Arman Tsarukyan earns biggest win of his MMA career

Arman Tsarukyan and Charles Oliveira in the octagon

Arman Tsarukyan has etched his name among the great Armenian mixed martial artists to have graced the Ultimate Fighting Championship.

27-year-old Tsarukyan, who was born in Georgia to Armenian parents and raised in Russia, earned a split decision win against former lighter champion Charles ‘Do Bronx’ Oliveira at UFC 300 in Las Vegas, Nevada on April 13.

The stage was set for a memorable night. Dubbed “the greatest card in combat sports history” by UFC President Dana White, UFC 300 was more than just an event – it was a spectacle. 21 of the 26 fighters on UFC 300 had previously headlined a UFC main event. 12 current and former UFC champions, along with 20 ranked fighters, all stepped into the octagon Saturday night.

Tsarukyan was among the fighters who walked out of Sin City victorious.

Tsarukyan’s fight was scheduled as the second fight of the main card. Following Bo Nikal’s second round submission win over Cody Brundage, Tsarukyan was slated to walk out to the octagon first. As Tsarukyan proceeded to the center of T-Mobile Arena, he appeared to lunge toward a member of the crowd after derogatory language was spewed his way. Tsarukayn was immediately restrained and swiftly continued towards the octagon. He took time to address the quick altercation during his post-fight press conference.

Even UFC President Dana White defended Tsarukyan’s actions: “Yeah you might not want to hang over the thing (rail) and grab people when they’re walking out. These guys are all (expletive) piped up and whatever, and I’m sure we’re probably going to get sued. We’ll deal with that on Monday too.”

The arena jumbotron depicted the Armenian flag, and Tsarukyan walked out to “Yarkhushta,” a traditional Armenian folk song. 20,067 fans filled the arena that night, and Armenian flags were found all over the stands. Despite a pro-Oliveira crowd (seven Brazilian fighters competed on UFC 300), chants of “Arman!” were noticeable from the media row located on the top floor of T-Mobile arena. 

Tsarukyan spoke about what it means to represent Armenia: “When I see Armenian flags, it motivates me a lot, you know, and I get excited. You can imagine how much I want to win when I see Armenian flags, because we are a small country and no one…was in that position where I am now, and I want to bring that belt (to) Armenia (for) the first time in their life.”

The three-round bout began with Oliveira on the attack, ultimately finding Tsarukyan in a headlock that had the rowdy crowd on its feet early. For what felt like an eternity, Tsarukyan was placed in a guillotine choke that turned his face red. Tsarukyan was able to roll off his back, pop his head out of the lock and continue the fight, even securing top position momentarily. Towards the end of round one, referee Mark Smith stopped the fight momentarily when Oliveira landed an up kick to Tsarukyan, until Tsarukyan shrugged off doctors and proceeded. Despite Tsarukyan’s persistence to avoid submission, all three judges scored the first round 10-9 in favor of Oliveira.

The level of respect both fighters had for one another was noticeable throughout the fight. Prior to each round, Tsarukyan and Oliveira embraced one another with a handshake and hug in the center circle before throwing down. Tsarukyan called Oliveira one of the most likable fighters in the UFC: “He is one of the most humble guys in our division. That’s why people like him a lot. I was thinking he was going to right away jump on me, you know, he’s not going to like shake my hand. But like yeah, he did, and he’s such a nice guy and a good fighter and a former champion.”

The second round was all Tsarukyan. To open the round, the fighters exchanged blows before Tsarukyan partially landed an impressive axe kick and followed with a takedown. Oliveira found himself on his back trying to avoid a myriad of combinations thrown by Tsarukyan with his fists and elbows. That offense proved to pay off with Oliveira sustaining a cut to his head. Tsarukyan used a mix of punches, elbows and grappling to keep Oliveira at bay. The three judges gave Tsarukyan a 10-9 advantage in the second round.

With both fighters accumulating 19 points from the judges, the third round would decide the victor (also known as the “championship round”). Tsarukyan and Oliveira put on a show for the thousands in attendance and the millions watching at home. Tsarukyan continued to dominate with his striking while Oliveira ended the final fraction of the fight holding Tsarukyan in another submission lock, sticking his tongue out in celebration of his assumed victory. 

The fight went the distance and landed in the judges’ laps to decide a winner. The judges did not come to a consensus in the final round, so a split decision was needed. Two judges scored the third round 10-9 in favor of Tsarukyan, granting him the biggest win of his MMA career so far. The only judge to score the third round 10-9 in favor of Oliveira was Mike Bell, an American-Armenian.

Immediately following Tsarukyan’s victory, he was offered the fight of a lifetime – a lightweight title shot against Islam Makhachev, the pound-for-pound best fighter in the UFC. 

However, during an interview on The MMA Hour, Tsarukyan explained why he turned down the fight on short notice: “When I left the octagon, right away Hunter [Campbell] came and said, ‘June 1. Islam [Makhachev].’ I said, ‘I got to think.’ Seven weeks left. I can’t jump too fast. I gotta rest a little bit and then have camp. If it was at the end of June, I would take that fight…I want to be ready, and I want to have a full training camp. Why, if I’m the number one contender, why I gotta take the risk?”

Tsarukyan is now 22-3-0 in his MMA career and has won nine out of his last 10 fights in the UFC. It remains to be seen if Tsarukyan will take a different fight in the summer to stay sharp in preparation for a lightweight title fight against the winner of Islam Makhachev vs. Dustin Poirier at UFC 302 in Newark, New Jersey. 

Jason Takhtadjian

Jason Takhtadjian

Jason Takhtadjian is a reporter, producer and weekend anchor at KCAU-TV in Sioux City, Iowa. Takhtadjian began college pursuing Mechanical Engineering with a focus on Aerospace until deciding to pursue a sports broadcast career after one semester at the University of Nevada - Las Vegas. While at UNLV, Takhtadjian worked on his own weekly radio show/podcast covering soccer and basketball, produced his own sports debate show, was part of the university’s weekly sports show “The Rebel Report” and was the play-by-play commentator for UNLV men’s and women’s soccer and basketball, to name a few. When the COVID-19 pandemic started, Jason was graduating college and had to pivot to the world of general news to land a job. Three years after accepting a job in the middle of the United States with no Armenian community, Takhtadjian accepted a reporter position at KSEE in Fresno, California. The 26-year-old also worked as a contributor for Armenian Sports News, helping grow the page by thousands of followers in less than a year of work.

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