Very little of the opening five minutes went the way Dennis Buzukja planned.
Sure, he expected a powerful southpaw in Melsik Baghdasaryan, former kickboxing world champion. But those straight lefts, those left hooks, those left kicks, those left knees, they never seemed to stop coming. And landing.
The 22-year-old Buzukja showed his chin and his heart are worthy of spending time in the UFC’s octagon some time soon.
Just not as soon as he wanted.
Buzukja, a Serra-Longo fighter who lives in Merrick, lost a unanimous decision to Baghdasaryan in the main event of Dana White’s Contender Series on Tuesday night at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas. The judges scored the featherweight bout, 30-27, 29-28, 29-28, in favor of Baghdasaryan.
"Sorry guys!," Buzukja wrote on his Instagram account. "Was a step behind in the fight and didn’t get the W but I’m going to heal up and get back to work! Didn’t give up and fought a world championship kickboxer with over 100 fights experience. It is what it is. Blessed to be able to do what I love."
The Contender Series, in its fourth season, features five fights, with the winners potentially receiving a UFC contract. Baghdasaryan (5-1) was not awarded a contract after beating Buzukja (4-2), but White said he would invite him back for the next season in November. Jimmy Flick, Ronnie Lawrence and William Knight were awarded contracts Tuesday night, bringing this season’s total to 19 of a possible 25.
Buzukja took everything Baghdasaryan threw at him in the opening round and never once fell. He was able to tie up Baghdasaryan in the clinch a few times and did get a takedown in the final minute.
Buzukja, who grew up on Staten Island, controlled more of the pace in the second round. Baghdasaryan, whose four fights in 2019 each lasted no more than 32 seconds, had less output in the round as Buzukja was able to land some strikes and work in the clinch at times. Buzukja ended the round with a clean right at the buzzer.
In the third round, Baghdasaryan increased his output, though nothing like his first-round onslaught, and had the better of the striking. Buzukja worked for an arm bar submission in the latter half of the round, but Baghdasaryan was able to escape after about 40 seconds.
“This was a fight between two seriously bad-ass dudes,” UFC president Dana White said. “They fought tonight with a ton of heart. I think tonight was really a good experience for [Baghdasaryan].”