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.
Still to come:
Middleweight: Derek Brunson (20-7, 11-5 UFC, +285) vs. Edmen Shahbazyan (11-0, 4-0 UFC -350)
Women’s flyweight: Joanne Calderwood (14-4, 6-4 UFC, -150) vs. Jennifer Maia (17-6-1, 2-2 UFC, +130)
Welterweight: Vicente Luque (18-7-1, 11-3 UFC, -190) vs. Randy Brown (12-3, 6-3 UFC, +170)
Lightweight: Lando Vannata (11-4-2, 3-4-2 UFC, -150) vs. Bobby Green (25-10-1, 6-5-1 UFC, +130)
Middleweight: Kevin Holland (17-5, 4-2 UFC, -210) vs. Trevin Giles (12-2, 3-2 UFC, +180)
Men’s bantamweight: Frankie Saenz (13-6, 5-4 UFC, +220) vs. Jonathan Martinez (11-3, 2-2 UFC, -260)
Men’s bantamweight: Johnny Munoz (0-0, 0-0 UFC) vs. Nate Maness (11-1, 0-0 UFC)
Men’s featherweight: Jamall Emmers (17-5, 0-1 UFC, +140) vs. Vince Cachero (6-2, 0-0 UFC, -172)