Islam Makhachev, Arman Tsarukyan, Ignacio Bahamondes and Terrance McKinney all impressed at UFC Vegas 49 | Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC
Islam Makhachev, Arman Tsarukyan, Ignacio Bahamondes and Terrance McKinney all impressed on February 26th in Las Vegas, NV.
Of the eleven bouts featured at UFC Vegas 49 on Saturday, four highlighted lightweight competitors. And in each and every case, it was a standout night for the winners of those 155-pound fights.
The first lightweight bout of the night came four fights into the card, when Terrance McKinney faced Fares Ziam. McKinney had a breathtaking UFC debut in June, where the former LFA competitor scored the fastest knockout in UFC lightweight history when he lit up Matt Frevola with a wicked one-two. That win was McKinney’s fourth straight first-round stoppage win.
The 27-year-old ‘T-Wrecks’ was the slight -105 underdog to the Frenchman, Ziam, who entered the bout with a 2-1 UFC record and riding a two-fight winning streak.
A missed left hand left hand by McKinney combined with a Ziam leg kick put the fight to the mat early. But the ensuing scramble saw McKinney use his outstanding wrestling background to take top position where he did some nice work to keep a dominant position and secure a rear-naked choke submission at a 2:11 mark of the first round.
In his two UFC fights, McKinney has absorbed one significant strike.
A lightweight scrap turned 160 lb catchweight closed out the UFC Vegas 49 prelims, where the 6’ 3” Ignacio Bahamondes (who made weight) faced China’s Rong Zhu—with Rong having missed the lightweight limit by four pounds.
Both men entered the bout 1-1 in the Octagon careers to date, with the 24-year-old, Bahamondes coming off a 2021 KO of the Year candidate win over Roosevelt Roberts. He entered this fight a -200 favorite over Rong, who was, himself, fresh off a knockout over Brandon Jenkins.
Bahamondes used his kickboxing skills to near perfection in this matchup employing length, output, target selection, stance switching, footwork and toughness to get the win. All of which was topped off by some surprising submission skills after Rong attempted what he only found out later was an incredibly ill-advised takedown. The victory was the first submission win of Bahamondes’ career.
On the main card, 25-year-old Arman Tsarukyan put his four-fight UFC winning streak and his No. 13 spot in the official UFC lightweight rankings on the line against Joel Alvarez, who entered the bout with four consecutive stoppage wins in the UFC.
Tsarukyan was the -260 favorite over Alvarez and very well may have been looking to make a point that that line wasn’t wide enough. He took the bout right where his opponent wanted to compete, on the ground, and dominated it there. Even with Alvarez entering the contest with 16 submission wins, things went incredibly poorly for him in the grappling department. With Tsarukyan using nasty elbows to open a deep cut on Alvarez’s nose before finishing the contest in the second round via strikes.
The win earned Tsarukyan his second straight “Performance of the Night” bonus. And after the bout, he made it clear that he’s looking for a rematch with the only man to beat him under the UFC banner. That man, Islam Makhachev, stepped up for his own dominating performance in the main event.
Makhachev was originally booked to face Beneil Dariush on the card, but a leg injury prevented Dariush from competing. Bobby Green accepted the short notice matchup at a catchweight of 160 pounds. Green’s dreams of pulling an upset win, and maybe setting himself up with a lightweight title fight, collapsed with only 2 minutes and 50 seconds ticked off the clock. That was when Makhachev scored his first takedown, from which he systematically took control of the contest before finishing Green with strikes on the ground.
The Dagestani sambo expert entered the bout as the No. 4 ranked fighter in the official UFC lightweight rankings—a massive -850 favorite over Green.
After the win, Makhachev’s 10th in a row, his coach, training partner and friend, former UFC lightweight kingpin, Khabib Nurmagomedov said that he thinks the 30-year-old Makhachev will fight the winner of the upcoming UFC 274 matchup between lightweight champ Charles Oliveira and former interim champ Justin Gaethje.
The future of weight divisions in the UFC always seems to be a concern for some fans and media. What we found out on Saturday is the future of the UFC’s 155-pound weight class looks bright.
In Terrance McKinney the UFC has a fighter who looks comfortable and confident wherever the fight may take him. His streak of impressive finishes have made him a talent to watch. With a couple more noteworthy stoppages, McKinney could soon find himself tangling with the elite of the division.
Ignacio Bahamondes combination of size and a well-rounded volume approach gives him the look of a tough, action-forward fighter who could conceivably compete with just about anyone on a given night.
Arman Tsarukyan had already established himself as a player in the division before UFC Vegas 49. What he did on Saturday was show an incredible display of dominance — and the correct amount of meanness — to cement his place among the division’s top contenders.
As for Islam Makhachev, he was already considered an elite talent prior to the event. His won over a veteran like Bobby Green didn’t do anything to lessen his status as a fighter who Khabib Nurmagomedov’s late father earmarked to take over the UFC’s lightweight division after his son’s retirement.
UFC Vegas 49 was a great night for the lightweight division, one that left fight fans with a lot to look forward to in 2022—and beyond.