Coming into Saturday night, Arman Tsarukyan knew he needed a knockout or a dominant finish in order to put himself in the conversation among the top UFC lightweight contenders.
And that’s exactly what he did.
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Tsarukyan knocked out Christos Giagos with a series of strikes which forced referee Herb Dean to stop the fight at two minutes and nine seconds in the first round. The highlight reel finish helped Tsarukyan earn the $50,000 “Performance of the Night” bonus awarded by the UFC to the fighter who delivered the most spectacular performance during a fight card.
“My last four fights I had were decisions. (UFC matchmaker) Sean Shelby said, ‘you have to get a finish if you want to grow up’ and now I did it,” Tsarukyan told reporters during his post-fight press conference. “Everyday I imagined I would beat this guy in the second round, but I did it in the first round and I’m still happy.”
Tsarukyan was heavily favored to win the fight in Las Vegas sportsbooks, and he took advantage of Giagos’ lack of experience to finish the bout early.
“I saw a lot of his fights, and he’s not technical. That’s why when he threw a low kick, I saw his hand was down. I saw that opening, and I threw a left hook and that ended the fight.”
Tsarukyan improved to 17-2 in his career and 4-1 in the UFC with the win. This was the Akhalkalak native’s fourth consecutive victory after losing in his UFC debut in April 2019 to Islam Makhachev. The knockout win propelled Tsarukyan to No. 13 in the UFC’s lightweight division rankings, and he made it very clear that he is targeting a top 10 opponent for his next match.
“I want to beat Dan Hooker. Let’s go. Let’s do it.”
Over the last few months, Tsarukyan and the No. 8-ranked Hooker have engaged in a war of words on Twitter. Tsarukyan did not mince words about his feelings toward the fighter from New Zealand during his media availability prior to Saturday’s fight.
“He said a lot of bad things to me. I want to kill this guy.”
If the Armenian cannot get Hooker in the octagon to resolve their spat, he would instead want to fight former UFC lightweight champion Tony Ferguson.
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“There are a lot of good guys and I can fight with everyone,” Tsarukyan said. “But I’d like to fight Tony Ferguson because he has a lot of experience. I think he is the oldest guy in the top 15 and I’m the youngest guy in the top 15 so I’d like to see this match, and I think it’ll be a good fight. I know he has lost his last three fights, but he has a big name and he’s still dangerous.”
Tsarukyan’s options are limitless. He is slowly becoming a household name in the UFC community with more than 250,000 followers on Instagram. He is also becoming more comfortable with his English during press conferences, and this is helping him resonate with a wider audience in the United States.
“Every victory gives me confidence and a lot of experience. With each step, I’m growing up. I’m getting better every day.”