The first Ultimate Fighting Championship tournament in 2024 will take place this weekend, but the promotion is already in the spotlight. The reason for this was two high-profile announcements, which pleased the audience with the general director of the league Dana White. So, within the framework of UFC 299, a fight between Dustin Poirier and Benoit Saint-Denis will take place, and Arman Tsarukyan and Charles Oliveira will clash at the anniversary show of the organization. At the same time, the title of the first contender for the lightweight title, which is owned by Islam Makhachev, will be at stake.

As White explained, the decision to arrange an eliminator was due to the condition of the reigning champion, who continues to recover from a leg injury sustained in a rematch with Alexander Volkanovski. And this is surprising, because the Russian's team did not focus on his health problems. Moreover, at the end of December, manager Rizvan Magomedov spoke about Makhachev's intention to fight at UFC 299, scheduled for March 9. Moreover, it did not matter to him with whom exactly to share the cage - the former owner of the trophy Oliveira or Justin Gaethje, who earned the right to fight for the belt after defeating the same Poirier.

So, lately, it was Gaethje who was called the favorite in the fight for the title of the next contender. It was believed that the management of the promotion could impose sanctions on Oliveira, who failed to perform at the October show in Abu Dhabi, and give the American a second chance to win the title. And so did many other members of the community. In an interview with RT, this position was expressed by former PFL fighter Nikolai Aleksakhin, this idea was supported by former UFC lightweight star Michael Chiesa, as well as the manager of the Russian Ali Abdel-Aziz. But in the end, everything turned out differently.

At the moment, Gaethje himself has not commented on this information, nor on Makhachev's proposal to meet in early June. Judging by his social networks, on December 27, he resumed training, which implied his imminent return to the octagon. And although he later posted fragments of classes, he did not comment on the topic of the fight for the title of the first number of the category. And this looks strange, because usually in such cases the fighters do not really restrain themselves. And Justin has a lot to be upset about.

As White said, the triumphant of the fight between Tsarukyan and Oliveira will face off against Makhachev in the summer. But this is in an ideal scenario. After all, the future contender for the trophy may get injured and require additional time to recover, which is why the meeting will be shifted to the beginning of autumn. Then Gaethje himself will fight for the belt no earlier than 2025, which is extremely undesirable for him. After all, going to such an important fight after a year and a half of downtime is not the best option. And fighting someone else is too dangerous. After all, any defeat will cancel out all his achievements and to some extent will give him the opportunity to feel like Tony Ferguson. In May 2020, he was on a series of 12 victories and was supposed to fight Khabib Nurmagomedov, but lost to the same Justin and after that did not return to his former heights.

In light of this, a logical question arises why the UFC preferred to bring Oliveira in the cage not with Gaethje, but with Tsarukyan, because it seemed more logical. And there could be several reasons for this. First of all, Justin himself could refuse such an offer, because he had already earned such a right and did not want to undergo another check. Secondly, the matchmakers could be delighted with Arman's performance in the duel with Beneil Dariush. Then the Russian "destroyed" his opponent in 64 seconds and made him talk about his readiness to fight with the strongest.

But is it fair to judge his abilities by the duel with Dariush? Yes, the latter was once called the most dangerous opponent for Makhachev, but this turned out to be a fiction. Since losing to Edson Barbosa, he has not fought a single top, except for Mateusz Gamrot, who was on the decline of Ferguson and Oliveira. And if he coped with the first two, then the third was defeated. Six months later, he suffered an even worse fiasco.

Of course, all this does not detract from Tsarukyan's qualities. Now he is in great shape, has a great combination of skills in the rack and on the ground, and is considered one of the hungriest lightweights in the league. And it was the highest level of motivation and self-confidence that could help him attract the attention of management. It's impossible not to admire his focus on success, so the decision to give him a chance to test his skills against the former champion seems quite logical.

The problem is that Tsarukyan has not yet met with opponents of this caliber, so he may well repeat the mistake he made in the duel with Gamrot. Then he clearly did not expect to spend all the planned 25 minutes in the cage and in the final rounds he frankly sat down, allowing the uncompromising Pole to take the victory.

This time, however, the danger lies elsewhere. His paths have never crossed with such diverse and cunning opponents, so the risk of underestimating is higher than ever. After all, earlier many questioned Oliveira's skills in the standing position, paying bitterly for it. The same Michael Chandler was clearly not ready for such a chop with the Brazilian, and Gaethje was clearly charged for a knockout. As a result, I spent too much energy on sweeping lateral shots and missed a striking straight to the jaw, after which I got caught on a choke from behind.

Tsarukyan also likes to force the course of the fight and is very confident in both his striking and wrestling skills. And he still remembers the fierce resistance he put up to Makhachev in his opening. And this may well play a cruel joke on him. If he allows himself to relax at least for a while, he risks repeating the fate of the same Poirier, who suffered the most offensive defeat in the duel with Oliveira.

Therefore, Arman should not pay attention either to the statements of the head of AMC Fight Nights Kamil Hajiyev, who predicts him the title of UFC lightweight champion, or to the quotes of bookmakers, who suddenly give preference to him in the upcoming fight. It is better to listen to your mentor Sergey Torosyan, according to whom the battle will be extremely difficult.

"I can't say that one of them is superior to the other in any discipline. They are about the same in everything except translations. Armand's translations and control are better. In the standing position, perhaps Tsarukyan is a little better in his movements. Oliveira is a very stubborn guy who gets into trouble. It will be a very tough fight for both of them. We must not forget that Charles is a former champion, he is not a whipping boy. This is a serious test for Arman," Metaratings quotes the specialist.

After all, if Tsarukyan wins, he will have the opportunity to fight Makhachev again by the end of the year. And this time he will be more ready for this test than five years ago. True, Islam itself will probably take this much more seriously. After all, it's one thing to play against a debutant of the promotion, who had no experience of playing in major Russian leagues, and another thing to play against a newly-minted number one of the division.