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Three important Ultimate Fighting Championship bouts at lightweight and middleweight are now booked on the promotion’s first pay-per-view in 2021.
MMA Junkie was first to report on Thursday that Arman Tsarukyan (15-2) and Nasrat Haqparast (12-3) will compete against one another at lightweight. The two will face off at UFC 257 on Jan. 23 at the Flash Forum in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Tsarukyan has since confirmed the booking on Instagram, while stating that his initial plan was to take on Alexander Hernandez in December.
Haqparast rebounded from his first career knockout loss with a decision over Alex Munoz in August. Prior to facing Munoz, Drew Dober smashed him in 70 seconds at UFC 246. The German-born fighter holds a 75 percent finish rate throughout his career, with his most recent stoppage win due to strikes coming over Joaquim Silva in August 2019 – at that time, Silva had never been finished. Each of Haqparast’s first eight wins came by knockout.
Tsarukyan made his promotional debut against Islam Makhachev in April 2019, where he lost a spirited decision that boosted his stock with a solid short-notice performance over a ranked opponent. Since then, the Russian has captured decisions over Olivier Aubin-Mercier and Davi Ramos to be on the outside looking in on the top 15. The lightweight posts an evenly distributed rate of victory, with five knockouts, five submissions and five decisions to his credit.
An earlier report came Wednesday night, when Combate put out that Andre Muniz (20-4) would be taking on Andrew Sanchez (12-5) at middleweight also at UFC 257. News of this pairing has been confirmed by other outlets since its release by the Brazilian news organization.
Muniz has won his last six dating back to 2016, including a pair of UFC wins over Antonio Arroyo and Bartosz Fabinski since being signed from his wins on Dana White's Contender Series. “Sergipano” needed two attempts to impress the UFC brass, as he took a decision over Bruno Assis in 2018 that gained him a place on Season 3 the following year. A first-round submission over then-unbeaten Taylor Johnson earned him a spot on the roster.
Sanchez earned his first finish since 2015 when he flattened Wellington Turman with one punch at UFC Fight Night 174 in August. In the process, “El Dirte” became the first man to finish the durable Brazilian in his 20-fight career. With a tumultuous career dating back to his winning of Season 23 of “The Ultimate Fighter,” Sanchez has recorded wins over the likes of Markus Perez and Trevor Smith, while losing to fighters like Anthony Smith and Marvin Vettori along the way.
Finally, MMA Junkie initially reported that Ottman Azaitar (13-0) would meet Matt Frevola (8-1-1) on this Jan. 23 show on Thursday. Frevola posted news of this impending matchup on his Instagram.
Azaitar has never lost as a professional, while holding a stellar finish rate of 92 percent. The German-Moroccan lightweight made his triumphant UFC debut in September 2019 by clobbering Teemu Packalen in the first round. Just over a year later, Azaitar leveled Khama Worthy in 93 seconds, and in the process recorded his 10th first-round finish. Like many others of late, “Bulldozer” made his way to the UFC by smashing through Brave Combat Federation, where he claimed the lightweight throne before signing with the Las Vegas-based promotion.
Frevola made his way to the UFC through the Contender Series, tapping out Jose Flores in the first round on Season 1 to score a contract. Marco Polo Reyes greeted him inside the Octagon by punching Frevola’s lights out in 60 seconds. Since then, “The Steamrolla” drew with Lando Vannata, and won a pair of decisions over Jalin Turner and Luis Pena. Frevola’s 2020 campaign never got off the ground, as two bout scratches due to COVID-19 and a third cancellation due to a broken foot kept him out of action for the calendar year.
UFC 257 on Jan. 23 will take place on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, where it will be headlined by a lightweight rematch between Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier. Additional matchups slated for the event include a women’s strawweight match between Michelle Waterson and Amanda Ribas, while Jessica Eye squares off with Joanne Calderwood at women’s flyweight.