UFC Columbus results: Kai Kara-France tops Askar Askarov in thrilling flyweight contenders battle

There’s no stopping Kai Kara-France now.

Kara-France — the No. 9 flyweight in MMA Fighting’s Global Rankings — won his third straight fight with a thrilling unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28) win over No. 5 Askar Askarov at UFC Columbus on Saturday at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio.

Post-fight, Kara-France called for the winner of the upcoming flyweight title tetralogy bout between champion Deiveson Figueiredo and Brandon Moreno, which is rumored to be in the works for an event in July. It will be difficult to deny Kara-France his opportunity.

The New Zealander survived a rough start to battle back and take the fight to Askarov (14-1-1), who lost for the first time in his pro career. Askarov’s elite wrestling was on full display in Round 1 as he tripped Kara-France and then quickly established side control. From there, he took Kara-France’s back, locked his legs in as Kara-France stood up with Askarov on his back, and hunted for a choke. Kara-France fought Askarov’s hands to avoid the submission and make it past the first five minutes.

Round 2 immediately proved to be a better one as Kara-France put his fast hands and takedown defense to work. He connected with punches early, then quickly got back up to his feet after being taken down again. Kara-France landed heavy punches as he backed Askarov to the fence and also hit Askarov with counter-strikes while stuffing takedowns.

The third round would likely be the decider. Kara-France continued to let his hands go, occasionally swinging wild but also avoiding Askarov’s takedowns. However, Askarov managed to get a grip on Kara-France and take his back, only to be shaken off without being able to fully establish the dominant position. Kara-France avoided another takedown attempt and went back to work with his boxing, consistently beating Askarov to the punch.

It looked as if Kara-France had completely turned the fight around and all three judges agreed, awarding Kara-France the victory.

Kara-France has now won three straight fights and four of his past five to put himself in prime position to challenge for the UFC flyweight title.