UFC Fight Night: Brunson vs. Shahbazyan Matchmaker

Welcome to this edition of Fightful.com’s Matchmaker series! The UFC’s return to Las Vegas made for one of the most bizarre fight cards in recent memory. There were several fights scrapped in the week prior to the fight card beginning due to positive COVID-19 tests, including the cancellation of Gerald Meerschaert’s fight against Ed Herman which wasn’t announced until the day of the fight. Then, Trevin Giles fainted backstage before his fight against Kevin Holland, causing the Nevada State Athletic Commission to call the fight off. Meanwhile, inside of the cage, despite the low number of fights, there were at least ten groin strikes noticed by the referee. While that statistic isn’t officially tracked by the UFC, one would have to think that is a one night promotional record. Now that this weirdness is behind us, it’s time to look forward to the next fights for each fighter on the main card. Let’s get right into it.

Middleweight - #8 Derek Brunson defeats #9 Edmen Shahbazyan via TKO (ground & pound) at 0:26 of Round 3

Fightful/Talking MMA Pick Em' For UFC Vegas 26

Derek Brunson - Darren Till Brunson cashed in as a pretty favorable underdog in this fight, but it remains a mystery as to why there was such a disparity in the betting lines. Coming into the fight, Brunson had the same number of wins inside of the Octagon as Shahbazyan had pro fights. That experience proved to be pivotal in his decisive win, as he finds himself with three consecutive wins after tough losses to Jacare Souza and Israel Adesanya. As mentioned in last week’s article, Brunson is positioned for a run towards the title with a few more wins, and Darren Till could be the next obstacle in his way. Till is 1-1 since his move up to 185 pounds and is coming off of a decision loss to Robert Whittaker. These two should be very close to each other one the rankings are updated, making a possible fight a logical future outcome.

Edmen Shahbazyan - Marvin Vettori This was the toughest fight of Shahbazyan’s career and his inexperience showed. He appeared to tire after the first round, as only one of his pro fights had seen a second round. This loss will be nothing but valuable for the 22 year-old, as he still boasts a record of 11-1. He should face another ranked opponent and he could get a tough competitor in Marvin Vettori. The Italian Dream has won three in a row en route to the fourteenth position in the Middleweight rankings. He is 5-2-1 in the UFC compared to Shahbazyan’s 4-1 mark. This will be another difficult test for Edmen, but this matchup may prove to be better stylistically for him.

Flyweight - #5 Jennifer Maia defeats #3 Joanne Calderwood via submission (Armbar) at 4:29 of Round 1

Jennifer Maia - Valentina Shevchenko A few weeks ago, Jennifer was not in this position. She was going to fight Viviane Araujo as a battle between top contenders that were probably two wins away from a title shot while Calderwood was the consensus next-in-line for a title shot. Then, Araujo contracted COVID-19, causing her to pull out of the fight. Calderwood stepped in on short notice and Maia converted on the opportunity to cut the line for a title shot. After beating Calderwood, who was expected to fight for the title before accepting this fight, Maia is the logical next title contender. Shevchenko will be a massive step up in competition for the Brazilian, who is 3-2 in her last five fights, but the shallowness of the Flyweight division plays into her favor in this scenario.

Joanne Calderwood - Lauren Murphy Calderwood knew the risk that she was taking when she accepted this fight, and she paid the price. She was going to be the next in line for the champion, but she decided to take this fight and lost. She will need to organize a few more wins in order to get into this position again, as she has now lost two of her last three fights. Her first opportunity to reorganize a title run could come against Murphy. Lauren Murphy has had a surprise rise to prominence in the Flyweight division, holding a 4-1 record after losing in the first round of season 26 of The Ultimate Fighter to the eventual season champion, Nicco Monatño. Calderwood will be hoping for an impressive showing in her next outing while Murphy will be hoping to make a case for a title shot.

Welterweight - #11 Vicente Luque defeats Randy Brown via KO (knee to ground & pound) at 4:56 of Round 2

Vicente Luque - Michael Chiesa Luque looked fantastic in this fight, improving to 8-1 in his last nine fights. He reaffirmed his position among the Welterweight elite, positioning himself for a matchup against a ranked opponent. This opportunity could come against Michael Chiesa. Chiesa is the eight ranked Welterweight as he is riding a three fight win streak, most recently defeating former Lightweight champion Rafael Dos Anjos. This will be Luque’s toughest opponent since he faced Stephen Thompson in November of last year, but it should be a test for which he is well prepared.

Randy Brown - Claudio Silva This loss brings an end to a two fight winning streak for Brown, dropping him to 6-4 in the UFC. This was a big step up for Brown, so he should return to lower level competition in his next Octagon appearance, which may come against Claudio Silva. Silva has a pro record of 14-1, his only loss coming in his first professional fight back in 2007. The 37 year-old has been on the UFC roster since 2014, but has only fought five times in nearly five and a half years, including no fights from 2015 to 2017 due to several injuries, hindering his progress in the UFC. He is 5-0 in the promotion, however, with three submission wins and a decision nod over third ranked Leon Edwards back in 2014. He has not fought in a year and is due for a fight soon, so if Brown wishes to remain active, he could take a fight against Silva.

Lightweight - Bobby Green defeats Lando Vannata via unanimous decision

Bobby Green - Winner of Nasrat Haqparast vs. Alex Munoz Green remains one of the most interesting fixtures in the lower ranks of the Lightweight division. He improves to 7-5-1 in the UFC after winning the rematch with Vannata. He has won his last two fights, ending a 1-6-1 skid that lasted from late 2014 to 2019. He will look for his third consecutive win in his next fight, which could come against the winner of this bout. Haqparast is 3-2 in the UFC, but lost his last fight via knockout to Drew Dober, while Munoz is making his UFC debut with a 6-0 record, including a win over Nick Newell on the Contender Series. The winner will put themselves roughly on the same level as Green, making this a good fight to make.

Lando Vannata - Joel Alvarez After his initial run of fights in the Octagon, one that saw four consecutive bonuses and a great fight with Tony Ferguson, Vannata has faded into one of the more mundane fighters on the Lightweight roster, securing his first bonus since the initial fight with Green back in 2017. He falls to 3-5-2 in the UFC and he likely needs a win to stay in the UFC, if he doesn’t already have both feet out of the door. His last chance could come against the Spanish prospect, Joel Alvarez. Alvarez is 2-1 in the UFC with a 17-2 record as a pro. All of the Spaniard’s wins have come via stoppage, with fifteen submissions. He is coming off of a win over Joe Duffy last month and hopes to win his third straight. This fight will match up competitors with opposite career trajectories, so it will be compelling to see if the career trends will continue or if they will change.

That concludes this edition of Fightful.com’s Matchmaker Series. Whether you think I think I have some good ideas or if I’m crazy, sound off in the comments with your ideas. Only time will tell what truly awaits these fighters.

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