Las Vegas – UFC returns to Columbus, Ohio for the first time in 13 years with a thrilling light heavyweight contenders’ battle that will see former champion and No. 1 ranked Jan Blachowicz take on surging No. 3 Aleksandar Rakic. In a clash of top flyweights, No. 2 ranked contender Askar Askarov faces No. 6 Kai Kara-France in a matchup with title implications.
This event will take place Saturday, March 26 from Nationwide Arena. The entire event will be available on ESPN and ESPN Deportes, as well as simulcast in English and Spanish on ESPN+, starting with the prelims at 4 p.m. ET / 1 p.m. PT. The main card will begin at 7 p.m. ET / 4 p.m. PT.
No. 14-ranked men’s pound-for-pound fighter Blachowicz (28-9) fighting out of Warsaw, Poland aims to kick off his 2022 campaign with another spectacular KO victory. During his UFC run, he has delivered memorable wins against Israel Adesanya, Dominick Reyes, and Luke Rockhold. Blachowicz now intends to defend his spot on the 205-pound ladder with a show-stealing performance and set himself up for another crack at the championship.
Rakic (14-2) fighting out of Vienna, Austria hopes to keep his momentum going following consecutive victories over former title challengers Thiago Santos and Anthony Smith. A well-rounded competitor with KO power, he has also secured notable stoppage victories over Jimi Manuwa and Devin Clark. Rakic now hopes to take out a former champion in an emphatic fashion and stake his claim for his first UFC title shot.
Undefeated Askarov (14-0-1) fighting out of Khasavyurt, Dagestan, Russia has wasted no time turning heads since joining the UFC roster in 2019. Following a split draw against now-champion Brandon Moreno, he has since netted impressive wins over Joseph Benavidez, Alexandre Pantoja, and Tim Elliott. Askarov is now gunning to earn his first UFC title opportunity with another dominant performance.
Kara-France (23-9 1NC) fighting out of Auckland, New Zealand is coming off a sensational KO victory against former bantamweight champion Cody Garbrandt last month. A heavy-handed striker, he holds thrilling victories over Rogerio Bontorin, Tyson Nam, and Raulian Paiva. Kara-France now looks for another highlight-reel finish to continue his ascent up the flyweight rankings.
MMA legend Matt Brown (25-8) fighting out of Columbus, Ohio looks to steal the show in front of his hometown fans when he faces Bryan Barberena (16-8) fighting out of Gastonia, N.C. by way of Knoxville, Tenn. in a welterweight bout guaranteed to deliver action.
No. 8 ranked women’s strawweight contender Michelle Waterson (18-9) fighting out of Albuquerque, N.M. squares off with No. 9 Amanda Ribas (11-2) fighting out of Varginha, Minas Gerais, Brazil. Nate Landwehr (14-5) fighting out of Clarksville, Tenn. locks horns with unbeaten Lerone Murphy (11-0-1) fighting out of Manchester, England in an intriguing featherweight bout.
No. 7 ranked women’s flyweight contender Joanne Wood (15-7) fighting out of Glasgow, Scotland battles No. 11 Alexa Grasso (13-3) fighting out of Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico. Tucker Lutz (12-2) fighting out of Baltimore, Md. takes on SeungWoo Choi (10-4) fighting out of Gangneung, South Korea) in a featherweight matchup.
No. 9 ranked women’s bantamweight contender Sara McMann (12-6) fighting out of Sacramento, Calif. meets No. 13 Karol Rosa (15-3) fighting out of Niteroi, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Rising bantamweight prospects collide when Montel Jackson (12-2) fighting out of Milwaukee, Wisc. faces Danaa Batgerel (10-2) fighting out of Erdenetsagaan, Sukhbaatar, Mongolia.
No. 8 ranked flyweight contender Matheus Nicolau (15-3-1) fighting out of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil takes on No. 10 David Dvorak (20-3) fighting out of Horice, Hradec Kralove, Czech Republic. Dana White’s Contender Series signee Aliaskhab Khizriev (13-0) fighting out of Makhachkala, Russia) squares off with Abus Magomedov (24-4-1) fighting out of Düsseldorf, Germany in a clash of debuting middleweights.
Roberto Villa is the CEO, Founder, Executive Writer, Senior Editor of FightBook MMA. Has a passion for Combat Sports and also a podcast host for Sitting Ringside. He’s also a former MMA fighter and Kickboxer.
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