Sign up for ESPN+ right here, and you can then stream the UFC live on your smart TV, computer, phone, tablet or streaming device via the ESPN app.
On Saturday night at the UFC Apex, Derek Brunson faced down the purported future of the middleweight division and said: Not so fast.
In the makeshift, three-round headliner of UFC Fight Night 173, Brunson (21-7) weathered a strong first round by Shahbazyan—owner of 10 first-round finishes—and took over thereafter. Shahbazyan weathered some adversity early, as Brunson landed a solid right hand, then scored a takedown and briefly threatened to take his back. Shahbazyan escaped, however, and in the ensuing exchanges, he went to work with long punch combinations and clinch knees to the body. After that, however, Shahbazyan began to fade quickly, as Brunson used his power and wrestling to take control. The fight was close to being stopped at the end of the second round, as Brunson was pounding Shahbazyan with unanswered punches and elbows on the ground. Referee Herb Dean allowed the round to expire and after a timeout for the doctor to check on Shahbazyan, the third round began. Dean clearly had his finger on the button, though, and once Brunson grounded Shahbazyan in the opening seconds, he stopped the punishment almost immediately. The TKO win came officially at 26 seconds of Round 3.
The emphatic win vindicates Brunson, who came into the fight a substantial underdog, and gives him three wins in a row since he lost back-to-back fights to Ronaldo Souza and Israel Adesanya in 2018. The 22-year-old Shahbazyan, now 11-1, tastes defeat for the first time in his mixed martial arts career.
Maia Taps Out Calderwood
Jennifer Maia may have elbowed her way to the front of the flyweight title queue, as she tapped out Joanne Calderwood with a first-round armbar in the co-main event. A back-and-forth round between the two muay Thai practitioners made a sharp turn when Calderwood shot a well-timed takedown. However, Maia calmly attacked from her back, using an omoplata on the Syndicate MMA rep’s right shoulder to set up an armbar. There was a tense sequence as Calderwood defended and Maia adjusted, but Maia was able to lock out Calderwood’s arm and the tap was forthcoming seconds later, at 4 minutes, 29 seconds.
The loss is a heartbreaker for the 33-year-old Glaswegian, who took the fight in lieu of waiting for a title shot and falls to 14-5. Meanwhile, the 18-6-1 Maia appears to have stepped right into Calderwood’s spot, if the congratulatory post-fight tweet by flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko is any indicator.
Luque Brutalizes Brown
In a key matchup of welterweight fringe contenders, Vicente Luque beat up Randy Brown for most of two rounds before putting him away with a brutal knee strike and follow-up punches. The first round was a big one for Luque, as he knocked Brown down once, staggered him badly another time and generally got the better of the boxing exchanges. In the second, Luque’s investment in low kicks began to pay off, as he dropped the taller man to his back with a left outside leg kick that also had Brown switching stances to keep that leg out of the line of fire. The beginning of the end came when Luque crushed a kneeling Brown with a knee to the head, a split second before Brown’s hand touched the canvas, which would have rendered the knee illegal. The perfectly legal strike dazed Brown badly, and a few punches spurred referee Mark Smith into action for the stoppage at 4:56 of Round 2.
Luque (19-7) notches a second emphatic stoppage since his six-fight win streak was snapped by Stephen Thompson last fall; his 11-3 UFC mark includes 10 finishes. Brown falls to 12-4 and sees a modest two-fight win streak come to an end.
Green Boxes Vannata Up to Win Rematch
In a rematch of their “Fight of the Night”-winning stalemate in 2017, Bobby Green and Lando Vannata once again gave a rousing three rounds of action. This time, however, there was no question of the winner, as Green won all three rounds in increasingly clear-cut fashion. The first round was a barnburner, with both men scoring knockdowns as they traded fearlessly in the pocket. The difference in the first frame may have been Green’s takedown, and the takedowns continued to tell as the fight wore on. The final round was Green’s best, as he knocked “Groovy” down with a beautiful short elbow from the clinch and pounced in search of the finish. Vannata survived to hear the horn, but the outcome was in little doubt after a possible 10-8 round, and in fact the final scores of 30-27, 30-27 and 30-26 bore that out. With his second straight win in the post-COVID UFC, the 33-year-old “King” Green is now 26-10-1. Vannata (11-5-2) still has yet to post back-to-back wins—or losses—after 10 fights in the UFC, proving that the only thing he delivers consistently is entertainment.
Continue Reading » UFC Fight Night 173 Prelims: Overweight Martinez Smashes Saenz
« Previous UFC Fight Night 173 ‘Brunson vs. Shahbazyan’ Play-by-Play, Results & Round Scoring Next By the Numbers: UFC Fight Night 173 »