The bout was expected to be a showcase for Edmen Shahbazyan, but nobody told Derek Brunson, who handed the young fighter his first loss as a professional.
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Derek Brunson wasn’t interested in being a launching pad for the UFC career of Edmen Shahbazyan, and so he put together a blistering performance that ended with a third-round TKO on Saturday night.
The fight marked the UFC’s return to the United States and the UFC Apex in Las Vegas, which will host a month of fights after a series of July shows on Fight Island in Abu Dhabi.
Shahbazyan, who is managed by former UFC women’s bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey, was a heavy favorite coming into the bout after his first three UFC fights ended in the first round. But Brunson was a serious step up in competition and Shahbazyan found out quickly that he won’t have an easy climb up the mountain.
After a few minutes of feeling out, Brunson secured a takedown, but Shahbazyan managed to get to his feet and switched gears. The feeling-out period ended as both tossed leather with bad intentions until the end of the initial frame. Both gave as well as they took as they set the tone for the second round. An inadvertent eye poke by Brunson briefly stopped the action and led to an incensed Shahbazyan charging forward. But Brunson was ready and landed a combination, clinched with Shahbazyan along the cage and secured a takedown.
It was clear that Shahbazyan was running out of gas as Brunson rained down heavy strikes from the full mount. The 22-year-old managed to make it to the end of the round but was in serious trouble after eating a bevy of elbows and punches that could have stopped the fight.
Brunson wasted little time pressing the action to open the final round and immediately plowed his fists into Shahbazyan’s face. It didn’t take long for the up-and-comer to wilt, and referee Herb Dean immediately came to Shahbazyan’s rescue.
Brunson remains a factor in the middleweight division with the victory, while Shahbazyan will head back to the drawing board after a brutal humbling for his first loss as a professional.
In the co-main event, Jennifer Maia pulled off an upset with a first-round submission of Joanne Calderwood in a women’s flyweight showdown. Calderwood was initially in line for a title shot against Valentina Shevchenko but opted to take another fight rather than wait for the opportunity. That ended up being a bad idea as the No. 6-ranked Maia may have punched her ticket to an opportunity with a strong performance that ended with a stellar armbar.
Calderwood was a favorite heading into the fight but Maia demonstrated improved striking to offset the advances of her kickboxing opponent. After routinely landing her right hand throughout the first round, Calderwood decided to take the fight to the canvas by catching a leg kick. As Calderwood sought to land some ground and pound, however, Maia got hold of the Scottish fighter’s arm and locked in a tight armbar. Calderwood had no choice but to submit, her title opportunity snatched from her.
UFC Fight Night: Brunson vs. Shahbazyan results
- Derek Brunson def. Edmen Shahbazyan via 3rd-round TKO (:26).
- Jennifer Maia def. Joanne Calderwood via 1st-round submission (4:29).
- Vicente Luque def. Randy Brown via 2nd-round TKO (4:56).
- Bobby Green def. Lando Vannata via unanimous decision (30-26, 30-27, 30-27).
Kevin Holland vs. Trevin Giles; middleweights
- Jonathan Martinez def. Frankie Saenz via 3rd-round TKO (:57).
Ed Herman vs. Gerald Meerschaert; light heavyweights
- Nathan Maness def. Johnny Munoz via unanimous decision (29-27, 29-27, 29-27).
Eric Spicely vs. Markus Perez; middleweights
- Jamall Emmers def. Timur Valiev via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27,30-27).
- Chris Gutierrez and Cody Durden fight to a unanimous draw (28-28, 28-28, 28-28).