In a very close, high stakes fight, New Zealand’s Kai Kara-France (24-9-0-1, 7-2 UFC) produced a statement in victory over number two ranked Flyweight Askar Askarov (14-1-1, 3-1-1 UFC).
The win over the previously undefeated Russian seemingly certifies Kara-France’s position as the next man in line for a title shot, one that will likely come after a fourth fight between current champion Deiveson Figueiredo (21-2-1, 10-2-1 UFC) and Brandon Moreno (19-6-2, 7-3-2 UFC).
The meeting with Askarov presented a classic stylistic matchup between grappler and striker. Much of the pre-fight narrative suggested that the Kiwi needed to keep the fight on the feet to defeat the Dagestani Wrestler.
A difficult strategy that saw Kara-France enter the fight as a heavy underdog.
The fight got off to a shaky start for the man known as ‘Don’t Blink.’ After an initial feeling-out process, Askarov was able to secure a takedown after just under two minutes of action.
Throughout the rest of the round, Askarov was able to maintain side control, as well as back control on both the floor and the feet.
As such, Kara-France did well to escape multiple choke attempts in a less than ideal start.
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The second round was a lot more action-packed however, with Kara-France becoming the aggressor. Coming forward, he began to land the right hand at will. This worked well, as Askarov was a lot more patient and when he did eventually shoot for a takedown, Kara-France defended well, thus keeping the fight on the feet.
Going into the final round, the fight appeared to be all tied up. Although Askarov secured back control again early in the third, he was easily shaken off. Kara-France’s superb balance meant he was able to keep the fight on the feet, as he continued to press the action.
When the horn sounded, many thought it could have been anyone’s fight, but the three judges favoured the pressure style from the City Kickboxing standout, awarding him a unanimous decision (29-28 x 3).
When speaking with Daniel Cormier during the post-fight interview, Kara-France was asked about his impressive wrestling defence, replying that he was prepared for such a high-level opponent.
“I train at City Kickboxing, but we wrestle DC, ” Kara France said.
“We were well prepared with what was to come, Askar Askarov is a tough opponent. [He has] high-level wrestling, but this is mixed martial arts and you’ve got to entertain.”
When asked about the game plan, Kara-France stated that he was most definitely aiming to pressure his opponent.
“We just had to keep moving. Obviously when we get stuck, that’s when he’s wanting to wrestle and get underneath us,” he told.
“I know I’ve got good back takes and good defense, so I’ve just got to back myself. Now I’m starting to put it together.
“I know Brandon Moreno and [Deiveson] Figueiredo are fighting very soon, I want the next title shot.”
With the update to the rankings on Tuesday, Kara-France now holds the title of number two contender at 125 pounds, just behind former champion Brandon Moreno.
The 29 year old is currently 7-2 in the UFC and riding a three-fight win streak with two stoppages. Notable in his recent run, a knockout win over former Bantamweight champion, Cody Garbrandt (12-5, 7-5 UFC).
The win streak is also the best of anybody in the division’s top 10, and should all but lock up a title opportunity in the near future.
Whether the champion is Brandon Moreno or Deiveson Figueiredo, the fight is guaranteed to be fireworks when Kara-France is in action.
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