There is plenty of talk about what Edmen Shahbazyan can do in the future. At 22 years old, the surging middleweight still has one year to become the youngest champion in UFC history, surpassing Jon Jones‘ record. Many think that could be within his reach.
But Shahbazyan knows it would not be wise to overlook the opponents in front of him as he attempts to climb the 185-pound ladder, including Derek Brunson in the main event of UFC Fight Night on Saturday night at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas.
Shahbazyan (11-0) has won all four of his UFC fights thus far, the past three via first-round finish. The California native is considered one of the top blue-chippers on the UFC roster. Shahbazyan trains out of Glendale Fighting Club in California under coach Edmond Tarverdyan, the longtime mentor of superstar Ronda Rousey.
Shahbazyan, a protégé of both, is managed by Tarverdyan and Rousey. Brunson (20-7) is considered one of the toughest outs in the middleweight division. The North Carolina native is on a two-fight winning streak. Brunson, 36, has lost to only current or former champions since 2016: Israel Adesanya, Robert Whittaker, Anderson Silva and Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza.
In the co-main event Saturday, Joanne Calderwood puts a potential women’s flyweight title shot on the line against former Invicta champion Jennifer Maia. Calderwood (14-4), who is No. 4 in ESPN’s MMA women’s flyweight rankings, was queued up for the title opportunity against champion Valentina Shevchenko, but she didn’t want to wait for Shevchenko to return from injury later this year. Maia (17-6-1) has won two of three and has lost only to former title challengers Katlyn Chookagian and Liz Carmouche.
Also on the card, Vicente Luque and Randy Brown meet in a high-octane welterweight encounter, Lando Vannata and Bobby Green face off in a lightweight rematch, and Kevin Holland and Trevin Giles do battle in a clash of middleweight prospects.
Marc Raimondi and Jeff Wagenheim recap the action as it happens from Las Vegas.
Fight in progress:
Finally, there was a winner between these two.
Nearly three years after they fought to a draw in a classic battle, Green and Vannata put on another stellar performance of back-and-forth fighting. Green ended up getting the better of this rematch by getting stronger as the fight wore on.
Familiarity is known to breed contempt, but in this case it brought a nonstop exchange of punches, kicks and trash talk. And when each round ended, there was a fist bump out of respect.
Once again, @BobbyKGreen came from the heart ❤️
— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) August 2, 2020
After each man gave as much as he took early on, Green scored a knockdown in the latter part of Round 1, and while Vannata got back up and fought on, he never seemed able to keep up with Green from that point on.
All three judges scored the bout for Green, a 33-year-old out of Fontana, California, who has won two in a row. Two scorecards read 30-27 and the other had the fight 30-26.
When he was announced as the winner, Green yelled, “I just paid off my house!”
Vannata, 28 and fighting out of in Albuquerque, New Mexico, has just two wins in his last eight bouts.
One fight during that stretch was the draw with Green at UFC 216 in October 2017. Each man pocketed an extra $50,000 that night, winning fight of the night bonuses for a card that also featured the likes of Tony Ferguson, Demnetrious Johnson and Fabricio Werdum. That first fight turned on a point deduction for an illegal knee from Vannata. This time, it was a clean victory for Green.
Martinez did a lot of damage with kicks to the head and body over the first two rounds, but it was a knee to the chin that finished the job in the third.
The 26-year-old out of Plainview, Texas, softened up Saenz over the fight’s first 10 minutes, nearly getting the finish in Round 2 after twice flooring his opponent with head kicks. But Saenz, who turns 40 in 11 days, kept getting up and, while wobbly, survived the onslaught. When he came out for the final round, though, he was a bit unsteady off the stool yet turned aggressor, looking to close the distance and get the bout to the canvas. As things turned out, he was the only one to hit the mat, as a knee to the chin from a retreating Martinez wrapped up the TKO at 57 seconds of the round.
Great head kicks! Frankie has his hands up but with little gloves sometimes it still gets through!
— James Vick (@JamesVickMMA) August 2, 2020
Martinez, who came in 4½ pounds over the bantamweight limit on Friday and surrendered 30% of his purse to Saenz, won for the third time in his past four fights.
Saenz, who fights out of Scottsdale, Arizona, has lost two in a row after having won his previous two.
Men’s bantamweight: Nate Maness (12-1, 1-0 UFC) defeats Johnny Munoz (10-1, 0-1 UFC) defeats by unanimous decision
It didn’t go as expected for Maness in his UFC debut. Original opponent Ray Borg withdrew about 36 hours prior to the bout. And Munoz, the replacement, landed some unfortunate blows in the bout.
But Maness was able to do enough to earn a unanimous decision (29-27, 29-27, 29-27).
After a dominant round for Munoz in the first, when he used his wrestling and grappling to upend Maness, the tide turned beginning in the second. Maness was able to open up a cut on Munoz’s hairline with an elbow and land the harder blows.
In the third, Munoz had a point taken away due to a second kick that fell below the belt. Maness persevered after, once again being the better striker in the round and even taking Munoz down late. Munoz, from the bottom, worked a rare calf crusher as the seconds ticked off the clock in the final round, but Maness was safe in the unique position and made it to the bell.
Maness, 29, has now won two straight, and this was his first UFC win. The Kentucky resident has only one career loss, to UFC veteran Taylor Lapilus in 2019 under the TKO banner. Munoz, a 27-year-old California native, came in on a day’s notice as an undefeated prospect. He is a former King of the Cage bantamweight champion.
Jamall Emmers throws a flurry of strong punches early in his bout vs. Vince Cachero at UFC Fight Night in Las Vegas.
Emmers showed off a multifaceted skill set — just not all at once — in putting on a commanding performance to earn his first UFC victory.
Emmers, a 31-year-old fighting out of Redlands, California, worked a different attack in each round. In the first, he punished Cachero to the body, landing an unrelenting array of knees and kicks. Emmers went mainly with right hands to the head in Round 2, landing some big ones. In neither round did Cachero stop moving forward, however.
Emmers, who lost his UFC debut to Giga Chikadze in March, went to takedowns in the final round, getting two on four tries and setting up submission attempts both times. But Cachero, a 30-year-old Hawaii native fighting out of Los Angeles, defended well to make it to the final horn in his UFC debut.
All three judges scored the fight 30-27 for Emmers, who has won five of six.
Cachero was a late replacement for Timur Valiev, who withdrew from the fight earlier in the week because of visa issues.
It doesn’t happen often, but unanimous draws do exist in MMA. And this was a fairly scored one.
That’s fair !!
— Eddie Alvarez (@Ealvarezfight) August 1, 2020
Durden dominated the first round with his wrestling, ground and pound and submission attempts. It was a 10-8 round, with Durden having Gutierrez’s back for much of the five minutes. In the second and third, though, Gutierrez took over with his striking. Gutierrez landed hard kicks to the body and calf of Durden, doing damage to both areas. Gutierrez dropped Durden twice in the third with kicks.
Durden, 29, was making his UFC debut on just a week’s notice. The wrestler from American Top Team in Georgia had a seven-fight winning streak snapped. Gutierrez, a 29-year-old Boston native, is unbeaten in four straight UFC fights and had won three in a row coming in. Gutierrez was a minus-310 favorite.