2nd Round
It took Khizriev a minute and he got SMOKED in the process, but he got the takedown he wanted and started getting his ground work going. He never got a good submission attempt going, but Khizriev still spent over half the round in top position, smothering Denis. That was likely enough to take the round, but Tiuliulin made it interesting after landing some BIG shots, possibly stumbling Khizriev. After a bit of striking to open the 2nd Round, Khizriev got the fight to the ground. It was all over after that as he took Denis’ back and snuck his arm around the neck to get the submission in his UFC debut.
Chris Gutierrez def. Batgerel Danaa by TKO in the 2nd Round
Yhe fight started off dead even with both men landing their own combos. Gutierrez was doing well with his kicks, shredding apart Danaa’s calf. Meanwhile, Batgerel was using his edge in power to stun Chris. At the end of the round, Danaa likely stole it on the cards with a late takedown and some HUGE ground and pound. The fight continued to be even into the 2nd Round, but then out of absolutely nowhere, Gutierrez threw a WILD spinning backfist to drop Danaa to the ground and finished him with some quick ground and pound for a TKO win.
BLÜ’s Prelim. Pick #3
Sara McMann vs. Karol Rosa
Here we had yet another fight between two ranked women, this time in the bantamweight division. McMann was ranked 9th leading into the weekend after a loss to the current champ, Julianna Peña. She’s been in the UFC since 2013, but has had quite the shaky record, sitting at 6-6. Rosa is much younger and newer to the UFC, sitting at 4-0 here since she joined in 2019. She didn’t have the experience compared to McMann, but with a record of 15-3 at the age of 27, she’s got an impressive run going. On paper, this was another tight matchup, but I said this may be a case of the young, rising contender overtaking the seasoned veteran. Being that she’s 14 years younger, has the more impressive record at 15-3 and hasn’t lost in the UFC, I leaned towards Karol Rosa.
Rosa by Decision
Right from the start, McMann showed everyone how she’s been able to compete against the top women in UFC history as she took Rosa down and smothered her for the better part of the round. Rosa started the next round keeping Sara back, but eventually McMann got another takedown and stayed on Karol’s back for most of the round. It looked as though McMann was just going to keep the position and cruise until the end of the round, but she actually almost ended the fight with a fairly significant armbar attempt. Knowing she lost those two rounds, Rosa RAN straight at McMann and landed some pretty big shots that had her a little bit worried. Sadly, that led to McMann getting another takedown and more wrestling dominance. Rosa managed to switch the position and started landing some BRUTAL ground and pound, but it still just wasn’t enough; in the end it was a clear 29-28 win for McMann.
Sara McMann def. Karol Rosa by Unanimous Decision
Main Card Action
Marc Diakiese vs. Viacheslav Borshchev
Opening up the main card was an interesting one between one the most promising rookies of the year so far, Borshchev, and the veteran Diakiese who’s been here since 2016. Diakiese came into the UFC with a 9-0 record but has since fallen to 14-5 with two losses in his last two fights. He’s never been finished by KO/TKO but has 2 submission losses and has struggled against high level strikers like Fiziev. As I just said, Borshchev, also known as ‘Slava Claus’ is in his rookie year and was a contender for my Rookie of the Month BLÜ Bonus in January after he got a devastating body shot TKO in his debut. In 5 of his 6 wins he’s ended by KO/TKO; needless to say, he’s got power and technique on his side. It may have been close on paper because of their experience, but if you’ve seen ‘Slava Claus’, he’s got something special about him. Not too many people can claim they have a body shot TKO in the UFC, especially in their rookie year. Diakiese had a slight 4 inch edge in reach, but I just thought ‘Slava’ was more skilled and that he should have been able to dominate Marc to win a decision with relative ease or even give him his first TKO loss.BLÜ’s Prediction
Borshchev by Finish
10 seconds into this fight and the strategy for Diakiese was clear; he jumped in, pushed Borshchev to the fence and fought for takedowns. It took him a while and he got hit pretty bad a couple of times, but Marc finally ended up dragging ‘Slava’ down there. Although he never really got too much going on the ground, Diakiese clearly won the first after notching a couple of takedowns and keeping ‘Slava’ there for the last part of the round. In the second, Marc dragged him down to the ground much earlier and dominated him even more than the opening round. In fact, at this point, Diakiese was so dominant he may have snagged a 10-8 round in the second. It may not have made the audience happy, but Marc got the fight to the ground AGAIN right at the start of the final round, smothered ‘Slava’ some more and cruised to an easy decision win.
