Three fights to make after UFC Vegas 5

UFC, Dana White

Last night, the UFC returned home to Las Vegas with an event at the APEX. The main card didn’t disappoint and there were several story lines that came out of last night.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at three fights the UFC should move to make following UFC Vegas 5.

Derek Brunson vs Jack Hermansson

Derek Brunson (21-7) made a massive statement last night. Everyone (including myself) thought that Brunson was going to get run over like he did against Israel Adesanya and Robert Whittaker.

However, Brunson was composed and put on arguably the best performance of his career in stopping Edmen Shahbazyan. Now the question becomes, what’s next for Brunson.

In looking at the rankings, a match that makes a ton of sense is a fight with Jack Hermansson (21-5). The Joker is also coming off of a big win over Kelvin Gastelum at UFC Fight Island 2.

Hermansson has been vocal about wanting to fight Darren Till next, but with Till’s injury, I think Brunson makes a lot more sense. Plus the two men are both coming off big wins.

If the UFC were to pair these two up against each other, the winner could be next in line to fight for the title. Obviously the title is booked up for a while as Adesanya fights Costa and Whittaker fights Cannonier for the next shot, but a Brunson/Hermansson winner wouldn’t be far behind.

Valentina Shevchenko vs Jennifer Maia for the UFC Flyweight Championship

Despite the impressive performance last night from Derek Brunson, the star of UFC Vegas 5 for me was Jennifer Maia (18-6-1). Maia took on JoJo Calderwood who was supposed to fight Valentina Shevchenko (19-3) for the title.

Shevchenko got hurt so the UFC title fight with Calderwood was called off. Calderwood didn’t want to wait around so she decided to take a fight against top contender Jennifer Maia. This has proved to be a massive mistake.

Maia looked tremendous last night. She was winning the stand up battle and when Calderwood took her down, it didn’t take long for the BJJ blackbelt to throw up a slick arm bar. The champion tweeted out her thoughts after the fight.

Maia poses an interesting challenge given her skills, but she will be a massive underdog against Shevchenko. Shevchenko is head and shoulders ahead of anyone in her division. However, Maia proved last night that she’s a game opponent and she’ll be willing to bring the fight to the champ.

Edmen Shahbazyan vs Ian Heinisch

Last night we saw the Edmen Shahbazyan (11-1) hype train hit a wall. The Golden Boy was being touted as the next big thing. However, after he wasn’t able to finish Brunson early, it appeared that Shahbazyan still had miles to go in development.

The UFC is in an interesting spot trying to book Shahbazyan’s next fight. He definitely needs a top 15 opponent. In looking at the rankings, I think a fun matchup could be with Ian Heinisch (14-3).

Heinisch bounced back big time after back-to-back losses back in June with a first round TKO over Gerald Meerschaert. Heinisch is currently ranked as the thirteenth best middleweight in the UFC.

These two would make sense from a rankings perspective and it would be a really fun fight for fight fans. I think the style matchup would be a lot of fun. If the UFC would rather aim lower to build Shahbazyan back up, another option could be Antonio Carlos Junior.

I believe that Shahbazyan will work his way back up eventually. He’s still extremely young and has all the talent in the world. Last night was a humbling fight and a reminder of just how special young Jon Jones was.

Herb Dean draws unfair criticism at UFC Vegas 5

I said this in my article last week, but I believe that Herb Dean is one of if not the best referee in the UFC. There is a reason the man has been the official for so many massive events.

Dan Hardy criticized Dean for a late stoppage back at UFC Fight Island 3. The two men had some verbal back and forth. Dana White came out last week and said that situations like that could never happen again.

Herb Dean found himself at the center of more controversy after UFC Vegas 5. In the main event, Derek Brunson almost finished Edmen Shahbazyan at the end of the second round.

Shahbazyan took some massive shots and Dean came close to stopping the fight. His decision to proceed drew criticism.

How I saw UFC Vegas 5

There was a lot of criticism thrown Dean’s way, but I truly believe that he made the right call last night. I fall more in line with what Michael Bisping had to say after UFC.

There were a lot of people that said Shahbazyan was out near the end of the second round. I’ve watched the tape multiple times and he was not out. He was exhausted and taking some big shots, but he wasn’t out.

Immediately after the round ended Shahbazyan got up and went to his corner. You could tell he was hurt, but he had a full minute to recover. We’ve seen fighters in the past go from being nearly finished at the end of the round to winning the fight.

Shahbazyan did look a little out of it so Dean called in the doctor just to get a second opinion on his ability to continue. The doctor approved it and the fight continued.

