Why Charles Oliveira vs. Arman Tsarukyan is pivitol for the UFC lightweight division

A big lightweight matchup will be featured as part of the UFC 300 main card. Here's what it means for 155 going forward.
UFC 289: Oliveira v Dariush
UFC 289: Oliveira v Dariush / Jordan Jones/GettyImages

We talk about how stacked the UFC 300 card is, and many people will point to the three big headlining fights that will see championships on the line: Alex Pereira vs. Jamahal Hill for the light heavyweight championship, Weili Zhang vs. Yan Xiaonon for the women's strawweight championship, and Justin Gaethje vs. Max Holloway for the BMF title.

But there's another fight on the main card that does have title fight potential — and quite possibly could have been a title fight in another timeline. And still, in our real world, it's one that has a lot of title implications. The former UFC lightweight champion Charles Oliveira will face off with Arman Tsarukyan.

The fight itself should be a fun one, with two grappling experts going at it in what could be an encounter that even those who may not enjoy fights that go to the floor would have to applaud.

Just look at Oliveira's accolades. He's a third-degree black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, taught by another accomplished BJJ artist in Roger Coelho as part of a succession line that starts with Kano Jigoro and goes through the legendary Gracie family. Look at the accomplishments Oliveira has in that discipline and the history he's had in the Octagon, including the most submission wins in UFC history.

And while Tsarukyan may not have the resume that Oliveira has, it's because he's just entering his prime and is just getting started. His Master of Sport in both MMA and freestyle wrestling is nothing to sneeze at, and he's shown — just like Oliveira — he has the ability to put someone to sleep with his powerful striking or his deadly submissions.

If you want an example of how good Tsarukyan's wrestling is, take a look at one of his only two fights in the UFC so far that he's lost. On April 20, 2019, at UFC St. Petersburg, Tsarukyan's UFC debut, he took part in a back-and-forth wrestling clinic that showcased how beautiful the art can be on display in the cage. His opponent's name? Islam Makhachev — the current UFC lightweight champion.

Why does Charles Oliveira vs. Arman Tsarukyan mean so much to the UFC's lightweight division?

Oliveira is still the top-ranked contender in the UFC's lightweight division and holds a spot in the UFC's men's pound-for-pound rankings. Also keep in mind he lost the championship on the scale, not in the Octagon.

He emphatically defeated Beneil Dariush in a potential title eliminator last summer at UFC 289. He was supposed to have a rematch with Makhachev, who defeated Oliveira for the championship at UFC 280, at UFC 294 last October before he ended up not being cleared for the fight just a couple of weeks out.

For whatever reason, Oliveira doesn't get his rematch yet. But if he gets by Tsarukyan, which would be two big wins against rising contenders since the loss, and would put Oliveira at 13 wins in 14 fights, there's a strong chance this might be what puts him over to getting that second showdown with Makhachev.

That said, Tsarukyan is not an opponent he can write off easy. Tsarukyan is 21-3 in his professional MMA career and is 8-1 since that loss to the current champ. He's had some decent competiton in these performances from Matt Frevola to Christos Giagos, from Mateusz Gamrot (the sole loss in this span) to Dariush.

Oliveira is certainly the toughest test Tsarukyan has had to date, but there's no denying he hasn't earned his way to this fight. And if he's able to defeat a former champion that's been dominant for so long like Oliveira has, it could certainly be the key Tsarukyan needs to unlock the title shot opportunity.

Now this all said, it's not the only thing on this card that could affect what happens next in the division.

If one were to look for information about UFC 302 in Newark on June 1, you'd see the rumors swirling of a potential main event between Makhachev and Dustin Poirier, following the latter's finish of Benoit Saint-Denis at UFC 299. And while we may not know the UFC's plans for the second half of the year, one could only imagine that another Makhachev win via finish could put him line to main event an October pay-per-view card in Abu Dhabi for the second year in a row.

If Poirier pulls off this upset, however, there's almost a guarantee that the next step would be an immediate rematch.

And what of the likely banger that is Gaethje vs. Holloway? If Gaethje wins and puts on the highlight reel performance he's capable of, could he likely step over the Oliveira-Tsarukyan winner to challenge for the gold next? And if Holloway somehow pulls off the victory — which would be his first win at 155 in the UFC — could he do the same?

There's a lot of possibilities for what happens next, and not all of them are in the control of Oliveira and Tsarukyan. For now, dear fight fans, just appreciate the talent that's going to come our way and this fantastic matchmaking.