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Derek Brunson proved that there is something to having a large amount of experience in the fight game, as he weathered an early onslaught from 22-year-old Edmen Shahbazyan to score an impressive victory at UFC Vegas 5 on Saturday in Las Vegas.
Brunson opened with several kicks, while Shahbazyan worked his punching, landing a few good shots early. Brunson took Shahbazyan to the canvas about midway through the round and landed a couple solid shots before they returned to their feet.
Once back to standing, Shahbazyan landed a couple hard shots that moved Brunson backward. Though Shahbazyan landed a couple good shots, Brunson landed with more power.
Shahbazyan landed a knee to the face of a shooting Brunson, but still got taken briefly to the mat.
Quickly returning to their feet, Shahbazyan landed an uppercut and then a knee to the belly, looking good as the opening round came to a close. He finished with an elbow across the face as the horn sounded.
Shahbazyan started the second round with a solid kick to the midsection that put Brunson on the defensive. He continued walking Brunson down, landing a hard shot to the head and a left to the body before Brunson scooped him up and again planted him on the canvas.
Shahbazyan quickly escaped to his feet and was pressing forward on Brunson, but took a poke to the eye and the fight was briefly stopped.
Upon restarting, Shahbazyan landed another body kick and pressed forward with punches, but ignited the fight in Brunson, who moved in and clinched before landing a knee to the face.
Shahbazyan wasn’t backing down either, however, pressing forward with solid punch combinations that rocked Brunson.
With less than two minutes to go in the second round, Brunson returned fire with a couple hard shots of his own before pressing Shahbazyan up against the fence and then dragging him to the canvas.
Brunson landed in side control. Shahbazyan turned, but Brunson took his back, then maneuvered to full mount, landing some hard punches and elbows. Shahbazyan again turned to his back with Brunson smothering him before posturing up and landing a brutal elbow and several follow up punches opening a cut around Shahbazyan’s eye.
“I cracked him with a big elbow. He was pretty much out,” Brunson said after the fight. “I thought he was stopping it right there, but he didn’t.”
It was the beginning of the end though.
Just before the third round was about to start, referee Herb Dean called a time out for the ringisde doctor to continue checking Shahbazyan, who was allowed to continue.
As the final frame started, Shahbazyan looked out of it and he was. As soon as the round got underway, Brunson moved in, landing some big left hands to the head, and then drug Shahbazyan to the ground and unloaded until Dean stopped the fight.
Brunson is a perennial contender for the UFC middleweight title, and the win over a previously undefeated Shahbazyan puts him at three consecutive victories, keeping him in title contention.
But after the fight, Brunson wasn’t worried about calling anyone out.
“I’m gonna get home and chill and enjoy my family. I was away four weeks straight.”
Jennifer Maia scores huge win over Joanne Calderwood
Jennifer Maia scored the biggest victory of her career in Saturday night's co-main event, submitting Jennifer Maia late in the first round. Following some back and forth on the feet, once the fight hit the canvas, Maia was methodical in transitioning to an armbar. She deftly locked out the submission, forcing Calderwood to tap out.
Maia was ranked No. 6 in the flyweight division coming into the fight, while Calderwood sat at No. 3. The victory should propel Maia into a position to call for a shot at 125-pound champion Valentina Shevchenko.
Following the fight, Shevchenko tweeted, "See you soon Jennifer Maia."
Two UFC Vegas 5 bouts cancelled on fight day
Though UFC Vegas 5 was supposed to have been a 10-bout fight card, two bouts were cancelled on the day of the fights. One of those bouts was cancelled mid-event.
Gerald Meerschaert tested positive for COVID-19 in his pre-fight test, so his preliminary bout with Ed Herman was nixed.
The main card opener between Kevin Holland and Trevin Giles was nixed when Giles fainted during his walkout to the Octagon.
UFC Vegas 5: Brunson vs. Shahbazyan results
Main Card (9pm et/6pm pt on ESPN+)
Main Event: Derek Brunson def. Edmen Shahbazyan by TKO (punches) at 0:26, R3
Co-Main Event: Jennifer Maia def. Joanne Calderwood by submission (armbar) at 4:29, R1
Vicente Luque def. Randy Brown by KO (knees and punches) at 4:56, R2
Bobby Green def. Lando Vannata by unanimous decision (30-26, 30-27, 30-27)
Kevin Holland vs Trevin Giles-- cancelled (Giles fainted during walkout)
Prelims (6pm et/3pm pt on ESPN+)
Jonathan Martinez def. Frankie Saenz by TKO (knees and punches) at 0:57, R3
Ed Herman vs Gerald Meerschaert-- cancelled (Meerschaert tested positive for COVID-19)
Nate Maness def. Johnny Munoz by unanimous decision (29-27, 29-27, 29-27)
Jamall Emmers def. Vince Cachero by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Chris Gutierrez vs Cody Durden - draw (28-28, 28-28, 28-28)