Of course, Brunson stormed forward and took Shahbazyan straight to the ground. After landing just two shots, Dean called a stop to the action. The stoppage was great in my opinion. Shahbazyan was not ready to continue, but I think it was okay to send him out for the third.

I understand it’s the flavor of the month to bash Herb Dean. Yes, he made a bad call at UFC Fight Island 3. However, are we just going to ignore his history as one of the best refs in MMA history?

Dean unfortunately is going to find himself under the microscope every time he refs a UFC contest for the foreseeable future. It shouldn’t be that way, but unfortunately it’s the world we live in.

 

UFC Vegas 5 Recap: Derek Brunson derails the Shahbazyan hype train

Derek Brunson

The UFC made their Las Vegas return tonight. Headlining the first card back in the United States was a middleweight contest between Edmen Shahbazyan (11-0) and Derek Brunson (20-7). UFC Vegas 5 was highly anticipated and it didn’t disappoint.

Derek Brunson breaks Edmen Shahbazyan

In the main event of the evening, Derek Brunson was looking to spoil the party for the 22 year old UFC phenom, Edmen Shahbazyan. Shahbazyan was headlining his first card while Brunson was headlining his fourth.

As the first round started both men were just feeling the other out. Brunson started the action with a couple of kicks. Shahbazyan landed a crisp right which Brunson countered with a body kick.

Brunson looked incredibly patient to start looking for his openings. Brunson shot forward with a couple of big shots and landed a takedown. Shahbazyan was able to work his way back up to his feet but ate some big shots.

Shahbazyan started throw massive shots which opened the eyes of Brunson. Brunson remained patient almost seeming to fight in slow motion at times. Shahbazyan threw a knee that Brunson used to clinch him. Close first round that I give to Shahbazyan.

Brunson opened the second round with a leg kick but Shahbazyan landed a massive body kick to counter. Shahbazyan looked to be going more to the body in the second.

Brunson started really looking to grapple early on in the second round. Shahbazyan landed another massive body kick and a couple of shots. Brunson then landed some big shots of his own before trying for another takedown.

Shahbazyan really started to look tired about three minutes into the round. Brunson really started pressing the action when Shahbazyan looked tired. Brunson landed another takedown on an exhausted Shahbazyan. Shahbazyan started taking massive shots. Dominant second round for Brunson.

In the final round, Brunson immediately pressed forward landing big shots. Shahbazyan crumbled. Herb Dean called a stop to the action after Shahbazyan showed nothing. Statement win for Derek Brunson.

Jennifer Maia Armbars her way to a UFC title shot

The co-main event of the evening featured a women’s flyweight contest between Joanne “JoJo” Calderwood (14-4) and Jennifer Maia (17-6-1). Calderwood elected to stay active against Maia despite having a UFC title shot guaranteed once Valentina Shevchenko heals.

As the fight started, Calderwood immediately started looking for kicks. Maia was pushing forward looking for big 1-2’s. Maia started landing some big shots early on. Calderwood took a couple of clean shots down the middle that got her attention.

Maia was finding a home for her right hand a ton in the first two minutes. Calderwood kept looking for kicks to keep the distance and score points. Calderwood caught a kick from Maia and used it to take the fight to the ground.

Maia looked for some submissions off of her back, but couldn’t get anything to stick at first. Calderwood just looked content to hold top position. Out of no where, Maia throws up an armbar. She locked it in and Calderwood was forced to tap.

Crushing defeat for Calderwood who was supposed to fight for the title in June. With that win, Maia will likely be next for the champion. In fact, the champ had something to say about her win.

Vicious knee leads to a finish for Vicente Luque

The third fight of the main card had fight of the night written all over it. The UFC paired welterweights Vicente Luque (18-7-1) against Randy Brown (12-3).

Early on in the first round, Luque landed a massive leg kick that got Brown’s attention. Luque continued to spin Brown around with a couple of additional calf kicks early. Brown started landing a crisp jab that reddened the nose of Luque.

Luque continued to pepper the lead leg of Brown with inside and outside calf kicks. Brown stepped in but was met with a massive right that floored him from Luque. Luque let Brown back up to his feet with about two minutes left.

Brown seemed to get his feet back under him and started landing jabs again. Luque was just stalking Brown near the end of the round. Brown was rocked again which forced him to shoot for a takedown. The round ends and it was a clear one for Luque.

As the second round started, Brown landed a massive body kick to start things. Brown looked more comfortable to start the second landing some decent combinations off the jab. Luque dropped Brown with a calf kick about a minute into the round.

