Beneil Dariush handicaps UFC champ Islam Makhachev vs. Arman Tsarukyan as ’60-40′ or ’55-45′ fight

LAS VEGAS – Beneil Dariush thinks Arman Tsarukyan has what it takes to threaten Islam Makhachev’s title reign.

It is expected that Tsarukyan (22-3 MMA, 9-2 UFC) will challenge lightweight titleholder Makhachev (26-1 MMA, 15-1 UFC) later this year in a rematch of an April 2019 bout from UFC Fight Night 149, which saw Makhachev leave with a unanimous decision win a highly-competitive affair.

Both men were young in the UFC at that time, but have come a long way since and will run it back at the top of the game. Dariush (22-6-1 MMA, 16-6-1 UFC) is one of Tsarukyan’s most recent opponents, having suffered a 64-second knockout loss in their main event at UFC on ESPN 52 in December.

Although Makhachev is the current No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter in the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMA Junkie rankings, Dariush doesn’t think Tsarukyan is that far off.

“I thought he looked really good (against Charles Oliveira at UFC 300),” Dariush told MMA Junkie and other reporters during an interview on the 2024 UFC Hall of Fame red carpet. “I thought he looked really good against Charles. Charles is a very difficult fight for most people, and he was able to pull it off. I think he has a really good shot against Islam.”

Despite thinking Tsarukyan has a solid chance at taking the belt, Dariush struggles to fully commit to picking against Makhachev, and said the result will likely come down to some key variables.

“I would favor Islam, like a 60-45 or a 55-45,” Dariush said. “It’s going to be a close fight. I think Makhachev is better at energy conservation.”

Story originally appeared on MMA Junkie