The UFC Columbus preliminary card is in the books and there was plenty to like. Luis Saldana edged past Bruno Souza to kick off the event, Matheus Nicolau ended David Dvorak’s 16-fight winning streak, Manon Fiorot maintained her perfect UFC record with a win over one-time women’s flyweight title challenger Jennifer Maia, Aliaskhab Khizriev had a successful UFC debut over short notice opponent Denis Tiuliulin, Chris Gutierrez finished Danaa Batgerel in style, and former women’s bantamweight title challenger Sara McMann fended off a late comeback from Karol Rosa to win on the scorecards. Here’s how the fights played out.
Sara McMann def. Karol Rosa by unanimous decision (29-28 x3) - Women’s Bantamweights
The former Olympic silver medalist McMann grabbed a kick and took Rosa down, eventually getting to half guard. McMann threatened an Americana but didn’t get it. Nevertheless staying on top provided Rosa zero chance to work her striking. Instead McMann landed a couple of short elbows and punches to remain busy and clinch the round.
McMann’s pronounced wrestling advantage continued to be on full display in round two. She took the Brazilian down for a second time and spent almost the entire rest of the round getting controlled while the crowd booed. McMann went for the armbar in the closing minute of the frame but was unable to get the submission.
Rosa needed to take a chance to win and she did what her corner told her to do. The good news is she got in a flying knee and landed a two-punch combo. The bad news is she ultimately got taken down again. Rosa got to her feet only to be thrown back down while in a head lock. Again Rosa returned to standing but the 41-year-old McMann had the body lock. A beautiful transition saw Rosa get on top and start throwing punches but McMann responded with upkicks. No doubt Rosa needed a finish to win but she couldn’t get it on the ground. McMann got to her feet and searched for a single, changed to a double, and Rosa landed a bunch of elbows. Sara had a front headlock to close out the contest. Valiant effort by Rosa in the 3rd but McMann gets the W.
Chris Gutierrez def. Danaa Batgerel by TKO (spinning backfist and strikes) at 2:34 of round 2 - Men’s Bantamweights
As you might expect, Gutierrez wasted no time attacking the legs of the Mongolian with his vaunted leg kicks. On the flip side, the feared right hand of Batgerel staggered Gutierrez and another one tagged him square in the face. Success for Batgerel landing that right hand proved to be infrequent in round one, but his best moment came on the mat. After a failed spin by Gutierrez, Batgerel completed a powerful takedown and he landed several huge left hands on the ground to seal the round in his favor.
Gutierrez continued to peck away at Danaa’s legs with kicks and he showcased good head movement and footwork to avoid the Batgerel bombs. A left hand from southpaw and a low kick scored for Gutierrez. If the spinning attack by Gutierrez backfired in round one, the spinning backfist he threw in round two ended the fight. A perfect thudding blow that put Batgerel down and then extra elbows clinched an emphatic win.
Aliaskhab Khizriev def. Denis Tiuliulin by submission (rear-naked choke) at 1:58 of round 2 - Middleweights
Both men jarred each other with hard punches inside the opening 30 seconds. Khizriev hit a single leg to put Tiuliulin on the seat of his pants. Khizriev got in several head shots on the ground. Khizriev tried to take the back but Tiuliulin did everything he could to fend that off. Sure enough Tiuliulin went back to his feet with just over 90 seconds left in the opening round. The two Russians started slugging it out for a bit and then Khizriev saw a double leg stuffed via sprawl. Tiuliulin tried his own takedown for some reason and that failed. Khizriev got in a few more shots to end a fun round.
Khizriev got in a jump knee to the chest to start round two. The second takedown for Khizriev spelled the end of the fight. He got the back, both hooks in, and it was time to say good night after he locked in the rear-naked choke. A debut win for Khizriev against his fellow countryman.