Marc Diakiese def. Viacheslav Borshchev by Unanimous Decision
Neil Magny vs. Max Griffin
Closing out the prelims was the perennial ranked contender Neil Magny defending his 9th spot against a dangerous rising contender in Max Griffin. Magny is very well known to UFC audiences at this point after competing on the Ultimate Fighter all the way back in 2012. Since entering the UFC at a record of 7-1, he landed at an incredible record of 25-8 leading into this one. Amazingly, since the start of 2020 he’s fought 5 times with a record of 4-1. These include wins over impressive fighters like Li, Lawler and Neal and a loss to Chiesa. This man is a decision machine, controlling all of his recent opponents with overwhelming grappling. Griffin has also been entertaining UFC fans for a while since his debut in 2016 against none other than Colby Covington. He may have been on a 3 fight win streak going into this matchup, but before that he struggled with a record of 3-6 here. Incredibly, the last 10 of those have ended in a decision. Both men almost exclusively end their fights in decisions, the question was… who was going to edge the decision. Although I figured Griffin would put up a decent fight, I said Magny would be able to control Griffin’s offence with his grappling and use his extreme length to land while he’s at a distance.
Magny by Decision
The fight started off just as even as expected, but took a turn after Griffin landed a BOMB that dropped Magny. The 2nd Round was just as close with both men trading back and forth. Finally, about halfway through the round, Magny really started to put some things together, land some crisp combos and even got some clinch control time along the fence. After it seemed as though it was 1-1 heading into the final round, both men came into it with everything they had left. Thanks to his wealth of experience and his stamina though, Magny was shutting down most of Griffin’s offence with some clinch along the fence and down on the ground. Griffin managed to slip out of his control for a few seconds here and there, but it was still a VERY dominant round from Magny that could have even been a 10-8 round. In the end, the judges saw it 29-28, 28-29 and 29-28 for Magny.
Neil Magny def. Max Griffin by Split Decision
Askar Askarov vs. Kai Kara-France
This was the top matchup of the night for me; we had an undefeated, 2nd ranked contender on one side and one of the most exciting young contenders on the other. Askarov was only 4 fights into his UFC career before this bout and hadn’t fought for a year. The craziest part is that in those 4 fights he had beaten Benavidez, Pantoja and Elliott and had a draw with Moreno. Kai isn’t undefeated, but he had a decent record with six wins and two losses in the UFC before this fight. Of course, most recently, he made highlight reels after finishing Garbrandt in the 1st Round of his last fight. This matchup wasn’t just exciting because they’re both incredibly skilled; it was exciting because either man could have won this AND this seemed like it would determine who would fight for the belt next. Immediately, the edge was likely in favour of the undefeated Askarov; he hadn’t lost and he’d fought some of the best in the division. What made it interesting though was that since Askarov had his last fight, Kai had won himself two 1st Round TKO wins and seemed to be rapidly improving. In spite of that, I still had to go with the undefeated man who seemed to be more well-rounded: Askar Askarov.
