Mateusz Gamrot (+240) vs Arman Tsarukyan (-280)
Gamrot: DK: $7.1k | Tsarukyan: DK:$9.1k
Been spendin’ most our lives livin’ in a grappler’s paradise. This is a grappling banger. Last week’s card featured two of the best lightweights you’ve never heard of, Damir Ismagulov and Guram Kutateladze. Add Mateusz Gamrot and Arman Tsarukyan to that list. I got to thinking: The NBA has been discussing an in-season tournament to award a playoff position; the UFC should do a random four-man lightweight tourney with Damir Ismagulov, Guram Kutateladze, Mateusz Gamrot, and Arman Tsarukyan. The winner gets an immediate title shot. Since Ismagulov beat Kutateladze last week, he’d get the winner of this matchup.
Anywho, Arman Tsarukyan’s last name sounds like a Streetfighter move, like if a Hadouken and Shoryuken met up for a nightcap after making it rain in the club. The Tsarukyan: back+down+forward+punch.
Other than the guy who KO’d Islam Makhachev with a spinning back-kick, Arman Tsarukyan gave Makhachev his toughest fight back in 2019. One of the UFC’s biggest problems for several years has been finding people willing to fight Makhachev. Not only did Tsarukyan agree to the fight, he debuted against Makhachev and was highly competitive. Tsarukyan has made it clear that one of his goals is to fight Islam again, and likely the rematch would be for the belt.
Tsarukyan’s takedowns are incredible, and he hides his level changes behind heavy power punches. Amran will throw his right as he’s changing levels and shooting a double leg. Working single-leg takedowns is an art form that even high-level wrestlers struggle with in MMA. Not Tsarukyan; single-legs are a specialty for him with many variations to finish.
Both fighters are world-class wrestler/grapplers, which means the key to this fight will be the stand-up. It’s almost a guarantee when two elite grapplers face off, they’ll stand and kickbox for the entirety, subconsciously acknowledging a grappling stalemate. On the feet, Tsarukyan is a high-level wrestler striker who is good at putting together short, basic, heavy combinations. Arman lacks the advanced dynamic techniques, the wrinkles, if you will, on the feet that his grappling has. But his power can earn anyone’s respect.
As will be the case with Gamrot, the constant threat of takedowns turns opponents into MK Ultra patients, anxious and paranoid. They see takedowns everywhere they go, hiding around every corner. They sprawl and grab underhooks at the Sprouts olive bar when someone leans over, reaching for the blue cheese-stuffed green olives. After hours, during sexy time, they shrimp, stuff the head, and get back to their feet. The takedown threat disrupts their whole lives, and they get caught with a bomb on their feet and lose anyways.
Tsarukyan is 18-2 and 5-1 in the UFC. Twelve of his career wins came by form of finish, seven TKO/KO’s and five subs. Arman can score a TKO/KO finish standing or on the mat; in his last two bouts, he has one of each. He’s coming off delivering a beating of Joel Alvarez that could serve as a Joker origin story. Tsarukyan carved up Alvarez from the top position with elbows like a Beverly Hills surgeon. Backstage after the fight, Alvarez was like Jack Nicholson when the surgeon unwraps the Joker’s face, and the Joker screams for the mirror and starts laughing maniacally.
Whoever can establish the top position more frequently will win this fight. Tsarukyan’s average takedown per fifteen minutes is three and a half; he once scored ten against Matt Frevola. When the fight is standing, Tsarukyan needs to pressure and force Gamrot backward and dictate the grappling on his terms.
Mateusz Gamrot thinks three and a half takedowns per fifteen minutes is cute. He averages almost six. Mateusz Gamrot can go takedown for takedown with anyone in the UFC. His wrestling skills are in the realm of Makhachev and Tsarukyan. Gamrot has some of the quickest level changes and double-leg shots you’ll see in MMA. If he lays a finger on you, you’re going down. He’s especially handy with the low ankle pick, which he can initiate from outside the pocket, covering a lot of distance with his shot. The ankle pick is especially tricky to defend because there’s a mental aspect on behalf of the defender. When someone grabs your ankle, your first thought is, “There’s no way this guy is taking me down with this bullshit. I’ll just pull my leg out—“ And then you’re on your ass.
Gamrot chain wrestles, stringing techniques together while achieving angles to finish the takedowns. For example, he’ll initiate the ankle pick then turn it into a single leg, and then turn the single into a double, turn the corner, and drive the opponent to the mat. However, Gamrot would make a terrible poker player; he has a major tell. He uses both stances but only shoots for takedowns out of the southpaw stance. When he’s in the orthodox stance, he’s committed to kickboxing and is far less likely to shoot.
Gamrot reminds me of a smaller Dan Henderson. He has big power punches and is dangerous on his feet, but he’s not a smooth, polished striker with crisp combinations. He can hang with most strikers and be successful, but not with the elite in the division. If I was to give the nod one way or the other when it comes to the stand-ups, I’d give Tsarukyan the edge in the striking, mostly power-wise.
Gamrot has a crazy 20-1 career record and is 3-1 in the UFC. His only loss came in his debut in a cult classic razor-close scrap against Gurman Kutateladze. His fight-finishing stats are identical to Tsarukyan’s, with seven TKO/KO’s and five subs. Gamrot has won three in a row, all by finish.
There are levels to this ish even at the upper echelons. I think Arman Tsarukyan is slightly better in every category and might be the more physically imposing fighter as well. I make my picks before checking the odds, and I would have guessed Tsarukyan to be around a (-150) favorite. He’s officially the (-265) favorite, making Gamrot a valuable underdog and lower-tier Fantasy roster pick. He will have to hurt Tsarukyan on the feet and take advantage with a fight-ending scramble for the back or mount. Gamrot will need a finish as a decision favors the slightly stronger grappler Tsarukyan.
The pick ‘ems have been strong the last few weeks, but I couldn’t buy a main event dub if I were Cartman in the alley looking to score some medicinal KFC. Last week, Calvin Kattar came up short against the little bulldozer, Josh Emmett. Emmett is now on the short list of the next title challenger. If I can’t win this one… I’ll try again next week. Arman Tsarukyan via decision.
Winner: Arman Tsarukyan | Method: Decision