UFC Austin Report: Arman Tsarukyan Inches Toward Islam Makhachev Rematch With Quick Knockout
Arman Tsarukyan has never been closer to a lightweight title shot than he is right now. The Armenian contender moved up the 155-pound rankings on Saturday night, knocking Beneil Dariush out in the first round of their five-round main event UFC bout from the Moody Center in Austin, Texas, USA.
Tsarukyan floored Dariush with a right hook less than a minute into the fight, landing the punch after missing with a knee to the head. Tsarukyan followed a hurt Dariush to the ground and connected with a series of punches that knocked him out and stopped their fight.
The victory for Tsarukyan was his first in a UFC main event, as his sole previous headlining bout for the promotion was a controversial unanimous decision loss to Mateusz Gamrot in 2022. The win is his eighth through 10 appearances and the highest-profile victory he has picked up as a pro.
It’s a strong number of accomplishments for him. And because Dariush came into this weekend ranked fourth, it’s likely more than enough to make Tsarukyan a top-five fighter at lightweight by the time the rankings are updated next week. However, it likely isn’t enough for him to get a title shot.
It’s unknown who UFC Lightweight Champion Islam Makhachev will face next. An educated guess would say that Charles Olivera, who was expected to face him in October before pulling out of the fight due to an injury, would still be the next name lined up. And even if he isn’t next, there are higher-ranked names like Justin Gaethje, who beat both Rafael Fiziev and Dustin Poirier this year.
It’s impossible to project how far off someone is from getting a title shot. In an absurd example of this, Tom Aspinall currently holds the Interim UFC Heavyweight Championship, yet it’s nearly impossible to figure out when he will get to unify the belts with Jon Jones, who is injured and still plans to face Stipe Miocic in 2024. But if you had to assume how long Tsarukyan will have to wait before a title shot, an educated guess might say he’s one more big win away.
Tsarukyan wants a title shot but isn’t bothered by the idea that he might need to face others. In his post-fight interview on Saturday, he stated that if he won’t get a title shot he will keep fighting anyone he gets booked against.
In 2019, Tsarukyan notably lost to Makhachev before he became champion. On Saturday, he delivered a message about how things might be different if they ever meet again: “I was 22 years old [when I first fought Makhachev]. Now I’m 27. I got improved. The next fight is going to be a different one. I’m going to knock him out.”
— UFC (@ufc) December 3, 2023
Late Stoppage Steals Spotlight Of Key Jalin Turner Win
Jalin Turner overcame many hurdles to pick up a win over Bobby Green on Saturday night. With just over a week before this event, Turner stepped up to replace Dan Hooker. He was booked to face a highly experienced UFC vet in Green, who entered the card after scoring a pair of first-round finishes earlier this year. Turner was coming off two losses, including one where he missed weight beforehand — a situation that historically doesn’t provide a fighter too much legroom to lose much more. Not only that, but on Friday, he had trouble making weight and had to hit the scale twice before clearing the 156-pound limit at lightweight. It was a lot to deal with for him.
But after his stunning first-round win on Saturday, people weren’t talking about that. Instead, they were talking about the highly questionable refereeing by Kerry Hatley, who allowed a knocked-down Green to absorb numerous unnecessary punches before the fight was officially stopped.
Just a couple of minutes into the fight, Green was wobbled by a right cross from Turner. Quick on his feet, Turner scored with another punch as Green was on his way down. Green landed on his stomach flat and seemed to have nowhere to go. It looked like the fight was just about done, but it wasn’t. Turner went on to throw 19 more punches, most of which connected against an opponent who was barely defending themselves. Eventually, Hatley stepped in to stop the bout.
Even Turner, who was in the heat of the moment when all of this happened, was able to process that the fight was going on for too long. When asked if he was surprised by how late the stoppage was, his reply was: “I ain’t trying to talk down on the ref, but yes I am. I was like, how much more?”
Turner was able to turn things around for him on Saturday with a strong win. However, when controversy comes up, it dominates the headlines.
Deiveson Figueiredo Wins Bantamweight Debut In Return
A former UFC Flyweight Champion has made a splash in his bantamweight debut. Deiveson Figueiredo picked up a win over Rob Font as part of Saturday’s card, kicking off his quest toward a title in the 135-pound weight class.
Figueiredo won all three rounds on scorecards, using his striking to get the edge over Font in every round. While he did enough to win comfortably, Figueiredo mentioned afterward that he hoped the bout could’ve been more exciting.
Saturday marked Figueiredo’s first appearance outside of the flyweight title picture in years. From his two-fight rivalry with Joseph Benavidez to his win against Alex Perez and then his historic four-fight storyline against Brandon Moreno, Figueiredo competed in seven consecutive title fights from 2020 to 2023. He moved up a weight class after dropping his belt to Moreno for the second time, losing at UFC 283 due to a doctor stoppage.
