Of all the fights on the UFC Columbus card on Saturday, Askar Askarov vs. Kai Kara-France at flyweight arguably had the most relevance.
In terms of the actual short term future of the weight class, the winner of Askarov vs. Kara-France was likely next in line for a title shot — dependent on whether the promotion wanted to book a fourth fight between Deiveson Figueiredo and Brandon Moreno, with their career series even at one win each, plus a draw in their first fight.
If the UFC was waiting for the outcome of Saturday’s flyweight tilt before moving forward with their plans,
Kara-France, the underdog coming in, and Russia’s Askarov circled early, feeling each other out. Kara-France led with a jab, but Askarov deftly jumped out of the way. Despite the flyweight reputation for fast-paced fights, this one started out slow — but Askarov made things interesting by grabbing a leg and hoisting Kara-France up. Some great balance by Kara-France saw him stay upright even as Askarov lifted him, but the takedown was completed moments later.
From there, Askarov took the back, and latched on with a body triangle. Then, he went hunting for the choke, using punches to the side of the head to find an opening. Kara-France stayed cool under pressure, but gave up his back trying to escape. He wound up taking Askarov, still on his back, with him as he climbed back to his feet. The Askarov-shaped backpack, meanwhile, continued to look for a rear-naked choke. After Kara-France fought it off, Askarov smashed his opponent with some nasty elbows — which still mounted on the back.
It was a small miracle that Kai Kara-France even made it to the second round. When he came out for the second, he swung first, and got his hands going again, connecting with a left hand that drew a cheer from the crowd. Askarov, however, got back in the driver’s seat, shooting for a takedown. Kara-France tried to fight it off, but wound up taken down, though not for long.
Back at center, Kara-France had to be careful not to be backed up to the cage, where he was a sitting duck for Askarov’s takedowns. That, however, was exactly what happened, but Kara-France fought it off, then lit up Askarov! A heavy blow had Askarov slumping forward, and moments later, he shot for a desperation takedown. Instead, Kara-France pushed him off and went back on the attack, tagging Askarov again. Askarov tried to shoot again, came up short, and ate another Kara-France punch, but he wound up saved by the bell.
Round three opened with one simple question looking to be answered: was Askar Askarov still compromised? If he was, he soon had a reprieve. The Russian landed a low blow, which resulted in Kara-France being given time to recover. But that in turn gave Askarov time to recover as well. Back underway, Kara-France fired a kick to the body; Askarov then slipped, and the next time they came together, he latched on with a body lock, looking to ground the fight.
Askarov, from there, climbed the back and sunk in a body triangle. Kara-France shook him off, but Askarov was right back on a leg. Kara-France landed an elbow, and escaped out a moment later— but he’d need to make every effort to avoid being taken down, or even stalled, by the Russian.
The second half of the round saw Kara-France fire a low kick, then press forward with a combo. The the pace seemed to have slowed, and Kara-France was soon moving backwards. Kara-France pressed back, but by the final minute, he was basically head-hunting, whiffing on a massive swing. Kara-France then changed levels for a takedown, but bailed on the attempt. They’d battle it out to the final bell, getting a standing ovation at the end of three rounds.
Come the scorecards, it was unanimous, with the judges awarding a close third round to Kara-France.
Official Result: Kai Kara-France def. Askar Askarov by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)