Islam Makhachev vs. Arman Tsarukyan
|Date & Time||Saturday April 20, 2019, 4:30 PM (EDT)|
Yubileyny Sports Palace
Saint Petersburg, Russia
The Line: -- Over/Under:
Islam Makhachev and Arman Tsarukyan fight Saturday during UFC on ESPN+ 7 at the Yubileyny Sports Palace.
Islam Makhachev enters this fight with a 16-1 record and has won 44 percent of his fights by submission. Makhachev has won each of his last four fights and is coming off a July win over Kajan Johnson. Makhachev is averaging 2.24 significant strikes per minute with an accuracy percentage of 61 percent. Makhachev is averaging 4.33 takedowns with an accuracy percentage of 87 percent. Makhachev has produced back-to-back first round finishes and now has three career submission wins via the armbar. Makhachev has been highly impressive since his knockout loss to Adriano Martins and is somebody who could soon be in title conversations if he continues this impressive stretch. Makhachev has a background in sanshou, judo and sambo, so he’s highly effective in close range, with his takedown attempts and almost always has the advantage on the canvas. Makhachev is highly effective with his ground game and grappling, and it certainly doesn’t hurt that he often trains with Khabib Nurmagomedov. Makhachev has been solid with his striking under the UFC banner, but he’s most comfortable on the canvas and it doesn’t take long for him to find a submission hold with four of his seven submissions coming in the first round. This will be Makhachev’s 11th career fight in Russia, his birthplace.
Arman Tsarukyan enters this fight with a 13-1 record and has won 38 percent of his fights by submission. Tsarukyan has each of his last 12 fights and is coming off an August win over Felipe Olivieri. Tsarukyan will make his UFC debut here, but he’s no stranger to good competition considering he has win over UFC fighters in Felipe Olivieri, Junior Assuncao and Takenori Sato. Tsarukyan’s only career loss came in 2015 against Alexander Belikh, which was his second career professional fight. Tsarukyan is a very polished wrestler with effective takedown ability where he unleashes a good ground and pound and has finished three fights with the rear-naked choke. Tsarukyan is most known for his ground game, but he’s a respectable striker with above-average athleticism and a little unpredictability to his attack. Tsarukyan isn’t afraid to take risks with his standup and will throw a spinning back kick out of nowhere or rush in with a combination. At just 22 years old, Tsarukyan has ridiculous upside and could shake up this lightweight division if he builds on his potential. Tsarukyan has fought most of his career in Russia, his birthplace.
This is going to be a treat for the Russian fans and intriguing for UFC fans in general. Tsarukyan has a chance to emerge as a young star if he fulfills his potential, while Makhachev could soon be a ranked fighter who is pushing for a possible title shot in the near future. There’s a lot to like about this fight and with both being highly impressive wrestlers and grapplers, it’s probably going to be a chess match on the canvas. One mistake from the other and it’s over, or it goes to a decision and is decided on who controlled the pace of the fight. This is a tough pick, but I’m giving the slight edge to Makhachev based off experience and the fact I trust his grappling at this stage of his career a bit more. We know what we’re getting with Makhachev, and I have a hard time picking against him when he gets a style fight he wants.
Close, competitive fight, but I lean Makhachev.