Askarov by Decision
The men took their time getting the offence started, but Kara-France made the first move, opening up a small cut below the eye of Askar. After that though, Askar used his dominant wrestling to get Kai to the ground and smother him the entire round, threaten him with submission after submission, almost finishing him more than once. Askar tried to get his wrestling going in the second round but ended up walking into some wild standup from KKF. Then, Kai started to steal the momentum, landing crisp combos and BIG strikes, stumbling Askarov more than once. It was a clear 1-1 score going into the final round and Askar wanted to control the round right from the start. He was doing some amazing work along the fence but KKF ended up getting out of it. The rest of the fight we saw some electric striking from both men, capped off by some late clinchwork from Askar. It was close but I scored it a fairly clear 29-28 for Askarov. Perhaps thanks to his striking in the final round, the judges all disagreed and gave KKF the decision 29-28.
Kai Kara-France def. Askar Askarov by Unanimous Decision
Going into this fight, it seemed as though Askarov was the clear choice for the next title shot aside from possibly Pantoja. Although I may believe Askarov edged ahead in the decision, I don’t think it was a robbery; it was close enough that KKF earned a win. If that’s the case, logically then, he should get the next title shot OR Pantoja. As for Askarov, he’s still clearly one of the top contenders in the division. If KKF gets the title shot, why not have a rematch between him and Pantoja to see who gets the shot after that. I also mentioned earlier in this article Nicolau’s potential: this would also make sense.
Matt Brown vs. Bryan Barberena
In this matchup we had two men that are among some of the most active fighters in the UFC and have been around for years. Matt Brown has been entertaining for over a decade now after joining the UFC following the Ultimate fighter season 7 in 2008. At one point, Brown was on a 7 fight win streak; sadly, he went down to a record of 4-7 in his last 11 bouts leading up to this one. Barberena has been around for almost a decade himself with an up-and-down record since he joined the UFC in 2014. It seemed like we were in store for yet another coin toss. With both men struggling to put wins together against anyone impressive, either man could have had a good night here and taken the win. The only difference that I saw was that Brown had been collecting some finishes recently while Barberena had either been winning by decision or getting knocked out in the process. If that trend continued, there was a decent chance that Brown could have finished Barberena. To give him another slight edge, Brown also had a small 4 inch edge in reach.
Brown by Finish
It was a tight striking matchup to start with both men getting some shots off, but the fight switched after Brown dragged Barberena to the ground and pushed him along the fence. From there though, it may have been Bryan leading the striking, which may have stolen the round away. The second started the same way with Barberena landing some decent combos and Brown stealing the momentum by dragging him to the ground. After doing fairly well on the ground, Barberena flipped the script, got back up and started landing some BIG shots on Brown. At this point, it could’ve been 1-1 or even really 2-0 in either direction depending on what the judges were looking at. Even though he seemed somewhat tired, Brown continued the same strategy as the other rounds, getting an early takedown and doing some decent work, cutting Bryan up and making the fight a little bloodier. From there, Brown got another takedown, but the rest of the action put this fight among one of the best of the year so far. Both men were exhausted, landing huge shots, stumbling each other and wobbling all over the place. It was a tight one, but it seemed as though Bryan had won 29-28 after just barely edging the final round. The judges were split, but two of them ended up agreeing with me and gave Bryan the win 29-28.
Bryan Barberena def. Matt Brown by Split Decision
Joanne Wood vs. Alexa Grasso
In the co-main tonight we had ANOTHER fight between two high-ranked women. This time it was the 7th ranked Joanne Wood, formerly known as Calderwood, facing off against the 9th ranked Grasso. Like many of the other fights on this card, this one seemed to be a coin toss. Wood has been around the UFC since joining the Ultimate Fighter season 20 all the way back in 2014. Since then she’s mostly been fighting the division’s toughest contenders and has about as many wins as losses here. Sadly, she hit a rough patch recently with two losses in a row last year: a 1st Round loss to Taila Santos and a close split decision loss to Lauren Murphy. Grasso is much younger but has also been in the UFC for a while after joining all the way back in 2016. She’s had a few losses as well, but her record stood at a respectable 13-3 going into this week after winning her last two to Ji Yeon Kim and Maycee Barber. The odds and the recent history of both women suggested that Grasso was an easy favourite. I thought it’d be a lot closer than those factors may suggest, but you couldn’t argue that Grasso seemed like an easier choice to make in this case. I chose Grasso, but there was no reason why Wood couldn’t put together something special and take a win.
