Welcome to KEYlock! Named after the keylock submission, KEYlock is a weekly article that highlights one non-main event bout from the upcoming UFC fight card, and explores why it deserves your attention.
The UFC once again returns to the APEX this Saturday, as Bobby Green steps up on short-notice for a match-up with surging Lightweight Islam Makhachev to headline UFC Vegas 49.
My KEYlock for UFC Vegas 49 is Armen Petrosyan vs Gregory Rodrigues. The reason is simple; Armen Petrosyan.
When Armen Petrosyan finished then 10-0 Bulgarian Kaloyan Kolev on Season 5 of Dana White’s Contender Series (DWCS), Dana White himself posted on Twitter “You HAVE TO go to [ESPN+] and watch this fight. Incredible fight and incredible win for Petrosyan”. White was so blown away by the stoppage, he was immediately brought to his feet. Prior to awarding Petrosyan a deserved UFC contract, White even excitedly claimed “This fight was insane, unbelievable, one of the best, fun fights that I have seen in a very long time, and I’ve been seeing some great fights… I can’t wait to see this guy fight again”. Petrosyan made an impression on the UFC President.
Entering DWCS, Petrosyan certainly held a decorated curriculum vitae. With a 5-1 professional record, Petrosyan had won all 5 professional victories via KO/TKO. A black belt in karate, Petrosyan was a Russian karate champion, Russian Muay Thai champion, and World Muay Thai champion. Petrosyan was also a Fight Nights Global Light Heavyweight Champion. Whilst such accolades are in their own right spectacular accomplishments, it was the manner of Petrosyan’s DWCS performance that ultimately had Dana White excited.
Truthfully, Kaloyan Kolev dominated Petrosyan for the first 3 minutes of their DWCS bout. The Bulgarian completely smothered Petrosyan, securing numerous takedowns and prevented any separation between the two fighters. However, a brief 8-seconds of separation was enough for Petrosyan to showcase the striking threat he possessed. Whilst Kolev intelligently returned to grappling Petrosyan, there was already a sense of imminent doom; Petrosyan simply needed to wait for separation and unload his superior striking. The inevitable happened, and a second separation let Petrosyan deliver a barrage of strikes to knockout Kolev.
This wasn’t a victory born out of luck; Petrosyan was a clinical striker. Indeed, the narrative of his DWCS bout mirrored that of his Fight Nights Global Light Heavyweight Championship winning bout with 7-0 Russian Artur Aliskerov in 2020. Aliskerov possessed superior grappling, often controlling Petrosyan, and arguably even demonstrated a greater striking threat than Kolev. Petrosyan weathered the adversity, however, and delivered a striking masterclass to finish the then undefeated Russian. Undoubtedly, this will be much of the approach of Petrosyan’s future UFC opponents; fighters will seek to dominate Petrosyan with grappling, and nullify any opportunity for space to prevent Petrosyan from striking.
Petrosyan faces a formidable opponent in Gregory Rodrigues for his promotional debut. The Brazilian certainly possesses the grappling talent to neutralise Petrosyan’s striking threat; indeed, Rodrigues is both a multiple National jiu-jitsu champion, and World jiu-jitsu champion. Holding an 11-3 professional record, including a 2-0 promotional record, Rodrigues enters UFC Vegas 49 riding a four fight win-streak. With nine professional stoppages (5 KO/TKO, 4 submissions), Rodrigues is a significant threat, and an incredibly tough opponent for Petrosyan’s first bout in the octagon.
Petrosyan vs Rodrigues opens the main card for UFC Vegas 49, and promises to deliver a classic striker vs grappler. Don’t miss the action this Saturday!