UFC Vegas 5: Brunson vs. Shahbazyan Preview
A preview of Saturday’s UFC Fight Night card, set to take place in Las Vegas.
Updated: July 30, 2020 • 10:30 AM ET
Las Vegas will host this weekend's UFC Fight Night event.
The UFC will return to the Apex in Las Vegas this Saturday following four consecutive events on Fight Island in Abu Dhabi. Saturday’s Sin City card will be headlined by a middleweight fight between hard-hitting veteran Derek Brunson and undefeated prospect Edmen Shahbazyan.
Brunson, the UFC’s No. 8 ranked middleweight, is riding a two-fight winning streak after fighting his way to unanimous decisions over Elias Theodorou and Ian Heinisch. The victories were a big rebound for Brunson, who was 2-4 in his previous six fights, although the losses came to current middleweight champion Israel Adesanya, two former champions in Robert Whittaker and Anderson Silva, and former Strikeforce champion Jacare Souza.
Brunson (20-7 record) has been a mainstay in the top 10 of the division since 2014 with key victories over Lorenz Larkin, Uriah Hall and Lyoto Machida. The 36-year-old has proven he has significant finishing power with 11 of his 20 wins coming by knockout or TKO.
Win or lose, Brunson always finds himself in an exciting fight. Despite falling short in bigger fights, which if he had won could have propelled him into a title shot, Brunson has remained resilient. Blemishing Shahbazyan’s unbeaten record this weekend could prove once again that Brunson isn’t going anywhere, anytime soon.
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After fighting in Dana White’s Contender Series and starting his UFC career 4-0, the No. 9 ranked Shahbazyan is one of the more intriguing prospects in the promotion. His most recent win came via a first-round, head-kick knockout over Brad Tavares at UFC 244 in November. The 22-year-old has finished his last three fights, but will take a major step up in competition on Saturday.
If Shahbazyan can defeat Brunson in convincing fashion, he’ll undoubtedly have more people believing that he can be a future champion, much the same way Adesanya did when he defeated Brunson by first-round knockout at UFC 230 in 2018.
Shahbazyan hasn’t faced a fighter with Brunson’s wrestling ability, power and unpredictability. Stylistically, this fight is nearly a perfect match. Shahbazyan, however, cannot look beyond Brunson towards the top 5.
Saturday’s co-main event will be a women’s flyweight fight between No. 3 Joanne Calderwood and No. 6 Jennifer Maia.
Former kickboxer Calderwood is coming off a split-decision win over Andrea Lee at UFC 242 in September. The 33-year-old is 3-1 in her last four bouts and has found a home at 125 pounds after having mixed results at strawweight. She was scheduled to fight for the title against champion Valentina Shevchenko at UFC 251, but an injury forced Shevchenko out of the bout.
Calderwood hasn’t fought in roughly 11 months, so rather than waiting for Shevchenko, she agreed to take the fight with Maia. She could have waited and been subject to harsh criticism, but she’s a fighter and can now almost certainly cement her title shot with a win on Saturday.
Maia is 2-2 in the UFC with her last fight being a unanimous decision loss to former title challenger Katlyn Chookagian at UFC 244 in November. Her biggest challenge will be making the 126-pound weight limit, as she has missed weight in her last two fights. A win over Calderwood would shake things up in the flyweight division and could set the 31-year-old Maia up nicely for a title eliminator fight. She’ll need to be ready for a war with a fighter who is primed and ready to fight for the title.
The rest of the main card on ESPN+ at 9 p.m. EST
Welterweight bout - No. 11 Vicente Luque vs. Randy Brown
Lightweight bout - Lando Vannata vs. Bobby Green
Middleweight bout - Kevin Holland vs. Trevin Giles
ESPN+ Prelims at 6 p.m. EST
Bantamweight bout - Frankie Saenz vs. Jonathan Martinez
Light heavyweight bout - Ed Herman vs. Gerald Meerschaert
Bantamweight bout - Ray Borg vs. Nate Maness
Middleweight bout - Eric Spicely vs. Markus Perez
Featherweight bout - Jamall Emmers vs. Timur Valiev
Bantamweight bout - Chris Gutierrez vs. Cody Durden