While Charles Oliveira most recently sat on the throne and was only unseated by a weight-miss prior to UFC 274, many have named surging contender Makhachev as the best fighter in the division, including the Dagestani’s mentor and former dominant champion Khabib Nurmagomedov.
The sentiment is shared by the man himself, who’s made it clear that he’s willing to “smash” any and all opposition on his way to the top, where he believes he is destined to make his way to.
But while Makhachev could well have the opportunity to ascend the lightweight mountain next time out, one man outside the top 10 believes his skills inside the Octagon are ahead of the #4-ranked contender’s.
Tsarukyan, who sits at #11 on the lightweight ladder, has been making a splash in his recent fights. After finishing Christos Giagos last September, the Russian-Armenian firmly established his name as a potential future champion when he battered Joel Álvarez on the main card of UFC Fight Night: Makhachev vs. Green earlier this year.
The only blemish on Tsarukyan’s 5-1 UFC record? A debut loss to Makhachev.
But despite falling to the Dagestani on the scorecards back in 2019, Tsarukyan believes his game has developed leaps and bounds since, even to the point where he’s confident in staking his claim as the UFC’s best lightweight.
“I feel I am the best in this division. I’m the youngest fighter, I’m in top 15,” Tsarukyan noted during an interview with ESPN MMA’s Brett Okamoto. “Yeah, we have big names in this division, but for me, it doesn’t matter. I know I can beat everybody there, like (Dustin) Poirier or (Justin) Gaethje or Conor (McGregor).”
While Oliveira’s resurgence and championship success has been impressive, many expect Makhachev to get the better of him when they collide, perhaps later this year for the vacant gold.
But although the AKA product’s 10-fight win streak and work with Khabib has left him at the top of many’s 155-pound order, Tsarukyan thinks he has the edge, something he’s hoping to show in a rematch with Makhachev soon enough.
“I don’t think he is the best lightweight. I know I am the best lightweight. I am the youngest and my skills is better, you know, my boxing, my striking,” suggested Tsarukyan. “I didn’t have enough experience when I fought him, I know that, for sure. It was my first fight… I know me, I train very hard and I improve my skills every day. I’m learning every day… I feel like I’m the best in the division.
“If I fight with Islam Makhachev (again), I will show you who is the best lightweight,” added Tsarukyan. “After this fight, if the UFC gives me the opportunity to fight with Islam, I will sign.”
Tsarukyan will have the chance to move closer to a second collision with Makhachev this weekend when he features in his very first UFC main event.
Do you agree with Arman Tsarukyan’s comments?