The UFC returned stateside to the UFC APEX in Las Vegas on Saturday with an event that had some late notice trouble, numerous low blows and some fun fights and finishes.
The show originally was scheduled to feature eleven fights, but the show lost three fighters on Thursday leading to changes. Come Saturday morning, the show was booked with nine fights, but would lose Gerald Meerschart on fight day due to a positive COVID-19 test result. When the show officially got underway, the nine-fight card was tied for the smallest card in the last five years.
Once under way, the fights as usual exciting and fast-paced from an opening draw to back to back upsets on the main card. Here’s a full recap of the UFC Fight Night: Brunson vs. Shahbazyan:
Middleweight (185 lbs.) Main Event: Derek Brunson (21-7) defeated Edmen Shahbazyan (11-1) by 3rd Round TKO at 0:26
In a fight that many considered an opportunity for young California prospect Edmen Shahbazyan to truly shine and emerge in the middleweight division, instead it was Derek Brunson proving he’s in no way at gatekeeper.
Brunson and Shahbazyan traded on their feet early in the fight, but it was clear in the second round that Brunson had a wrestling advantage and landed some big ground and pound nearly getting the fight stopped at the conclusion of round two. After both Shahbazyan’s corner and the doctor okay’d the fight to continue for round three, Brunson went right to work dragging Shahbazyan to the ground and landing a few more big shots leading to referee Herb Dean stopping the fight under 30 seconds into the round.
For Brunson, it marks his third straight win after changing camps to work closer with coach Henri Hooft and now puts him right back into the mix in the middleweight division.
Shahbazyan is still young as he taste defeat for the first time at 22-years-old, but this was a big learning experience for the former training partner of Ronda Rousey. Shahbazyan will likely recover and learn more from this then he would another quick win and I expect another impressive run from the prospect beginning closer to the end of the year.
Women’s Flyweight (125 lbs.): Jennifer Maia (18-6-1) defeated Joanne Calderwood (14-5) by 1st Round Submission (armbar) at 4:29
Joanne Calderwood took a risk accepting a short-notice fight when earlier this year, she was scheduled to meet Flyweight Champion Valentina Shevchenko for the gold until Valentina was forced to withdraw due to injury. The risk did not pay off as submission specialist Maia would lock in a tight armbar for the finish late in round one.
After exchanging some strikes in the first few minutes of the fight, Calderwood would take the fight to the ground against Maia and look to work some of her dangerous elbows from the guard of Maia. Maia would be patient and then throw up a slick armbar attempt that would forced Calderwood to fall to the side and allow Maia to lock up the arm deeper leading to the tap.
Shortly after the finish, the champ Shevchenko would tweet, “See you soon Jennifer Maia” leading to speculation that Maia likely earned a future title shot with her finish of Calderwood.
Welterweight (170 lbs.): Vicente Luque (19-7-1) defeated Randy Brown (12-4) by 2nd Round TKO at 4:56
Vicente Luque continues to be one of the most fun to watch finishers in the UFC. Against the long and rangy Randy Brown, Luque would close the distance and land some hard leg kicks and strong hooks to drop Brown twice leading to a late finish in the second round.
Luque has won six of his last seven with five of those wins coming by TKO. Post-fight, Luque expressed interest in a fight Nate Diaz. In the end, Luque deserves a top tier opponent next after a great run so far in 2020 with finishes of Niko Price and now, Randy Brown.
Lightweight (155 lbs.): Bobby Green (26-10-1) defeated Lando Vannata (11-5-2) by Unanimous Decision
In the night’s best fight, Bobby Green and Lando Vannata would throw a combined 169 significant strikes over three rounds, but Green would be the one that landed 115 of those plus three takedowns leading to a decision victory.
The fight was a rematch from a bout back in 2017 which ended in a draw. Lando landed some of his trademark wild strikes, but in the end, the clean boxing and solid clinch striking would lead to Green’s second win of 2020. The performance from both men would lead to it being the Fight of the Night by the promotion.
The middleweight main card opening fight between Trevin Giles vs. Kevin Holland was cancelled as on his way to the Octagon, Giles would faint. Once Giles recovered and was able to sit backstage under his own power, he requested to continue and proceed to the fight, but the commission wouldn’t allow it.
Bantamweight (135 lbs.): Jonathan Martinez (12-3) defeated Frankie Saenz (13-7) by 3rd Round TKO at 0:57
Jonathan Martinez would pick apart Frankie Saenz in the final preliminary fight of the evening dropping Saenz three times with some great striking including lethal head kicks leading to a stoppage early in the third round.
While Martinez looked very good, he also came into the fight overweight missing the bantamweight mark by 4.5 pounds. Saenz earned 30-percent of Martinez’s fight purse, but would also take home a tough loss. With how good he looked in the fight, Martinez may consider a move to featherweight.
Featherweight (145 lbs.) Nate Maness (12-1) defeated Johnny Munoz (10-1) by Unanimous Decision
After a tough opening round as Munoz would do some good work on the ground on top of Maness, Nate would recover nicely to win the following two rounds.
Munoz also hurt himself by hitting Maness with three low blows in the fight leading to a one-point deduction following the third illegal strike. While Munoz would land a nice slam in the opening round and work some ground and pound, from that point on, Maness would stuff 14 of the next takedown attempts in the fight.
Featherweight (145 lbs.) Jamall Emmers (18-5) defeated Vince Cachero (7-3) by Unanimous Decision
One of the fights that fell apart at the weigh-ins was the Jamall Emmers-Timur Valiev fight, but stepping up on short-notice was Vincent Cachero to meet Emmers.
In the end, Emmers would land over 100 significant strikes and hit five of his seven takedown attempts leading to a dominant victory.
Bantamweight (135 lbs.): Chris Gutierrez drew with Cody Durden
You know the night will be a bit wild when the opening bout ends in a unanimous draw. Chris Gutierrez would dominate round one having full back control UFC newcomer Cody Durden for nearly four minutes.
In rounds two and three, Durden would keep the fight standing and land some clean strikes while defending the takedowns much better than he did in the opening frame. According to MMA Decision, it was the first unanimous draw in UFC history with no point deductions in the fight.