What the co-main event at UFC St. Petersburg lacked in star power, it made up for in entertainment value, as Islam Makhachev and Arman Tsarukyan put on a grappling clinic.
Islam Makhachev is a rising contender in the lightweight division. The Russian is 5-1 in the UFC and is currently on a four-fight win streak, stopping his last two opponents in the first round. Makhachev has stayed busy in other martial arts, winning the gold medal at the Sambo World Championships in 2016, a year after making his Octagon debut.
Arman Tsarukyan will be making his promotional debut at UFC St. Petersburg, owning a 13-1 record. Of his 13 career victories, the Russian has five knockouts and five submissions. In his last two fights, Tsarukyan has defeated former UFC fighters Felipe Olivieri and Junior Assuncao.
The pair met in a co-main event at UFC Fight Night 149 in St. Petersburg, Russia that was thoroughly entertaining. Makhachev fired a high kick early, missing the mark. Tsarukyan fired back with one of his own, connecting. He’d later pursue a takedown, latching on to a leg. Makhachev sound excellent balance staying up, at times forced to move on one leg. Soon the tides turned, and it was Makhachev getting his opponent down, moving from half guard to side control, but Tsarukyan scrambled up. Excellent grappling early, and Tsarukyan had a guillotine briefly. Makhachev would break free, and chain wrestling followed, with Tsarukyan eventually getting his opponent down — officially the first time Makhachev had been taken down in the UFC. He didn’t stay down for long, however. Finishing the round on the feet, they’d head to the second.
Round two saw more of a stand-up battle early. Tsarukyan stayed on the outside, however he did opt to shoot for a takedown at the ninety second mark or so. That led to a clinch, but it was Makhachev taking his opponent down — only for Tsarukyan to pop right back up. Makhachev then pressed him into the cage before another takedown, but Tsarukyan attempted to secure a kimura from the bottom. Tsarukyan would escape back up, and they’d grapple for control along the fence.
Through two rounds, Islam Makhachev and Arman Tsarukyan had put on a grappling clinic. For the first ninety seconds in the third, they stayed on the feet, each looking for an opening in the stand-up department. While it looked briefly like the pair might buck the grappling trend set in the first two frames, that changed with a clinch. Tsarukyan then shot for a takedown leading to another thrilling scramble. Next, Makhachev would land a thunderous takedown by the fence, at a key moment with two minutes or so left. Tsarukyan, however, was able to break free, and it seemed a given that the pair would make a rare trip to the judge’s scorecards. Makhachev finished the fight on top, and while he would win a unanimous decision, it was a closer, more entertaining fight that the scorecards would show.
Islam Makhachev def. Arman Tsarukyan by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)