Don’t just call Curtis Blaydes a wrestler. The man has power in his fists, too.
Longtime heavyweight contender Blaydes placed his trust in his striking in his main event bout with Chris Daukaus at UFC on ESPN 33 in Columbus, Ohio, and hit the jackpot with a second-round finish that should put him right in the thick of the title conversation at heavyweight.
Facing a man known for his stand-up, Blaydes opted not to use any of his wrestling as he kept matters exclusively restricted to the striking realm against Daukaus and, despite tasting a few shots from the former Philadelphia police officer, Blaydes unleashed power punches of his own as he dropped and finished his man in the opening seconds of the second round.
“I think I deserve an interim title shot against Gane,” said Blaydes, who staked his claim for a title fight in his next outing.
Current champion Francis Ngannou is out of action after recently undergoing surgery, the best of the rest of the heavyweight division are jockeying for position amid rumours of a possible interim title fight.
And, with former interim champ Gane in the mix, plus former undisputed champion Stipe Miocic, England’s Tom Aspinall and the prospect of former light heavyweight champ Jon Jones entering the fray, Blaydes made sure he put himself front and centre in any interim title conversation.
Grasso claims first career sub with Wood finish
In the co-main event, Mexican flyweight contender Alexa Grasso claimed one of the most important wins of her career with a first-round submission finish of Scotland’s Joanne Wood.
Grasso was happy to stand and strike with Wood, but also mixed in a few takedowns as she showed a more well-rounded attack. But she had never claimed a submission victory before, so it came as somewhat of a surprise when she took Wood’s back and locked up a rear-naked choke to force the tap with just over a minute remaining in the first round.
Grasso’s victory extends her win streak to three, with her victory over Wood joining decision wins over Maycee Barber and Ji Yeon Kim to position her perfectly for a run at the UFC women’s flyweight title currently held by Valentina Shevchenko.
Barberena edges Brown in all-out slugfest
Bryan “Bam Bam” Barberena and Columbus native Matt Brown went toe to toe and strike for strike through three of the most thrilling rounds of 2022 so far, but the Ohio crowd were left booing vociferously after the local hero was edged out on the scorecards.
Barberena took the best of Brown’s shots, and kept coming back for more. And, even though Brown was repeatedly successful with his takedowns, “Bam Bam” appeared to do more damage with his strikes when the fight was on the feet.
And, as the clock ticked down in the third round, both men emptied their respective gas tanks in a breathless finale that had the crowd on their feet and the commentary team in raptures.
Ultimately, it was Barberena who got the nod, with scores of 29-28, 28-29, 29-28, but both men contributed hugely to one of the most entertaining scraps of the year.
Kara-France puts himself in the title mix
New Zealand’s Kai Kara-France scored the biggest win of his career with a superb unanimous decision victory over No. 2-ranked flyweight contender Askar Askarov, then called for the winner of the expected fourth title clash between Deiveson Figueiredo and Brandon Moreno.
Kara-France fended off a spirited submission attack from Askarov in Round 1, then turned to his hands in Rounds 2 and 3 as he lit up the Russian contender while stuffing his rival’s takedown attempts.
The back-and-forth battle had the Columbus crowd on their feet as Kara-France fought his way back into the contest, then produced a strong performance in the final round to seal the unanimous decision victory with scores of 29-28 on all three scorecards.
And, after his win, Kara-France engaged the Ohio crowd in a little audience participation, before calling for a title shot later this year.
After that performance, it would seem incredibly harsh to deny him.
Magny equals GSP’s mark, calls out Chimaev
Welterweight veteran Neil Magny battled his way past Max Griffin to pick up a hard-earned split-decision victory, but his win was worth more than just another notch in his win record.
Magny’s performance, which saw him come back from a tough opening round to claim scores of 29-28, 28-29, 29-28 on the scorecards, also put Magny level on all-time welterweight wins with the great Georges St-Pierre.
And, after his victory, Magny used his post-fight interview to publicly call out the man he’s been calling to fight on social media for months, Khamzat Chimaev.
Diakiese goes back to basics
In the opening main card bout of the night, England’s Marc Diakiese turned to his wrestling skills to earn a shutout decision win on the scorecards after dominating Viacheslav Borshchev in their lightweight matchup.
The bout was expected to pit two natural strikers head to head in a stand-up war, but Diakiese had other ideas, as he effectively used his takedowns to completely shut down Borshchev’s game as he ground out a unanimous decision, with all three judges scoring the fight 30-27 for “The Bonecrusher.”
UFC on ESPN 33: Official Results
- Curtis Blaydes def. Chris Daukaus via TKO (punches) – Round 2, 0:17
- Alexa Grasso def. Joanne Wood via submission (rear-naked choke) – Round 1, 3:57
- Bryan Barberena def. Matt Brown via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
- Kai Kara-France def. Askar Askarov via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
- Neil Magny def. Max Griffin via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
- Marc Diakiese def. Viacheslav Borshchev via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
- Sara McMann def. Karol Rosa via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
- Chris Gutierrez def. Danaa Batgerel via TKO (spinning backfist and punches) – Round 2, 2:34
- Aliaskhab Khisriev def. Denis Tiuliulin via technical submission (rear-naked choke) – Round 2, 1:58
- Manon Fiorot def. Jennifer Maia via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
- Matheus Nicolau def. David Dvorak via unanimous decision (20-29, 29-28, 29-28)
- Luis Saldana def. Bruno Souza via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)