Grasso by Decision
The ladies started off fast and furious for this one with Grasso showing the extra speed and precision in her striking. From there, Grasso managed to bring the fight to the ground and control Wood for a couple minutes, likely solidifying this round on the cards. She ended up letting her back up… but then quickly dragged Wood back to the ground again, took her back and it was all over. Grasso slipped her arm under the chin and got an amazing 1st Round submission win: the first of her career.
Alexa Grasso def. Joanne Wood by Submission in the 1st Round
After proving she’s dangerous on the ground now, she’s put herself in a position to fight someone in the top 5. We mentioned Fiorot taking Chookagian, we have Santos taking on Valentina, that only leaves Murphy and Maia. After tonight, Maia would make the most sense, especially considering the timing, but either would really put her to the test.
Curtis Blaydes vs. Chris Daukaus
Closing out the night was a thrilling bout between two of the top contenders in the heavyweight division. Blaydes has had one of the most impressive runs in recent heavyweight history going 10-3-1 since he joined in 2016. It should also be said that all 3 of those losses came by KO/TKO and that two of them actually came from the current champ, N’Gannou. Daukaus has also been impressive in the UFC with a record of 4-1; his last fight of course ending in a quick KO loss to Lewis in December. This was an intriguing matchup with Blaydes coming in as an extremely dangerous grappler with quite a few KO wins, while Daukaus was strictly a striker… but a very dangerous one. As I mentioned before Blaydes’ last fight with Rozenstruik, he made a simple mistake with Lewis and paid the price. He followed up that loss with a win over another knockout artist in Rozenstruik. To me, Rozenstruik and Daukaus are VERY similar, so I said that if Blaydes came in and executed the exact same strategy, he’d beat Daukaus in a decision or perhaps even getting some kind of finish.
Blaydes by Decision
As expected in a 5 round heavyweight fight, both men took it fairly slow early, but each had their own clear advantage. Blaydes had a clear power advantage, buckling Daukaus at one point, but Chris had the clear speed advantage. In the second it was over just as it started with Blaydes landing a HUGE one, dropping Daukaus to the ground and finishing him with some ground and pound.
Curtis Blaydes def. Chris Daukaus by TKO in the 2nd Round
The only thing this fight has shown us is that Daukaus doesn’t really belong with the top heavyweights and that Blaydes still belongs in the top 5. In the post fight press conference, Blaydes said it best: just because you weigh 240 pounds, doesn’t mean you should be competing at heavyweight. While Daukaus can compete with lower ranked heavyweights, if he moved down to light heavyweight, he could easily be in the top 5 with his level of power. As for Blaydes, he’s right that he deserves the top 3. He wants to get the interim title shot against Gane, but I still think the clear HUGE PPV fight is Aspinall and Gane in either London or Paris this year for an interim belt. Instead, I think Tuivasa or Stipe would make more sense for him. Tuivasa needs to be challenged by a more well-rounded fighter and Stipe needs another fight to get back in there before he fights again for a title.
BLÜ’s Record for the Night
Main Card: 3-3
KO of the Night: Chris Gutierrez
Sub. of the Night: Aliaskhab Khizriev
Brawl of the Night: Matt Brown vs. Bryan Barberena
Most Valuable Fighter
He came in a HUGE underdog against an undefeated Askar Askarov and, although he didn’t have the most dominant win, he gave Askar his first loss and survived some submission attempts from one of the most dangerous wrestlers in the division. After this one, he’s a clear title contender and has likely found himself in the number 2 or 3 position in the rankings.