UFC on ESPN+ 60: Tsarukyan vs Alvarez - Predictions - 2/26/22
Arman Tsarukyan vs Joel Álvarez
Arman Tsarukyan (17-2) got knocked out in his second fight as a professional but then went on to terrorize regional circuits all over Russia. The Armenian would win his next 12 fights and lock up a regional lightweight belt along the way. UFC would come knocking with a contract shortly thereafter. ”Ahalkalakets" would debut against our Russian headliner for this card, Islam Makhachev. If you read the main event breakdown then you know Tsarukyan would lose that fight by decision. Much like his first loss, Tsarukyan would bounce back in a big way by rattling off 4 straight wins. The most recent of which scored him a Performance of the Night bonus as a result of his TKO thrashing of Christos Giagos in September.
Joel Alvarez (19-2) had a very similar trajectory to his opponent and I gotta say, this is some solid matchmaking. Alvarez would get knocked out early in his career only to bounce back with a huge winning streak on European regional circuits. He would also win a lightweight belt in a lesser promotion before making his UFC debut. He would double also lose his octagon debut by decision and triple also rattle off 4 straight victories afterward. The amazing thing about “El Fenomeno" is he’s finished all 19 of his pro fights (3 by KO and 16 by submission!). That UFC debut was the only time the judges entered the equation for the Spainard.
Alvarez will stand 8 inches taller and hold 5 inches of reach over Tsarukyan for this one.
How They Match Up
I remember being pretty excited about the Tsarukyan/Makhachev matchup back when it happened as I thought both guys were top prospects. Makhachev was a bit too much for Tsarukyan on that night but I think Tsarukyan gained a lot in defeat for that one. We’ve seen him face a wide range of styles since and he’s overcome all of them. He really likes to fire off a power right hand and transition it into an immediate single leg. He has tremendous success with it and even if his opponent gets back to his feet (as we saw the scrappy Frevola do a dozen times), there’s another striking/takedown transition not far away. Ultimately, he imposes his will on his opponents in a similar way that Makhachev does actually. To add an additional layer, he stunned his last opponent with a lead left hook to start the finishing sequence, and although finishing Giagos may not be terribly impressive on it’s own, the timing and placement of that shot was.
Alvarez keeps a high guard and utilizes his massive height and reach to both score while on the feet and avoid his opponent’s shots. We saw it against Moises last time out where Alvarez was able to avoid the power overhands by just slightly leaning back out of the way. It can be problematic when fighters do this and they don’t have the height to get away with it but as mentioned, Alvarez does. He’s also really coming into his own in the striking department as he lit Moises up with knees, elbows, punches, body shots, head shots, the kitchen sink. Three of his UFC opponents attempted takedowns on him and they were successful 100% of the time but this feels more like bait really as Alvarez’s submission game is elite. In fact, the majority of his submission victories have come from the bottom which is pretty scary.
So, with Tsarukyan’s dedication to get the fight to the mat, I have no doubt he will be successful in doing so. But the question then becomes will he be able to avoid Alvarez’s submissions. Unfortunately, it’s a bit hard to tell how good Tsarukyan’s submission defense is as no one has really threatened it. The Makhachev fight is probably our best source of data here as Tsarukyan defended against several front chokes and also managed to get out of some bad positions without too much difficulty. It’s something I guess, but he hasn’t really faced someone who is such a submission threat off their back like Alvarez.
Very tough to call but I’m going to ultimately side with Tsarukyan to rack up lots of top control and steal the rounds while avoiding the sub. Although there’s the added possibility that if he’s defending arm bars most of the time and not landing enough ground and pound, then the rounds won’t be clear cut in his favor but that's the lean.