Manon Fiorot def. Jennifer Maia by unanimous decision (30-27 x3) - Women’s Flyweights
Fiorot threw some side kicks in the early stages against the former title challenger. She largely worked on the outside as was expected given her height and reach advantage. Maia got the Frenchwoman with a quality left hand. Back came Fiorot with that piston-like straight left from the southpaw stance. Maia closed the distance on Fiorot but couldn’t do anything with the clinch but got in an elbow on the exit. Fiorot’s kicks continued to be effective against the Brazilian, particularly to the legs and body. A high kick from Maia seemingly caught Fiorot off guard and she curiously opted for a takedown attempt. Maia stuffed it and Fiorot broke the clinch.
An awesome hip toss from Fiorot put Maia on her back and Fiorot made sure she couldn’t scramble to the top. Maia attacked a leglock but Fiorot did well to escape and get back to her feet. Jennifer’s turn to get the takedown but Maia rushed trying to get the hooks in and wound up on her back again. Manon spent a short time in guard before voluntarily standing back up. The side kick success continued for Fiorot and she even changed levels for another takedown. On the way up Maia rocked Fiorot with a head kick but didn’t knock her down. Fiorot returned to throwing kicks and right hooks to see out round two.
Maia shot in for a takedown in the final round but to no avail. Fiorot continued to work off the counter as Maia showed her willingness to pressure. Maia just about had a takedown but Fiorot showcased her strength and got back to her feet. The striking edge was Fiorot’s but it was not a total blowout given some of the power strikes Maia landed, including a body kick with about 90 seconds to go. In the end Fiorot maintained her perfect record and notcher her biggest win to date.
Matheus Nicolau def. David Dvorak by unanimous decision (29-28 x3) - Men’s Flyweights
No one threw a strike for the first two minutes... it was not good to watch. Dvorak got in a right hand with Nicolau backed up against the fence. Nicolau finally landed something of consequence in the form of a counter left with just over a minute left in the opening round. Just a dreadful first frame.
A calf kick stumbled Nicolau a half-minute into round two. Dvorak had the slightly more effective offense but neither man was throwing much, as was the pattern for this fight. A right hand by Nicolau momentarily stunned Dvorak, and for some reason Nicolau didn’t feel the need to pounce with anything more. However, a left hook cracked Dvorak at the top of the forehead and sent him down. He pursued him to the ground but couldn’t get the finish. Massive elbows did bust Dvorak’s nose.
Dvorak got clipped with a left hook again and took a backwards step and it looked as if he hadn’t really recovered from that late 2nd round knockdown. An effort to get a waist lock by Dvorak failed and he couldn’t get the Brazilian on the mat. Finally Dvorak got the bout to the ground but ht was in some trouble as Nicolau threatened with a leglock. Dvorak escaped as the kneebar wasn’t locked in, and he wound up on top but didn’t do much offensively.
Luis Saldaña def. Bruno Souza by unanimous decision (29-28 x3) - Featherweights
Souza spent much of the opening round on the front foot while Saldana was content to throw leg kicks and counter off the jab. The big shots Souza looked to throw were overhand rights and he cracked Saldana with one of them. Saldana got in a clever level change and takedown and tried to spin to the back. He couldn’t get it but he kneed Souza to the body on his way up. Saldana got in one more takedown to end the round.
Round two saw Souza come out aggressively and he threw some leg kicks in response. The ease at which Saldana was able to get takedowns continued to be a problem for Bruno. He was high on the back almost in a triangle choke position before Souza scrambled. Saldana let him go without a knee on this occasion. Souza connected on a flying knee but not flush. He followed up later with a left hook. Souza’s relentless pressure appeared to be tiring Saldana and he definitely had the better of the exchanges in this round.
The theme of Souza advancing and being the busier fighter continued into the final round and he was going to the body in a further attempt to slow Saldana down. Both men had their output wane somewhat although that didn’t stop Saldana from throwing a spinning backfist that almost caused himself to fall over. Saldana had a kick caught and Souza took him to the ground but bailed before Saldana could attempt a submission. As he egged on the fans to cheer and Souza to go to war with him Saldana started tagging Souza with some heavier shots including a head kick. Then seconds after he put his hands on his knees, Souza drilled Saldana with a right hand. They traded elbows in the clinch before the horn sounded in what was the closest round of the contest. All three judges gave Saldana the 3rd round and that proved decisive.