Luque allowed Brown to get right back up. Brown tried firing off his jab to keep Luque off of him. Luque continued to plot forward just stalking Randy Brown. Brown did start to gain momentum back with some good knees in the clinch.

With about a minute left in the round, Brown got a big takedown into side control. However, Luque was able to get right back up. Luque clinched up with Brown and landed a massive knee that floored Brown. A few follow up shots ended the fight. Great finish for Vicente Luque.

Bobby Green wins entertaining scrap with Vannata

The main card was kicked off by a rematch between lightweights Bobby Green (25-10-1) and Lando Vannata (11-4-2). The two men fought to a draw back at UFC 216 in 2017.

Both men were talking before the fight even started. They both took the center and immediately started trying to figure out their range. Green looked really smooth in the opening minute evading shots and landing some good counters.

Both men stepped forward with big shots and Green hit the deck for a just a second after a massive right from Vannata. Green was able to bounce back quickly. About a minute later, after hitting the deck himself, Green dropped Vannata with a massive right of his own.

Vannata worked his way back up to the feet and the two men resumed their stand up fight. Both fighters seemed to rock each other in a big exchange towards the end of the round. Very fun first round that I give to King Bobby Green.

Green took the center to start round two and landed a stiff jab. Vannata tried for a takedown thirty seconds in, but couldn’t land it. These two could not stop talking to each other in the cage.

Vannata started showing some real damage on his nose from the stiff straight shots from Green. Green continued to pepper Vannata with jabs. Vannata landed a couple of clean shots which forced a Green takedown attempt. Vannata pulled guard for a guillotine but couldn’t secure it.

The two ended up back on their feet with about two minutes left in the round. Green started pepping Vannata again with straight shots. Vannata shot for a takedown and was able to get it near the end of the round. Despite the takedown, Green still landed the bigger shots. Another round for Bobby Green.

Both men started the final round with a big high five. The two started exchanging immediately and Vannata seemed to land a shot that wobbled Green. They clinched and started throwing bombs at each other.

On the break, Green landed a massive shot that put Vannata down. Green got on top and started landing bombs. Somehow, Vannata was able to survive. After regaining his composure on the bottom, Vannata was able to work his way back up two minutes into the round.

Halfway through the round, Green shot in for a takedown and was able to get Vannata down. Green landed some pretty decent elbows from the top position. Vannata worked his way up with about a minute and a half left.

Vannata tried to push forward for the last minute, but Green seemed a step ahead. Green put on a great performance and takes the final round and the fight on my scorecard 30-27. The judges agreed giving the fight to Green unanimously (30-26, 30-27, 30-27).

UFC Vegas 5 Final Takeaways

The UFC returned to Vegas but didn’t do it without some adversity. There were fights cancelled to undisclosed reasons, COVID, and a fighter fainted before making the walk. Despite that the night delivered with some solid fights.

Jennifer Maia to me was the star of the night. Weeks ago she was just another top ten UFC flyweight and now she’s the likely number one contender.

Tonight also proved that Edmen Shahbazyan is not quite ready for the top competition in the UFC’s middleweight division. He looked completely lost after he couldn’t finish the fight in the first round.

UFC: Dana White on the Herb Dean – Dan Hardy situation: “That can never happen here again”

UFC, Dana White

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard about the referee drama from UFC Fight Island 3. Veteran official, Herb Dean, had words with former fighter and current UFC commentator, Dan Hardy.

The verbal confrontation came after Dean was slow to stop a fight. On the broadcast you could hear Hardy yell out, “Stop the fight! That’s twice now…” referring to another stoppage from earlier in the evening.

Today at the UFC Vegas 5 pre-fight media scrum, Dana White was asked about his opinion on the matter.

“We love Dan. Dan got emotional. The problem is with this setup, it’s a lot easier to do. It’s a lot easier to interact with everybody, from the fighters to the refs to the media and everybody. If you work for me in any capacity and you approach a referee or judge or an official, I will fire you that night on the spot. That can never happen here again,” White said.

UFC’s Firm Warning

Dana White and the UFC are not playing games when it comes to this. White has been very vocal in the past about fighters’ interactions with the referees.

If you need an example of how the UFC handles these kind of situations, just ask Jason High who was cut after he shoved an official after a fight. Of course, that situation was much different, but you get how serious the promotion takes these matters.

Dan Hardy has received a ton of support from the MMA community for standing up in that situation. However, White is coming from the perspective that you have to be professional no matter how strongly you feel.