Figueiredo in a new division opened up the possibility of so many never-before high-level matchups, including the one this weekend against Font. Since Figueiredo is 35 and has the mileage of a seven-bout title run under his belt, it would be good if UFC could give him another high-up challenge in the crammed bantamweight division. A five-round opportunity for Figueiredo against a top-five name in the division would be a solid next move.
— UFC (@ufc) December 3, 2023
An Impressive Performance, A Re-Emerged Challenger At Welterweight
Sean Brady’s campaign toward a welterweight title shot picked back up this weekend, as he put together an impressive performance against veteran Kelvin Gastelum.
Brady submitted Gastelum in the third round with a kimura, closing out a performance that saw him dictate where the fight went. Brady kept Gastelum on his back for nearly the entirety of the contest and had the experienced talent struggling throughout.
From 2019 to 2021, Brady was quickly rising the rankings at 170 pounds. He previously had wins against names like Michael Chiesa and Jake Matthews, plus he had a shiny undefeated record of 15 wins. However, after suffering a loss to Belal Muhammad last fall, that momentum was given a pause.
Brady’s win on Saturday was a statement that proved he’s still in the welterweight conversation. Confident — as you’d be after a performance of that nature — Brady called for a fight against undefeated talent Ian Machado Garry, who will face Vicente Luque in a couple of weeks.
Miesha Tate Returns With 20th Pro Win
Miesha Tate picked up a big win in the featured prelim of the night, closing out a dominant performance against Julia Avila with a third-round rear naked choke. Tate controlled in the first and second rounds, taking Avila down and landing a high volume of strikes. Once Avila was taken down in the third round and pressured with a rear naked choke attempt, she tapped out to end the bout.
Tate, a former UFC and Strikeforce Bantamweight Champion, put herself back into the win column for the first time in two years with the performance. She briefly attempted a move to flyweight last year but returned to her home 135-pound division after losing a bout to Lauren Murphy.
Considering the 37-year-old is one-and-a-half complete decades into a pro career and coming off a pair of losses, some might think that the end is near for her. However, after earning her milestone 20th win, Tate stated that this performance was for her to prove that she’s still got it.
“People said quit, give up after my last fight,” Tate said in her post-fight interview. “I had to show myself and I hope all of you that you do not quit on yourself. You do not give up. It doesn’t matter what anybody else said. It does not matter what they think. When you know what you have to give, then give it.”
"Do not quit on yourself. Do not give up. It doesn't matter what anybody else says."@MieshaTate has been in the fight game for 18 years. After taking a year off, she earned her 20th professional victory.#UFCAustin pic.twitter.com/wLdhuJP1mt
— UFC (@ufc) December 3, 2023
Austin Experiences Déjà Vu
The prelims for Saturday’s card in Austin carried an oddity that has never been seen on a UFC show before. Not one, but two slam knockouts occurred on the same night, in back-to-back matchups.
First came a first-round win from Drakkar Klose, who slammed opponent Joe Solecki to the mat while attempting to escape an armbar attempt. This immediately knocked out Solecki and caused the fight to end immediately.
Less than an hour later, Cody Brundage stepped up to the plate and knocked out UFC newcomer Zach Reese in the opening round with a slam. While the slam from Klose caused Solecki to land more so on the side of his head, Brundage’s iteration of the finish looked more like a botched powerbomb.
Slams are not a new thing in the UFC. However, according to Michael Carroll — a research analyst who studies UFC statistics —, it was not only the first time that two slam finishes have happened on the same card, but also in the same year. Before this weekend, the most recent UFC slam finish dated back to late 2020, when Jordan Leavitt stopped Matt Wiman in just 22 seconds. That fight ended up being Wiman’s last as a pro.
Arman Tsarukyan def. Beneil Dariush via TKO, Strikes (RD 1, 1:04)
Jalin Turner def. Bobby Green via TKO, Strikes (RD 1, 2:49)
Deiveson Figueiredo def. Rob Font via Decision, Unanimous
Sean Brady def. Kelvin Gastelum via Submission, Kimura (RD 3, 1:43)
Joaquim Silva def. Clay Guida via Decision, Unanimous
Dustin Stoltzfus def. Punahele Soriano via Submission, Rear Naked Choke (RD 2, 4:10)
Miesha Tate def. Julia Avila via Submission, Rear Naked Choke (RD 3, 1:15)
Cody Brundage def. Zach Reese via TKO, Slam (RD 1, 1:49)
Drakkar Klose def. Joe Solecki via TKO, Slam (RD 1, 1:41)
Rodolfo Bellato def. Ihor Potieria via TKO, Strikes (RD 2, 4:17)
Jared Gooden def. Wellington Turman via Submission, Rear Naked Choke (RD 2, 1:11)
Veronica Hardy def. Jamey-Lyn Horth via Decision, Split