A battle of elite lightweight prospects is set to ensue when Arman Tsarukyan (17-2) is set to take on Joel Alvarez (19-2) at UFC Fight Night 202 this weekend.
For Arman, his only UFC loss has come at the hands of Islam Makhachev, and for Joel Alvarez, at the hands of an elite prospect, Damir Ismagulov. Each man has dominated all other opponents, Arman by Russian-style domination and Alvarez by elite fight-ending ability – all of his wins via finish. This fight will showcase high-level skills from start to finish and is one you do not want to miss!
The odds opened at Arman being around a -300 favorite but has since settled around a -210 favorite over Joel Alvarez.
- Tsarukyan: -225
- Alvarez: +185
Arman has and continues to be, viewed as an elite prospect with top 5 written all over him. The rationale behind this is rooted in his best attribute as a fighter – his wrestling. When in the octagon, he does a fantastic job allowing opportunities to present itself, to then, shoot a takedown, contrary to simply shooting to shoot. When he shoots, he goes incredibly low, enabling him to negate any size and/or strength differential of his opponent, thus enabling him to land takedowns at an impressive rate. Once on the ground, the style which he employs is highly similar to other elite fighters training in Russia, as he inflicts nice ground and pound with some seriously damaging elbows.
This style of having impressive takedowns that transition to damaging ground and pound is plenty to warrant elite prospect status. The interesting facet for Arman, and the reason why so many are excited as to how far he can climb the lightweight division, is that he has some impressive striking that is seemingly getting better each and every time he enters the octagon. The style of striking he employs is a kickboxing approach. Here, he has an affinity to throw predominate strikes with his lead limbs, as he likes to throw lead hooks that are followed by a lead body and/or head kick. Given his elite ground game, Arman has no qualms whatsoever with throwing attacks that can present the opportunity to be takedown down given he has shown the ability to get up from the bottom position. Lastly, on the feet, he employs heavy pressure on his opponent, as he seeks his opponent to get frustrated with doing so, rush in on him, and once done, shoot the low takedown. All in all, he possesses a well-rounded game that is backed by an elite attribute of wrestling, henceforth, he is believed to be an elite prospect that should quickly become an elite contender.
The near diatribe of accolades for Arman, with seemingly little to no criticism, can be done for Joel Alvarez as well. For starters, Alvarez is one of the largest lightweights currently in the UFC, standing at 6’3 and filling out the frame quite well. The reason why the frame is so critical when discussing Alvarez is the impressive way in which he uses it, both for striking and in grappling. For the former, Alvarez throws nice calf kicks that are accompanied by a lead hook and straight right hand. The most damaging of his attacks are his knees, as he is able to throw them to his opponent’s body quite easily, as evidenced by his dismantling of Thiago Moises in his last bout. Lastly, Alvarez has shown to have extremely effective and damaging elbows, especially when he gets his opponent against the octagon whereby he is then able to throw his elbows followed behind a knee to the body. These elbows are especially damaging given they are landing from an angle that appears to mirror that of a ground and pound direction, due to the sizable height differential between him and his opponent.
The latter implementation of using height and length as a fight-ending weapon is via submissions – 16 of 19 wins have come via submission, 7 of which via triangle. His submission threat is what makes Alvarez such an intriguing prospect given he has the ability to finish the fight at any moment. Once more, the impressive submission game of Alvarez explains the reason why he has a 0% TD defense within the UFC, given his is more than happy to go to the ground with his opponent on top. The interesting aspect of this fight is if Alvarez will trust himself to remain in the bottom position against an opponent who is extremely talented on top – a similar inquiry for a future fight between the lightweight champ, Charles Olivera, and title contender, Islam Makhachev.
Both men are truly elite prospects, so much so I anticipate a rematch several years later when both men have a ranking near, or within, the top 5 of the lightweight division. When making the prediction over the winner for this fight, I favor the fighter who will seemingly be up on the judges’ scorecards contrary to the fighter who possesses the greater fight-ending ability. Expanding upon this notion, I anticipate both men having success on the feet, as each employs a similar game plan of throwing with no concern of being taken to the mat. The difference is I fully anticipate Arman being in top position once there, and so long as he can avoid the submissions of Alvarez – his track record and the elite ground game suggests he can – he will secure the victory.
Bet: Arman by Dec