The UFC does not play games when it comes to this kind of thing. I think this was a good reminder, but it’s also something that would have never taken place had we been in a normal non-COVID world.

Everyone will move on from this in the end. Dean will continue to officiate and Hardy will continue to commentate. They are both great at what they do, and this doesn’t change that. Just a heat of the moment thing that we will all move on from. You can view White’s full pre-fight press conference below.

UFC Vegas 5 Preview: Can Derek Brunson stop the Edmen Shahbazyan hype train?

The UFC returns to it’s home base tomorrow night. The promotion is back at the APEX with a solid card that is headlined by middleweights Edmen Shahbazyan (11-0) and Derek Brunson (20-7). Let’s take a look at the main card for UFC Vegas 5.

Can Brunson stop the UFC’s Golden Boy Shahbazyan?

The main event of the evening is a three round middleweight contest featuring Shahbazyan and Brunson. The fight is three rounds due to the fight originally being planned as the co-main event.

Shahbazyan comes into this fight with a ton of hype. Many people believe than he’s the next big thing in the UFC‘s middleweight division.

The promotion has been bringing him along slowly and the 22-year old phenom has answered the call every time. He took on Brad Tavares in his last fight and put on a clinic.

Shahbazyan has very crisp striking. He throws clean straight shots and possesses dynamite in his hands and legs. In addition to that, he’s got really good grappling. He’s truly a well-rounded guy.

Despite hating the name, Derek Brunson is the gatekeeper of the UFC‘s middleweight division. He doesn’t lose to guys in the lower half of the top 15, but he always loses against top five talent.

Brunson is coming into this fight coming off of back-to-back wins. In his last fight, Brunson was dropped in seconds against Ian Heinisch but bounced back to grab a decision victory.

Brunson has a wrestling background that he mainly uses for defensive purposes. He boasts an incredible 100% takedown defense. Brunson also has really good power and he’s used that in his knockout wins over Lyoto Machida and Uriah Hall.

While Brunson is a very solid fighter all around, he’s very hittable and I think he’s very chinny. To me, this fight reminds me a lot of the Israel Adesanya fight with Brunson.

Brunson was there to take on the guy everyone viewed as the next big thing. In that fight, Brunson got lit up like a Christmas tree and stopped in the first round. Brunson has been stopped in the first round four times in his career.

While I’m not saying Shahbazyan is Style Bender, I think the fight is going to go the same way. I think the accuracy and the speed of Shahbazyan’s shots will just be too much. I don’t believe Brunson has the chin to make it out of the first round. In my opinion, Shahbazyan will prove he’s the real deal tomorrow night.

Prediction: Edmen Shahbazyan by KO – Round 1

Joanne Calderwood vs Jennifer Maia

The co-main event of the evening features a likely title eliminator match in the UFC women’s flyweight division as Joanne Calderwood (14-4) takes on Jennifer Maia (17-6-1).

Taking this fight was an interesting choice for Calderwood. She is stepping up on short notice, but she was next in line to face UFC flyweight champion, Valentina Shevchenko. That fight had been booked but cancelled due to the champ’s injury.

Now, Calderwood is taking on a dangerous contender in Maia and putting her title shot on the line in this one.

Calderwood comes into this contest 3-1 in her last four fights with the lone loss coming against Katlyn Chookagian. Calderwood is one of the more entertaining fighters in the division.

When she’s striking, she throws with decent volume and has a wide range of striking techniques. You will likely see her throw some spinning techniques. In addition to that, she’s very good in the clinch. She does a fantastic job of landing good shots from that position.

Maia is the former Invicta flyweight champion and she’s coming into this contest 2-2 in her four UFC fights. Her two wins coming against Alexis Davis and Roxanne Modafferi.

Maia is the type of fighter who’s not elite anywhere, but she’s very good everywhere. She’s got decent striking, she’s got decent submissions, and she’s got good offensive grappling.

For Maia to win this fight, she really has to push the pace and land with volume. I’m not sure either of these ladies will be getting a finish, so the highest output might take this one.

While it’s extremely dangerous to risk her title shot, I like JoJo Calderwood to come through tomorrow night. I just think she’s going to use her range well and I think she’ll be able to control the grappling positions. Expect some cage work tomorrow night.

Prediction: JoJo Calderwood by Unanimous Decision

Vicente Luque vs Randy Brown

The third fight of the evening is a popular fight of the night pick as UFC welterweights Vicente Luque (18-7-1) and Randy Brown (12-3) go to war.

