There is some stagnation in the UFC lightweight division due to the fact that current champion Islam Makhachev has found it difficult to choose an opponent. Formally, there are Charles Oliveira, Justin Gaethje and Dustin Poirier, but, in fact, it is not entirely clear how they will be able to take the belt from the Russian.
On the night of December 3 at the UFC Fight Night 233 tournament, the fight between Arman Tsarukyan and Beneil Dariush took place. The fight ended in the second minute after Arman brutally knocked out his opponent. For Akhalkalaki, this victory became a ticket to the top 5 of the lightweight rankings and consequently brought him that much closer to a title opportunity. And Tsarukyan is exactly the fighter who, on paper, has a chance to compete with Makhachev.
A few months ago, Armand defeated unranked Brazilian Joaquim Silva to take the title, even though he was only eighth in the standings. Islam reacted quite harshly: “If the leaders want to put him next, why not? He’s trying to make a name for himself with my name, but I think it’s time for him to try his hand at fighting and move on. “I will not evaluate him, I will not let him fight, win, maybe reach the title.”
Tsarukyan mercilessly treated Dariush:
Tsarukyan has entered the title race! In 64 seconds he knocked out Dariush
Well, now Tsarukyan has a serious scalp in the person of Beneil Dariush. Recall that six months ago the Assyrian was considered almost the main threat to Makhachev, but he lost to Charles Oliveira. Maybe Arman should also test himself and fight someone from the Big Three, but it’s already clear that Tsarukyan could become a problem.
In 2019, Arman already met with Makhachev, but this was his UFC debut, he was only 22 years old and came out on short notice. There was no serious confrontation; the more experienced Islam confidently took all three rounds and won. Tsarukyan made this defeat his main motivation and since then he has had eight wins in nine fights. And if it were not for, to put it mildly, a controversial decision in favor of Mateusz Gamrot, Arman would have scored nine victories.
Since the first fight with Makhachev, Tsarukyan has grown a lot as a fighter. Firstly, by having an excellent wrestling foundation, he began to work more efficiently. This applies to the timing of takedowns and control on the ground. In his first UFC fights, Arman stood up too thoughtlessly, and it’s easy to defend against those takedown attempts. But now Tsarukyan uses fighting competently and works effectively on the ground. First of all, thanks to the excellent hitting and hitting of him.
Secondly, Arman grew up in percussion technology. He often uses techniques from the arsenal of kickboxers, but he approaches the matter competently and is aware that this can require a lot of effort. Therefore, Tsarukyan works with classic combinations and slowly adds feints to them. It is important that Arman does not try to compete with the basic forwards. In the fight with Damir Ismagulov, he quickly took the matter to the ground and took the fight by decision. That is, Akhalkalaki works well based on the opponent’s weaknesses and selects the correct game plan.
Makhachev is not only the lightweight champion, but also the king of the P4P ranking:
Makhachev is the new king of the UFC! Khabib’s student is officially number one.
Of course, this does not mean that Tsarukyan will necessarily find loopholes in Makhachev and exploit them. However, he can impose competition in both wrestling and stand-up. Islam will be the favorite, but Arman will be the most balanced opponent for the champion and, therefore, the most dangerous. The rest of the candidates have a clear inclination towards striking or jiu-jitsu techniques. In this sense, Tsarukyan is more interesting.
After defeating Dariush, he boldly said: “I hope that in my next fight I fight for the title. If not, I don’t care, I’ll beat someone else and become champion. Believes in me. Islam is a fighter on a different level, but we fought four years ago, I was 22 then. Now I’m 27 years old, I’ve grown a lot since then and our rematch will be different, I’ll knock him out, that’s all.
Dana White already noted at a press conference that such a performance by Tsarukyan could lead to some changes in the title race, and also suggested when Armand’s rematch with the champion could be organized: “It would be great to hold the Makhachev-Tsarukyan 2 fight in Abu Dhabi. Stylistically, this is a great fight. But we’ll see what happens next.”
Tsarukyan is a force to be reckoned with, he has earned his place among the best fighters in the division and will now threaten Makhachev and his belt. And this is at least very interesting.