Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Lightweight grapplers Olivier Aubin-Mercier and Arman Tsarukyan will duel this Saturday (July 27, 2019) from inside Rogers Place in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
A four-fight win streak that demonstrated some marked improvement from Aubin-Mercier saw “The Quebec Kid” receive a pair of steps up in competition. Unfortunately for the Canadian, he came up short in both bouts, leaving him in a difficult position as he attempts to rebound opposite a talented Russian. At just 22 years of age, Tsarukyan is already damn difficult to deal with. The wrestler debuted against Islam Makhachev — a major ask of any prospect — and while he never actually came close to scoring the upset, Tsarukyan did very much impress fans with his skill and tenacity.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
Key Wins: Evan Dunham (UFC 223), Tony Martin (UFC Fight Night 116), Drew Dober (UFC 206)
Key Losses: Gilbert Burns (UFC 231), Alexander Hernandez (UFC on FOX 30), Carlos Diego Ferrera (UFC on FOX 18)
Keys to Victory: Aubin-Mercier has a Judo background, though in the cage he tends to rely more on classic wrestling takedowns and transitions. In truth, Aubin-Mercier is a back control specialist: his goal throughout the takedown transitions is to find a way to jump the back and strangle his foe.
Specialist or not, Aubin-Mercier’s kickboxing has come a very long way.
Kickboxing is likely Aubin-Mercier’s path to victory. Historically, foes who can match Aubin-Mercier’s athleticism and skill in the clinch tend to out-work him across three rounds. Based on Tsarukyan’s debut, he very well may fit the mold.
Luckily, Tsarukyan’s kickboxing is very much an unknown, as the vast majority of his bout with Makhachev took place from close quarters. As a takedown artist himself, Aubin-Mercier should have a pretty good idea of what to do to avoid wrestling exchanges. Namely, Aubin-Mercier needs to move his feet and avoid putting his back to the fence.
If Aubin-Mercier can avoid giving his foe easy entries into the shot/clinch, his own offense should open up on the feet.
Key Wins: Felipe Oliveira (S-70 Plotforma Cup 2018), Junior Assuncao (MFP 220), Takenori Soto (MFP 214)
Key Losses: Islam Makhachev (UFC Fight Night 149)
Keys to Victory: Given his age, Tsarukyan’s resume is already really impressive, as he’s been fighting pretty tough competition almost since his debut. The Russian is already battle tested, and his biggest attributes are clearly quality wrestling, a deep gas tank, and solid athleticism.
There is a clear path to victory here for Tsarukyan, and it doesn’t involve a ton of deception. Realistically, it’s very possible that either man could have the wrestling advantage in the first round — we cannot say for sure until the two meet along the fence. However, Tsarukyan proved in his debut that he can maintain a pretty ridiculous pace, and whereas Aubin-Mercier tends to fade.
Therefore, Tsarukyan simply must make it a wrestling war of attrition, which is already what he does! If Tsarukyan is pursuing takedowns constantly and forcing Aubin-Mercier to work really hard while the Canadian is in good position, the Russian is likely to pull away at about the midway point in the fight.
Bottom Line: Hopefully, the two grapplers actually grapple and deliver a fun fight filled with scrambles.
On the main card of a pay-per-view (PPV) in his home country, this is a big moment for “The Canadian Gangster.” On one hand, it’s an opportunity to display his skills on a larger platform than usual and return to the win column. Alternatively, it’s a difficult and risky fight while he’s already in a precarious position given his recent losses. At any rate, UFC is not handing the the two Canadians on the main card softballs in any way.
As for Tsarukyan, his debut was quite impressive, but he’s still chasing that first Octagon win. While Aubin-Mercier is a step back from Makhachev, he’s still a difficult second fight — you won’t see some random Contender Series Lightweight squaring off at this point in his career. Clearly, UFC believes in Tsarukyan’s talent, and this is another chance to capitalize and throw his hat into the ring of future Lightweight contenders.
At UFC 240, Olivier Aubin-Mercier and Arman Tsarukyan will go to war. Which man will have his hand raised?