Top Light Heavyweight Contenders Collide in UFC return to Columbus




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.


UFC FIGHT NIGHT®: BLACHOWICZ vs. RAKIC 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.


UFC FIGHT NIGHT®: BLACHOWICZ vs. RAKIC tickets will go on sale Friday, Jan. 14 at 10 a.m. ET and are available for purchase at Ticket sales are limited to eight (8) per person. UFC Fight Club® members will have the opportunity to purchase tickets Wednesday, Jan. 12 at 10 a.m. ET via the website A special Internet ticket pre-sale will be available to UFC newsletter subscribers Thursday, Jan. 13 starting at 10 a.m. ET. To access this presale, users must register for the UFC newsletter through


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 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.


Additional bouts on the card include:

  • 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


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About UFC®

UFC® is the world’s premier mixed martial arts organization (MMA), with more than 625 million fans and 178 million social media followers. The organization produces more than 40 live events annually in some of the most prestigious arenas around the world, while broadcasting to nearly 900 million TV households across more than 170 countries. UFC’s athlete roster features the world’s best MMA athletes representing more than 75 countries. The organization’s digital offerings include UFC FIGHT PASS®, one of the world’s leading streaming services for combat sports. UFC is owned by global sports and entertainment company Endeavor, and is headquartered in Las Vegas, Nevada. For more information, visit and follow UFC at, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram and TikTok: @UFC.


About Nationwide Arena

Nationwide Arena is the centerpiece of the downtown Arena District featuring an exciting mixture of restaurants, business, entertainment and residential space that attracts visitors from across the country.   Located on the corner of Nationwide Boulevard and Front Street, the venue opened to great fanfare in September of 2000 and has since hosted the NHL All-Star Game, regular season and playoff hockey, NCAA championships, local, regional and national conferences and a multitude of concerts and touring events.


About ESPN+

ESPN+ is the industry-leading sports streaming service that offers fans in the U.S. thousands of live sports events, original programming not available on ESPN’s linear TV or digital networks and exclusive editorial content from dozens of ESPN writers and reporters. Launched in April 2018, ESPN+ has grown to more than 17.1 million subscribers.


Fans sign up to ESPN+ for just $6.99 a month (or $69.99 per year) at or on the ESPN App (mobile and connected devices). It is also available as part of The Disney Bundle that gives subscribers access to Disney+, ESPN+ and Hulu for $13.99/month (Hulu w/ads) or $19.99/month (Hulu w/o ads).


About ESPN

ESPN, the world’s leading sports entertainment brand, features eight U.S. television networks, direct-to-consumer ESPN+, ESPN Radio,, endeavors on every continent around the world, and more.  ESPN is 80 percent owned by ABC, Inc. (an indirect subsidiary of The Walt Disney Company) and 20 percent by Hearst.

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Top Light Heavyweight Contenders Collide in UFC return to Columbus
Top Light Heavyweight Contenders Collide in UFC return to Columbus