UFC Fight Night: Blaydes vs. Daukaus
March 26, 2022
Emrick’s UFC Fighter Pick Record (41-21) (9.35u)
Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images
FW: Luis Saldana (15-7) vs. Bruno Souza (10-2)
- Pick: Luis Saldana
FLY: #7 Matheus Nicolau (17-3-1) vs. #10 David Dvorak (20-3)
- Pick: David Dvorak
WFLY: Jennifer Maia (19-8-1) vs. Manon Fiorot (8-1)
- Pick: Manon Fiorot
MW: Aliaskhab Khizriev (13-0) vs. Denis Tiuliulin (10-5)
- Pick: Aliaskhab Khizriev
BW: Chris Gutierrez (17-3-2) vs. Batgerel Danaa (10-2)
- Pick: Batgerel Danaa
WBW: #9 Sara McMann (12-6) vs. #12 Karol Rosa (15-3)
- Pick: Karol Rosa
WW: #9 Neil Magny (25-9) vs. Max Griffin (18-8)
- Pick: Neil Magny
Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images
Main Card Predictions:
LW: Mark Diakiese (14-5) vs. Viacheslav Borshchev (6-1)
- Deciding Factor: Borshchev is a mauler on the feet and has just enough takedown defense to get through Diakiese. In his last 4 bouts, Borschev has earned 4 consecutive KO victories, including a UFC debut win against Dakota Bush within the 1st round. Although he was taken down 2 of 3 times versus Bush, Borshchev was able to keep the control time to 1:30 and get back to the feet against an opponent who has 4 of 8 victories via submission. Mark Diakiese has a solid strength of schedule in the UFC, facing fighters such as Rafael Fiziev, Nasrat Haqparast, and Dan Hooker. However, he wasn’t able to reel off a resume-building victory and has dropped 5 of his last 7 in the promotion. Diakiese is also 3-3 in UFC fights that go the distance, while also seeing 6 of his past 9 go to the judges’ scorecards. Even though I like Borshchev to pull through with the victory, it is important to note that Diakiese has yet to be knocked out in his 19 professional MMA bouts. Borshchev doubles Diakiese’s significant strike output per minute (6.2 vs. 3.1) and even lands at a higher accuracy (68% vs. 38%). Although Diakiese lands about 2 takedowns per match, Borshchev’s ability to defeat a better grappler in Dakota Bush and Diakiese landing only 35% of his attempts should place “Slava Claus” in a great position to control the fight standing up. While it wouldn’t be shocking to see Diakiese KO’d for the first time in his UFC career, there is solid value on Borshchev’s moneyline alone with a near pick’em.
- Pick: Viacheslav Borshchev (-160)
HW: Ilir Latifi (16-8) vs. Aleksei Oleinik (59-16-1)
- Deciding Factor: Latifi has allowed ZERO takedowns! Ok, this is all I have going for me on this pick. Oleinik has dropped 3 straight fights, while Latifi is coming off of a split-decision victory over Tanner Boser. Latifi also lost 3 straight prior to his bout with Boser. It’s honestly incredible to see a fighter avoid any and all takedowns through 14 UFC fights. For those of you who do not know Aleksei Oleinik, you may be wondering why this is so important in a heavyweight fight. This is because Oleinik is 46-2 when it comes to professional MMA fights ended by submission, with his only 2 submission losses coming before George W. Bush’s second term in office. Latifi does have a slightly better standup game, but you can argue that the mat is where both fighters excel. I’d give Latifi the edge in this fight due to his takedown defense, but this fight is an absolute coinflip. Avoid betting on this fight at all costs, literally. With the stretch of losses for Latifi (38 years old) and Oleinik (44 years old), a retirement party could be in sight for one – or both – of these fighters Saturday in Columbus.
- Pick: Ilir Latifi (-200)
FLY: #2 BCDC Flyweight Askar Askarov (14-0-1) vs. #5 Kai Kara-France (23-9)
- Deciding Factor: If Askarov can handle Pantoja, Elliot, Benavidez, and even score a – somewhat controversial – draw with Moreno early in his UFC career, then he should be radiating with confidence going into this fight with Kai Kara-France. Please understand that I’m also on the Kara-France bandwagon. The guy has great punching output and absolutely belongs in the top half of the flyweight rankings as a true contender, but Askarov is just too much to handle. Askarov is too well-rounded, highlighted by his ability to outstrike opponents in all 3 UFC victories and complete 7 takedowns compared to 1 absorbed in his past two fights. Although Kara-France will be tough to get to the mat, the constant pressure and ability to avoid absorbing a large number of significant strikes will play in Askarov’s favor. Not to take anything away from Kara-France, but if Figueiredo vs. Moreno IV wasn’t in the works, then Askarov would most likely be fighting for the title. As much as I’d love to see Kai’s hands go crazy and shock the MMA world, I expect Askarov to utilize his strength in the clinch and grapple his way to a UD or submission victory. Askarov has another chance here to prove his worthiness for the belt with a statement win Saturday evening.
- Pick: Askar Askarov (-360)
WW: Matt Brown (25-18) vs. Bryan Barberena (16-8)
- Deciding Factor: When running through striking accuracy, striking defense, and ground game, Brown is in the control seat. While Barberena has a greater striking output than Brown (5.44 vs. 3.68), he also is absorbing more strikes as well (4.77 vs. 2.68). Adding in Brown’s ability to land and defend about 55% of strikes against just under 50% for Barberena, the efficiency absolutely favors Matt Brown. The output numbers from “Bam Bam” Barberena could be slightly inflated due to his lack of ground game, as Barberena rarely lands takedowns and has lower attacking and defending metrics compared to Brown. If things get dicey for Matt Brown, he can rely on a nearly 50% chance of completing a takedown against Barberena. I believe this is what separates the two fighters, as Barberena is strongly reliant on his standup game to earn his victories. Both fighters have gone down a rough stretch at this point in their careers, but one of them has a chance to make a crowd-filled win for some extra confidence going forward. Based on the efficiency metrics and Brown’s ability to mix things up, I have to take “The Immortal” within the distance in his return to Ohio.
- Pick: Matt Brown (-110)
WFLY: Joanne Wood (15-7) vs. Alexa Grasso (13-3)
- Deciding Factor: The move from strawweight to flyweight has been kind to Grasso. And although the betting lines should be tighter, I believe Grasso will eke out a UD victory in what could be a potential fight of the night contender.
- Pick: Alexa Grasso (-240)
HW: #6 BCDC HW Curtis Blaydes (15-3) vs. Chris Daukaus (12-4)
- Deciding Factor: Curtis Blaydes’ only losses have come from Francis Ngannou and Derrick Lewis. Blaydes looked great in his matchup with Lewis until the uppercut got to him in the 2nd round, costing him a shot at the interim belt. Due to Blaydes’ elite wrestling ability as a heavyweight, I believe he offers an even more difficult test for Daukaus than Derrick Lewis. Although the fight will most likely last longer than 1 round, I believe Blaydes will impose the same strategy of ground and pound – with hopefully more output – that he did against Rozenstruik and get this done in less than 5 rounds. Chris Daukaus is a legitimate contender, but I feel like this is a similar situation as the Askarov vs. Kara-France bout, as the level of competition is seemingly too steep of a jump. As a Daukaus fan, I’d love to see him win this, but Blaydes inside the distance is likely to cap off the night in Columbus.
- Pick: Curtis Blaydes (-400)