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UFC on ESPN 38 results: Mateusz Gamrot scores thrilling comeback win over Arman Tsarukyan, calls for fight with Justin Gaethje

Five-round battle earns 'Fight of the Night' honors at Saturday's card in Las Vegas.

LAS VEGAS – In a matchup featuring two of the UFC's top lightweight prospects, Mateusz Gamrot earned an incredibly hard-fought decision in a 25-minute battle with Arman Tsarukyan.

The contest served as the headlining matchup of Saturday's UFC on ESPN 38, which took place at the UFC Apex.

High-level grappling exchanges were on display from the start, with each looking for takedowns but finding capable defense from the other. Tsarukyan would get the first takedown of the contest, catching a low kick and tripping the action to the floor, but Gamrot immediately answered with creative rolls and escapes to move back to the feet and reset.

While on the feet, Tsarukyan was the more aggressive striker, finding the most success with kicks that he fired to all levels.

The pace remained incredibly high in the second, and once again it was Tsarukyan's kicks that were the most effective weapon on the feet, including one thunderous blow to the body that rippled his opponent's torso. Gamrot struggled to land clean with his punches but did start to chop his opponent's legs a bit, but Tsarukyan seemed to be gaining confidence as the round wore on.

Gamrot got deep on a single-leg attempt early in the third, but Tsarukyan's incredible takedown defense kept him upright. Still, Gamrot's relentless efforts saw him slip to his opponent's back on the feet and eventually drag Tsarukyan to a kneeling position, though he was quick to scramble back to the feet and pull away to reset in the center.

Tsarukyan was also unsuccessful with an earnest single-leg attempt, and the two finished the round trading shots in close quarters.

The pair opened the fourth by trading heavy punches in the pocket before a clinch again proved a stalemate. Tsarukyan again ripped a big kick across his opponent's body, but Gamrot answered back with stiff punches. Tsarukyan responded with a spinning backfist that dropped his opponent, but Gamrot quickly recovered and forced his foe back on defense after some quick counter efforts.

As the high-paced battle continued, Tsarukyan began to show some damage under his left eye, and Gamrot continued pressing, eventually working to his opponent's back and briefly attempting a rear-naked choke, though he couldn't quite fully lock in the hold.

In the final round, both men had plenty of energy to burn, and the pace remained high. An early Tsarukyan low kick tripped Gamrot to the floor, but he popped quickly back to the feet. Gamrot shot forward with a slick duck-under that saw him get to his opponent's back momentarily, but Tsarukyan was able to turn inside and move back to the feet before pulling free.

Gamrot was relentless in his search for a takedown as the round wore on, but Tsarukyan was up to the challenge. The talented grapplers each landing big punches during striking exchanges, but both showed an ample chin to absorb the blows. Gamrot earned another takedown in the final minute and briefly controlled from the back, but Tsarukyan escaped one last time.

In the end, it was a razor-thin decision between two talented athletes, but judges Sal D'Amato, Chris Lee and Ron McCarthy all awarded Gamrot a unanimous decision, 48-47 on all three cards. The judges each gave Tsarukyan the first two rounds and Gamrot the final three.

Gamrot (21-1 MMA, 4-1 UFC), who has now won four straight after coming up short in his UFC debut, was respectful of his opponent after the decision.

"This was a very tough fight," Gamrot said. "Arman is a high-level guy. We are new generation. I wish all the best to Arman. I hope we train in the future."

Gamrot also called for a fight with perennial contender and fan-favorite lightweight Justin Gaethje.

"Now I want to fight Justin Gaethje," Gamrot said. "Justin Gaethje is the most brutal guy in the division. I want to fight next with him."

Tsarukyan (18-3 MMA, 5-2 UFC), meanwhile, sees a five-fight winning streak snapped with the setback.

Complete UFC on ESPN 38 results include:

MAIN CARD (ESPN, ESPN+)

  • Mateusz Gamrot def. Arman Tsarukyan via unanimous decision (48-47, 48-47, 48-47)
  • Shavkat Rakhmonov def. Neil Magny via submission (guillotine choke) – Round 2, 4:58
  • Josh Parisian def. Alan Baudot via TKO (punches) – Round 2, 3:04
  • Thiago Moises def. Christos Giagos via submission (rear-naked choke) – Round 1, 3:05 
  • Umar Nurmagomedov def. Nate Maness via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-26, 30-25)
  • Chris Curtis def. Rodolfo Vieira via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)

PRELIMINARY CARD (ESPN2, ESPN+)

  • Carlos Ulberg def. Tafon Nchukwi via TKO (punches) – Round 1, 1:15
  • Shayilan Nuerdanbieke def. TJ Brown via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
  • Sergey Morozov def. Raulian Paiva via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
  • Cody Durden def. JP Buys via TKO (punches) – Round 1, 1:08
  • Mario Bautista def. Brian Kelleher via submission (rear-naked choke) – Round 1, 2:27
  • Vanessa Demopoulos def. Jinh Yu Frey split decision (28-29, 29-28, 30-27)

This story first published at SI.com/MMA.