UFC 257 Prelims: Promising Arman Tsarukyan Cruises Past Matt Frevola in Abu Dhabi

By Brian Knapp Jan 23, 2021

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Arman Tsarukyan appears to be well on his way to relevance in the Ultimate Fighting Championship lightweight division.

The Khabarovsk MMA rep executed repeated takedowns and paired them with positional advances and ground-and-pound, as he cruised to a unanimous decision over Matt Frevola in the featured UFC 257 prelim on Saturday at Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Tsarukyan (16-2, 3-1 UFC) swept the scorecards with 30-27, 30-27 and 30-26 nods from the judges.

Despite his best efforts, Frevola (8-2-1, 2-2-1 UFC) was out of his depth. Tsarukyan was a step ahead on the feet, on the ground and in the clinch. Clearly ahead on the scorecards, the 24-year-old continued to apply maximum pressure and pursued the finish until the final horn.

Rejuvenated Tavares Handles Carlos Jr.

Searing leg kicks, stout combination punching and airtight takedown defense spurred Xtreme Couture’s Brad Tavares to a unanimous decision over “The Ultimate Fighter Brazil” Season 3 winner Antonio Carlos Jr. in a three-round middleweight scrap. All three cageside judges scored it for Tavares (18-6, 13-6 UFC): 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28.

Carlos Jr. (10-5, 7-5 UFC) whiffed on one takedown attempt after another, his situation growing increasingly dire by the minute. Tavares hammered away at the inside and outside of his lead leg with kicks, mixed in a punishing jab and cut loose with power punches on occasion. He landed the most consequential blow of the fight in the second round, where he stepped into a clubbing right hand that briefly dazed “Shoeface.”

The victory was Tavares’ first since April 14, 2018.

Pena Choke Submits McMann

“The Ultimate Fighter” Season 18 winner Julianna Pena submitted 2004 Olympic silver medalist Sara McMann with a rear-naked choke in the third round of their bantamweight battle. McMann (12-6, 6-6 UFC) conceded defeat 3:39 into Round 3, losing for the third time in four outings.

Pena (10-4, 6-2 UFC) navigated some early adversity. McMann struck for a takedown in the first round, passed guard and cut loose with some elbow-laced ground-and-pound. She undoubtedly planned to do the same in the second, but Pena countered her efforts with attempted guillotine and triangle chokes from the bottom before returning to her feet. Once there, she blasted McMann with knees to the body and sharp punches. Pena made her move at the start of Round 3, as she executed a trip takedown, moved to the back and secured her position with a body triangle. Shen then went to work on the choke, tightened her squeeze and prompted the tapout.

The 31-year-old Pena has won six of her past eight bouts.

Underdog Prachnio Upsets Rountree

Tatsujin Dojo export Marcin Prachnio leaned on force and activity, as he took a unanimous decision from the favored Khalil Rountree in a three-round light heavyweight encounter. Prachnio (14-5, 1-3 UFC) swept the scorecards with 29-28 marks from all three judges, recording his first victory since Aug. 5, 2017.

The 30-year-old Rountree (8-5, 4-5 UFC) never seemed comfortable. Prachnio threw more often, landed with more regularity and attacked “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 23 finalist at all levels. However, he did not escape unscathed. Rountree staggered him with a counter right hook in the second round and a sneaky left uppercut in the third, only to fail to exploit those openings fully. Prachnio regained his faculties without much issue and continued to unleash punches with both hands.

It was Rountree’s third setback in four appearances.

Undefeated Evloev Bashes Lentz

Former M-1 Global champion Movsar Evloev kept his perfect professional record intact, as he laid claim to a split decision over Nik Lentz in a three-round catchweight affair at 150 pounds. All three judges scored it 29-28: Ben Cartlidge and Paul Sutherland for Evloev, Eric Colon for Lentz.

Lentz’s success revolved entirely around attempted guillotine chokes in the first and second rounds. Evloev (14-0, 4-0 UFC) remained calm under duress, freed himself from danger and applied his ground-and-pound. On the feet, the gulf between the two men was considerable. Evloev chewed up the Sanford MMA rep with jabs and damaging multi-punch bursts, from a distance and at close range. He turned on the jets in Round 3, where he drowned Lentz (30-12-2, 14-9-1 UFC) in volume, connected with a number of thudding right hands and even scored with a glancing front kick to the face.

The 36-year-old Lentz has lost three fights in a row.

Once-Beaten Albazi Bests Zhumagulov

Low leg kicks, crisp punching combinations and a clear superiority in the grappling exchanges carried Amir Albazi to a unanimous decision over former Fight Nights Global champion Zhalgas Zhumagulov in a three-round flyweight clash. All three cageside judges scored it 29-28 for Albazi (14-1, 2-0 UFC).

Zhumagulov (13-5, 0-2 UFC) enjoyed some early success with body-head combinations and even mixed in a first-round takedown. However, his well-rounded counterpart answered the challenge. Albazi continued to attack the lower lead leg, piled up points with accurate punches and found another gear. In the third round, he executed a takedown, progressed to side control and ultimately advanced to the back before threatening with a rear-naked choke. Zhumagulov managed to return to his feet with roughly a minute remaining in the match but failed to find the finish he needed.

Albazi, 27, has rattled off three straight victories.
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