Per TASS MMA reporter Igor Lazorin, the pair will square off on a card expected to be headlined by another blockbuster clash in the 155-pound division. Top-five contenders Islam Makhachev and Beneil Dariush are set to meet for a title eliminator in the main event.
With a matchup between Ignacio Bahamondes and Rongzhu also slated for the date, February 26 is shaping up to be a real lightweight showcase.
#12-ranked Tsarukyan has built a winning streak that’s seen him surge towards the lightweight top 10. Since a promotional debut loss to Makhachev, the Armenian-Russian has won four straight. After decision triumphs over Olivier Aubin-Mercier, Davi Ramos, and Matt Frevola, the 25-year-old recorded his first finish on MMA’s biggest stage at UFC Vegas 37. Showing his improved standup skills, Tsarukyan finished Christos Giagos in the first round.
After a brief social media and interview feud with perennial contender Dan Hooker, many expected Tsarukyan to challenge “The Hangman” following their respective wins in September. Instead, the New Zealander fell short against Makhachev, and is now expected to return to featherweight. The #12-ranked contender also claimed he’d accepted a fight against Gregor Gillespie. With today’s news, it appears “The Gift” didn’t hold the same enthusiasm for the matchup.
#15-ranked Alvarez, meanwhile, burst into the rankings with a memorable victory over Thiago Moises earlier this month. Against the Brazilian, who headlined a card opposite Makhachev in the summer, the 28-year-old put his potential on full display with a dominant performance that saw him finish the formerly-ranked Moises with some brutal first-round elbows and punches.
Like Tsarukyan, Alvarez has also followed a debut loss with four consecutive victories. After a decision defeat to Damir Ismagulov, the Spaniard submitted Joseph Duffy, who boasts a win over Conor McGregor, and Alexander Yakovlev. His latest win ensured he matched Tsarukyan’s winning streak and set up a clash of rising prospects with his lightweight peer.
The card is still in its early days, but below are the fights expected to take place on February 26:
Beneil Dariush vs. Islam Makhachev (Lightweight main event)
Arman Tsarukyan vs. Joel Alvarez (Lightweight)
Ignacio Bahamondes vs. Rongzhu (Lightweight)
Jinh Yu Frey vs. Hannah Goldy (Women’s strawweight)
Who do you think will have their hand raised in this one, Arman Tsarukyan or Joel Alvarez?