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UFC 302: Top lightweight contender Arman Tsarukyan gives his prediction for Islam Makhachev vs. Dustin Poirier

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Arman Tsarukyan could have challenged UFC lightweight champion Islam Makhachev on Saturday under different circumstances. UFC’s No. 1 ranked lightweight will instead keep a close eye on Makhachev’s fight with Dustin Poirier at UFC 302.

Tsarukyan will be at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey for Makhachev vs. Poirier. Tsarukyan was offered the title shot immediately after beating Charles Oliveira at UFC 300 but declined the biggest fight of his career with only six weeks to prepare. Tsarukyan opted to watch from the crowd expecting he’ll fight for the title by year’s end. Tsarukyan is uniquely familiar with both fighters. Tsarukyan’s UFC debut in 2019 was a spirited loss to Makhachev. He has also trained alongside Poirier at American Top Team since 2019.

Poirier is toying with retirement on Saturday. It’s caused some fans to speculate if Poirier’s head is really in the game. Tsarukyan dismissed the idea that Poirier would bring anything but his best in what is likely his final attempt to become undisputed UFC champ.

“People don’t understand that fighters don’t care what everybody says about them,” Tsarukyan told CBS Sports. “If you put 100 people in front of me who say I’m going to lose to Islam, I’m going to say, ‘F— you, I’m going to win that fight…’ That’s the same for Islam and it’s the same for Charles. At a high level, among the top five fighters, you can’t take seriously someone who is a fan or whatever.”

Tsarukyan acknowledges the challenge that Makhachev presents. Poirier is a significant betting underdog. Tsarukyan believes the challenger must draw on everything he has to beat Makhachev: experience, technique and striking power.

“He’s been in the UFC for a long time and has a lot of experience,” Tsarukyan said. “That’s why he needs to put it all together and show everybody he deserves to be a champion. If I were him, I’d be enjoying that fight cause it could be his last fight. He needs to go 100% no matter what happens. Give it your all and get out of there with your hand raised.” 

Check out the full interview with Arman Tsarukyan below.

Tsarukyan favors Makhachev to retain his title but doesn’t see the champion as an insurmountable challenge for Poirier to overcome. Tsaruykan and oddsmakers are in alignment about who is more likely to win, just not by the same degree.

“Islam Makhachev will win by decision or it could be a KO by Poirier,” Tsarukyan said. “I’d say maybe a 60% or 70% chance that Islam wins by decision or else it’s Dustin by knockout.”

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