UFC on ESPN+ 63: Blaydes vs. Daukaus Preview

UFC’s “Fight Night” series will hit the road in the U.S. for the first time in more than a year this weekend. The promotion will present a 13-fight card on Saturday night when they head to the Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio, USA.

In the main event, heavyweight prospect Chris Daukaus will fight to bounce back from his sole UFC loss. That won’t be easy for him, as his opponent is veteran fighter Curtis Blaydes.

Here’s a full preview of the show.

Click here to skip to a preview of the main card.

Preliminary Card (4:00PM EDT) (ESPN+ / TSN Direct)

Bout 1: Luis Saldana (15-7) vs. Bruno Souza (10-2) (Featherweight)

Former LFA Featherweight Champion Bruno Souza will fight for his first UFC victory in the opening bout on the card when facing Luis Saldana.

Souza lost his UFC debut last year, stepping in on short notice and dropping a decision to Melsik Baghadasaryan. He had a long winning streak before then, including five wins in LFA.

Saldana is also coming off a loss, as Austin Lingo beat him in his most recent appearance. He won his previous UFC bout, defeating Jordan Griffin just a few months before.

Bout 2: David Dvorak (20-3) vs. Matheus Nicolau (17-2-1) (Flyweight)

Experienced flyweights David Dvorak and Matheus Nicolau will meet in the second fight of the evening.

Dvorak is one of the more underrated names at flyweight, as he has yet to lose since joining the promotion in 2020. His last fight came against short-notice opponent Juancamilo Ronderos, who he beat via submission last year.

Nicolau scored two wins in his return to UFC last year, defeating Manel Kape and Tim Elliott via decision.

Bout 3: Jennifer Maia (19-8-1) vs. Manon Fiorot (8-1) (Flyweight)

Rising flyweight Manon Fiorot will get a big test on Saturday night, facing Jennifer Maia in a flyweight fight.

Fiorot is riding the momentum of a strong 2021 that saw her score three wins in the UFC. Her last victory came in October 2021, defeating Mayra Bueno Silva via unanimous decision.

Maia is a big step-up in competition for Fiorot. Maia challenged for a UFC title just over a year ago, losing to Valentina Shevchenko. Since then she has beat Jessica Eye and lost to Katlyn Chookagian.

Bout 4: Aliaskhab Khizriev (13-0) vs. Denis Tiuliulin (10-5) (Middleweight)

Undefeated Aliaskhab Khizriev will get his long-awaited UFC debut on Saturday’s prelims.

Khizriev joined the UFC roster in 2020 after scoring a 50-second submission win against Henrique Shiguemoto on “Dana White’s Contender Series.” He has struggled to find a fight since then, with three different bookings last year falling through.

Tiuliulin is also making his UFC debut, stepping in on short notice to replace Abusupiyan Magomedov. His last fight was a first-round finish win on a UAE Warriors card.

Bout 5: Danaa Batgerel (12-2) vs. Chris Gutierrez (17-3-2) (Bantamweight)

Bantamweights Danaa Batgerel and Chris Gutierrez will fight in the next fight. Both fighters are currently on a strong run in the division that has seen them go years without losing.

Gutierrez has scored five wins and one draw since 2019. His last fight was a split decision win over Felipe Colares in October 2021. Batgerel is on a three-fight winning streak, with all of the outcomes being first-round finish wins. His most recent appearance saw him stop veteran Brandon Davis early with strikes.

Bout 6: Sara McMann (12-6) vs. Karol Rosa (15-3) (Bantamweight)

Fighting to keep her undefeated UFC run alive, Karol Rosa will face Sara McMann on the prelims.

Rosa has earned four consecutive wins since first joining the UFC roster in 2019. The last win that she added to her record was in October 2021, as she beat retiring Bethe Correira via unanimous decision.

McMann will be fighting to come back from a submission loss she took just over a year ago against now-UFC Bantamweight Champion Julianna Pena.

Bout 7: Neil Magny (25-8) vs. Max Griffin (18-8) (Welterweight)

The prelims will wrap up with a welterweight fight between veterans Neil Magny and Max Griffin.

Griffin is on the best run of his UFC career thus far, having scored three wins since late 2020. He beat another experienced name in Carlos Condit in his last appearance, defeating him at UFC 264 last year.

