On his UFC debut in 2019, Tsarukyan lost a narrow decision to Makhachev, who went on to win the lightweight title in 2022. Tsarukyan has since gone 8-1, capping off that run with a destructive stoppage of Dariush on Saturday (2 December).
In the pair’s Fight Night main event in Austin, Texas, Tsarukyan clinched Dariush and blasted the American with a knee to the face, before following up with a perfect straight punch. The combination knocked Dariush out cold, just one minute and four seconds into the fight.
For Tsarukyan, 27, it was a third straight win after his decision loss to Mateusz Gamrot in 2022. For Dariush, 34, it was a second straight first-round loss, after he was knocked out by former champion Charles Oliveira in June. Prior to those losses, Dariush had won eight fights in a row.
After Tsarukyan’s victory on Saturday, the Armenian-Russian called out Makhachev, saying: “Islam is a different level of fighter, but we fought four years ago; I was 22 years old, now I’m 2017. So, guys, I’ve improved, and the next fight is gonna be a different one. I’m gonna knock him out, that’s it.
“I always think of the best-case scenario, and I feel like I can knock him out in the first round. We’ve got to think about the best, we shouldn’t think about the worst situation.
“Maybe I was born confident. To be honest, I train a lot; I train in the best gym with the best fighters in the world, and I feel like I’m the best, that’s why I’m confident.
“I saw a lot of Armenian flags and I thought, ‘Oh, my God, that gives me different emotions.’ I was very calm, and when I saw my guys around me, I said: ‘No way someone can beat me tonight, so I’m going to die or win.’”
Makhachev is expected to defend his title against Oliveira next, as the UFC looks to reorganise their rematch. Makhachev submitted the Brazilian to win the vacant belt in October 2022, before a nasty cut over Oliveira’s eye derailed their planned rematch 12 months later.
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