On Saturday, the MMA world leader returned to Ohio for the first time in 13 years with UFC Columbus. The March 26 event was headlined by a major matchup in the heavyweight division when fourth-ranked fighter Curtis Blaydes battled ninth-ranked talent Chris Daukaus.
The ESPN card also featured fast-rising women’s flyweight Manon Fiorot, a bout built for mayhem between Matt Brown and Bryan Barberena, and the return of Octagon stalwarts Alexa Grasso, Kai Kara-France, and Aleksei Oleinik.
Let’s take a look at which fighters had big wins, and those that suffered crushing defeats, inside the Nationwide Arena.
UFC Columbus winner: Curtis Blaydes
Curtis Blaydes had everything to lose in his matchup with Chris Daukaus on Saturday night. He was a big favorite and a much higher-ranked fighter. A loss here could have very well pushed back his title fight aspirations to 2023 at best. However, he once again maintained his place as an elite heavyweight and kept his name in the hunt for a championship fight this year.
What made his second-round TKO victory all the more impressive, was the fighter known for his wrestling stunned and finished an opponent that was supposed to be a much better striker. And did it all without one takedown attempt at UFC Columbus.
UFC Columbus loser: Chris Daukaus
Daukaus had the chance to immediately erase the failures of his first fight with a top-five talent by getting another crack against a top-shelf big man in Blaydes. Unfortunately, just like his loss to Derrick Lewis in December, the Philly native was damaged on the feet and finished soon after on the mat. In just two fights he has gone from a fighter with real title contender potential, to an unabashed pretender in 2022.
Winner and Loser: Matt Brown
Ohio native Matt Brown was one of the biggest crowd favorites at UFC Columbus. And in typical “Immortal” fashion he was a part of an absolute dog fight the Ohio fans in attendance will never forget. His brawl with Bryan Barberena will likely be on “fight of the year” lists in December, but unfortunately for Brown, he ended up on the wrong side of the fight’s final decision. March 26, 2022, will be a bittersweet memory for the 41-year-old.
Winner: Kai Kara-France
Askar Askarov seemed prime to earn a flyweight title shot in 2022. He was unbeaten in four UFC appearances and had wins over elite fighters like Joseph Benavidez and Alexandre Pantoja. That is until Kai Kara-France.
The New Zealander was able to stuff the Russian’s outstanding wrestling and batter him at times on the feet. Kara-France’s unanimous decision victory over Askraov comes on the heels of a landmark knockout win over Cody Garbrandt in December. “Don’t Blink” is one of the hottest fighters in the division and is likely one win away from a title fight opportunity.
Loser and Winner: Neil Magny
Neil Magny beat Max Griffin and had a strong third round to do so at UFC Columbus. That deserves respect and credit. However, as a top 10 fighter who was a sizable favorite over an unranked foe, the bout was much closer than it ever should have been. Magny seemed sluggish at times and was legitimately hurt on a couple of occasions during the fight.
“The Haitian Sensation” has always been a fighter that always seemed just a level below the best in the division. This performance didn’t help in changing that narrative.
Winner: Marc Diakese
Diakese’s win on Saturday night won’t go down as one of his most memorable, but it was likely his most meaningful. He is known for his athleticism and striking completely, but he outwrestled Viacheslav Borschev in their fight. It was a stunning strategy that ended up being brilliant as the Englishman channeled Khabib Nurmagomedov in his dominant win. He showed for the first time in the UFC that he has more than one dimension.
Loser: Viacheslav Borshchev
Viacheslav Borshchev left Russia and went to Team Alpha Male in California to improve his wrestling deficiencies. It looks like he still has a lot to learn. It is one thing to be out grappled by one of the best specialists in the division. It is another to have that happen to a fighter not at all know for stifling wrestling. It was a nightmarish Octagon return for the 30-year-old and one he’ll try to forget.
Winner: Manon Fiorot
Thirteenth-ranked women’s flyweight Manon Fiorot was originally scheduled to face tenth-ranked Jessica Eye. However, Eye was unable to make the date and instead “The Beast” drew fourth-ranked former title challenger Jennifer Maia. While her win at UFC Columbus wasn’t flawless, beating a top-five fighter after just 10 pro fights is extremely impressive.
Fiorot could very well land in the top five of the division next week, and with her ninth straight win in hand, she is likely one more big victory away from landing a championship opportunity at 125-pounds by the end of the year.
Loser: Batgerel Danaa
Batgerel Danaa will leave UFC Columbus learning a valuable lesson. A fighter needs to have some wrinkles and variations in their attack the higher up the UFC ladder they go. The Mongolian entered his fight with Chris Gutierrez as a betting favorite and had oddsmakers looking smart early on because his pressure was giving his opponent trouble and Gutierrez didn’t have an out when it came to wrestling.
However, the Factory X product adjusted to the pressure and made an adjustment. That came in the form of a nasty fight-ending spinning back fist in the second round. The TKO loss for Danaa halts all his momentum and ends a hot streak of three straight victories by TKO.