Luque ranks just outside the top ten in the welterweight division. He’s 11-2 in his last 13 fights with his only losses being to Stephen Thompson and Leon Edwards.

Luque has one of the better killer instincts in the UFC‘s welterweight division. When he hits people, they go down. He’s also got very good submission skills which could come into play in this fight. Luque is coming off of a doctor stoppage TKO victory over Niko Price back in May.

Randy Brown came to fame as one of the first guys to appear on Dana White’s Looking for a Fight. Since joining the UFC Brown is 6-3 with wins over Mickey Gall and Bryan Barberena.

Brown is coming off of a win over Warley Alves by triangle choke last November. Despite his wrestling background, Brown is the type of fighter who loves to strike. He’s got good length and pretty decent stand up.

In this fight, it would be wise for Brown to try to use some of his grappling to neutralize Luque’s power. At least give Luque multiple attacks to think about.

When thinking about this fight, I definitely believe that Randy Brown can win with his skillset. However, I don’t think he will. I believe he will have some success, but Luque will catch him before the fight is over.

Prediction: Vicente Luque by TKO – Round 3

Lando Vannata vs Bobby Green

The second fight of the main card is a rematch between lightweights Bobby Green (25-10-1) and Lando Vannata (11-4-2). Both men fought to a draw back at UFC 216.

Back in 2014, Bobby Green was emerging as a top contender in the lightweight division. He was coming off back-to-back wins over top guys like Josh Thomson and Pat Healy. Then, his career took a sharp downturn.

Since the Thomson win, Green is just 2-5-1 in his last eight fights. Green had retired after the Trinaldo loss last year, but he returned back in June to face Clay Guida. Green picked up a decision win in that fight.

Bobby Green has pretty good stand up and he’s got very good defensive grappling skills. He’s got pretty good speed as well in his striking.

Lando Vannata came into the UFC at 8-0. He became a replacement to take on the lightweight divisions boogieman in Tony Ferguson in his debut. Vannata almost finished Ferguson in that fight which shocked everyone.

Many people believed that Vannata would become one of the top contenders at lightweight after that fight. However, it hasn’t gone that way. Vannata is 3-3-2 in his last eight fights. He is also coming into this fight like Green coming off a decision win.

Vannata has good pop in his shots and throws a very diverse striking attack at his opponents. That could be a key in a fight against a guy like Green who mainly uses his boxing. In their first fight, Vannata was able to hurt Green bad on the feet.

This is a fight that I keep going back and forth on. I’m not entirely sure which Bobby Green is going to show up on fight night. If this was prime Green, I’d lean that way. However, I think Vannata is going to be able to get it done.

In the end, I think the diverse striking attack and higher output numbers from Vannata will help him. This is truly a fight that I think will be razor close. Don’t be shocked to see the judges split here.

Prediction: Lando Vanatta by Split Decision

Trevin Giles vs Kevin Holland

The opening fight of the UFC Vegas 5 main card is a middleweight contest between two prospects in Trevin Giles (12-2) and Kevin Holland (17-5).

Giles came into the UFC with a lot of hype behind him. He got some pretty good wins over guys like Brendan Allen and Ryan Spann on the regional scene before he made the UFC jump.

After debuting with back-to-back knockout victories, Giles is just 1-2 in his last three fights. Many people (including myself) thought he lost the split decision to James Krause which is his only win.

Giles is pretty good everywhere offensively. He’s got good grappling offense and he’s got good power with solid striking. Giles does fade in the later rounds so it’ll be very important for him to get off to a good start.

Much like Giles, Kevin Holland had a good amount of hype behind him when he started with the promotion. He got a nightmare of a first draw in Thiago Santos which he lost by unanimous decision.

Since that loss, Holland is 4-1 and he just fought back in May stopping Anthony Hernandez in under 40 seconds.

Holland is extremely long holding an 81 inch reach. He’s extremely well rounded and has pretty good cardio. In addition to those qualities, Holland has a very good chin which he showed off in that Santos fight.

When thinking about this fight, I struggle to see a path to victory for Giles outside of a knockout. When you go down the list, Holland beats him in most categories.

I think Holland will use his reach well in this fight, and I think he will do solid in the grappling exchanges. I’m going with a decision, but Holland could get a third round finish in this one.

Prediction: Kevin Holland by Unanimous Decision

UFC Vegas 5 Outlook

This card is so entertaining from top to bottom. There are a ton of intriguing matchups, but all eyes are going to be on Edmen Shahbazyan. Can he break through and become the next big UFC superstar? That is a question that will be answered tomorrow night.