The crowded lightweight division just got a bit more interesting: Joel Alvarez and Arman Tsarukyan are set to meet on February 26, according to TASS and confirmed by Brett Okamoto at ESPN. The UFC has liked the matchup for a while and sees it as a litmus test for the two prospects, who are both on hot streaks in the division.
Fight Between Two Prospects to Provide Separation in Division
The UFC’s lightweight division is one of the most exciting in combat sports, and it is stacked with talent from champion to #15 and beyond. According to Brett Okamoto the fight has been on the organization’s radar for a while and should provide major direction in the careers of the two streaking lightweights. This makes sense, too, as these gentlemen are sure to bring the fireworks.
13-ranked Armenian Armen Tsarukyan (17-2-0 4-1-0 UFC) has been on fire lately, winning four in a row against Olivier-Aubin Mercier, Davi Ramos, Matt Frevola, and Christos Giagos after dropping his debut to Islam Makhachev. Even with only a 20-fight career, Tsarukyan already boasts an impressive resume, having won five of his bouts by knockout and four by submission. He is coming off of a dominant first-round KO win over Giagos in his last bout and looks to make move up the ladder and expand his credentials with a win over Alvarez.
Joel Alvarez (19-2-0 4-1-0) has lived up to every bit of his “El Fenomeno” nickname so far, finishing his last three wins in the first round against Thiago Moises, Alexander Yakovlev, and Joe Duffy. After losing his debut to Damir Ismagulov, Alvarez has reeled off four wins in a row, all finishes. However, he will face the biggest test of his career in a ranked Tsarukyan who has won 35% of his fights by way of knockout, according to Nate Latshaw on Twitter.
Keys to the Fight
Tsarukyan needs to be careful if he wants to keep his ranked status as his opponent Alvarez is known to finish fights and finish fights fast. The Armenian needs to do everything he can to stay away from Alvarez’s ground game, as he has done much better in his career standing and has a better shot of controlling the fight on the feet. Submissions will likely not be there, so Tsarukyan has to capitalize on Alvarez’s early mistakes when striking to have a chance to put the fight away. If he can do that, the fight easily swings in his favor: Alvarez has struggled with weight and that could affect his chin.
Joel Alvarez has a simple path to victory: he needs to stick to what he is comfortable with and get the fight to the mat as soon as he possibly can. He boasts several first-round submissions, but Tsarukyan has much better submission defense than any of his previous opponents. He will need his cardio to hold up through the several grappling exchanges, and they may last well into the fight if he can’t put Tsarukyan away early.
A good weight cut is essential to Alvarez’s success, as he needs to maintain his cardio and chin throughout the fight, two things that could pose problems from drastic weight cuts. His opponent hits much harder than many in the lightweight division, and this is his biggest challenge to date.
The bout has enormous implications for the two fighters’ careers, as the lightweight division is very crowded as of late, and a win would propel either one near top-ten status, and, in Alvarez’s case, he would reach the top 15 for the first time. The promotion has eyed this bout for a while, and rightfully so: both men are sure to bring the heat in a fight that won’t disappoint.
How do you see this fight going down? Let us know in the comments!
Follow me on Twitter and Instagram @Cooper_Burke9 for more sports news and discussions. Also, make sure to follow @OT_Heroics for all your sporting needs and @OTHeroicsMMA for all things mixed martial arts!