Magny is looking to build off a decision victory he earned against Geoff Neal in May of last year.

Main Card (7:00PM EDT) (ESPN+ / TSN 5)

Bout 8: Marc Diakiese (14-5) vs. Viacheslav Borshchev (6-1) (Lightweight)

Lightweight prospect Viacheslav Borschev will face Marc Diakiese to open the main card.

Borshchev had an explosive UFC debut in January, scoring a first-round stoppage win against Dakota Bush. This was similar to the fight that earned him a UFC contract on “Dana White’s Contender Series,” where he finished Chris Duncan in just 28 seconds with strikes.

Diakiese is in a potential must-win situation, as he has lost two consecutive bouts. His last outing was a quick loss to Rafael Alves, getting caught in the second minute with a guillotine choke.

Bout 9: Aleksei Oleinik (59-16-1) vs. Ilir Latifi (15-8) (Heavyweight)

Heavyweight veteran Aleksei Oleinik will attempt to break a three-fight losing streak on Saturday night when he faces Ilir Latifi.

Oleinik’s three losses have come against high-level names at heavyweight, like Derrick Lewis and Chris Daukaus. He was originally scheduled to face Greg Hardy earlier this year but was later given this matchup instead.

Latifi used to compete regularly in UFC’s light heavyweight division. He decided to move up to heavyweight in 2020 but lost his first appearance at the weight class to Derrick Lewis. He later picked up a win in 2021, defeating Tanner Boser on scorecards.

Bout 10: Askar Askarov (14-0-1) vs. Kai Kara-France (23-9) (Flyweight)

Two of the higher-ranked flyweights in the UFC will meet on Saturday night, as undefeated Askar Askarov and Kai Kara-France will fight.

Askarov has picked up three wins and one draw since joining the UFC in 2019. His last win was just over a year ago, defeating veteran fighter Joseph Benavidez via decision at UFC 259.

Kara-France has shown explosive striking skills in his last two fights, stopping Rogerio Bontorin and former champ Cody Garbrandt within a round each.

Bout 11: Matt Brown (23-18) vs. Bryan Barberena (16-8) (Welterweight)

Fighting in front of his home state, Matt Brown will battle Bryan Barberena at welterweight.

Brown, a UFC veteran of more than a decade, is riding a finish win that he scored against Dhiego Lima last year. Before then, he had a two-fight losing streak.

Barberena was originally scheduled to face Brown late last year, although that fight was thrown out after Brown contracted COVID-19. Barberena still fought on the card he was booked for, defeating short-notice opponent Darian Weeks.

Bout 12: Joanne Wood (15-7) vs. Alexa Grasso (13-3) (Flyweight)

Ranked flyweights Joanne Wood and Alexa Grasso will get the co-main event spot on Saturday’s card.

Grasso is on the rise up the flyweight ranks currently, defeating Kim Ji-yeon and Maycee Barber in recent years.

While Grasso will be fighting to keep her streak alive, Wood will be fighting to break hers. The high-level flyweight has lost three of her past five and enters this weekend with the goal of snapping a two-fight losing streak.

Bout 13: Curtis Blaydes (15-3) vs. Chris Daukaus (12-4) (Heavyweight)

Heavyweight prospect Chris Daukaus will meet experienced fighter Curtis Blaydes in Saturday’s headlining fight.

Daukaus had a strong UFC run between 2020 and most of 2021, earning four consecutive finish wins in the promotion. He got a big step-up in December 2021, as he fought former title challenger Derrick Lewis in the main event of a “Fight Night” card. The fight gave him an opportunity to potentially shoot up the rankings in the weight class. He lost in that appearance, as Lewis earned a finish victory in the fourth minute of action.

Daukaus has the chance to bounce back from that defeat on Saturday night, but it does not come against an easy challenger.

Blaydes has remained at a high level of the heavyweight division for years now. He is no stranger to the spotlight, with Friday being the fifth time he has headlined a card. He returned to the win column in his most recent appearance, defeating Jairzinho Rozenstruick via unanimous decision in September 2021.

Blaydes has quick finishes on his record, but he has also gone into deep waters in a five-round fight before, presenting a unique challenge for Daukaus.

Daukaus can prove that his climb up the division isn’t over in the main event, but he has to beat a tough veteran to do so.

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