After the excitement of Fight Island, the UFC returns to the Las Vegas for their fifth card at the Apex Centre where Derek Brunson headlines against top prospect Edmen Shahbazyan in the middleweight division.
This is a considerably smaller card than the last one we saw, with just 9 fights on this card rather than the 15 we saw last weekend. I broke down and predicted the prelim fights on this card here, and now will do the same for the five main card fights.
Last time out, I got 11/15 correct with 7 of those 11 absolutely perfect (winner, round, method). Lets see if I can do any better this time around.
Kevin Holland (17-5) vs Trevin Giles (12-2) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
An interesting bout between two prospects in the middleweight division here. Kevin Holland is an impressive all-round fighter who’s last win in the Octagon came via a body-shot knockout just 39 seconds into the fight. Giles’ last bout was a win over James Krause, who stepped in at short-notice a weight class up. Giles is predominantly a wrestler but is capable on the feet, while Holland is the opposite. Both guys have a tendency to make some strange decisions in the cage, with Holland often pulling a Jon Jones and fighting his opponent at what they’re best at. If he does choose to wrestle with Giles, he’ll be beaten soundly but should he fight to his own strengths I think he’ll have enough to get a win.
PICK – Kevin Holland via Knockout, Round 2
Lando Vannata (11-4-2) vs Bobby Green (25-10-1) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
Another battle between two very well rounded fighters but this time in the lightweight division. Lando Vannata had a lot of problems with his cardio despite excellent striking at the start of his UFC tenure and it cost him a lot of wins on his record. Green is a veteran who’s experience has helped him in the latest part of his career when coming up against better opposition in the cage. Green is a solid boxer who is more than competent in the grappling exchanges, while Vannata relies more on volume. In the last outing for “Groovy”, he circled and landed leg kicks to maintain his stamina and outpoint Yancy Medeiros. A similar game plan here will not work against Green who is a better boxer and more aggressive. Green should be able to land crisper strikes on the feet and hold his own on the ground for a decision win.
PICK – Bobby Green via Unanimous Decision
Vicente Luque (18-7-1) vs Randy Brown (12-3) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
Fight of the night pick here. Two explosive fighters who carry power and won their last bouts via finish. Luque is a big power puncher with vicious muay-thai and a good choke game, while Randy Brown is a long kickboxer with his own power and clinch abilities. Ultimately, Luque is too powerful for a fighter with Brown’s style. Using his jab and range, he should be able to keep Luque away from him for a short while but ‘The Silent Assassin’ won’t be deterred because of taking some shots and will eventually find his way to the inside. When he does, he’ll be able to counter ‘Rude Boy’ much more efficiently and eventually land that knockout blow.
PICK – Vicente Luque via Knockout, Round 2
Joanne Calderwood (14-4) vs Jennifer Maia (17-6-1) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
A big fight at the top of the women’s flyweight division as Joanne Calderwood puts her likely title fight with Valentina Shevchenko on the line to take this short-notice fight against former Invicta champ Jennifer Maia. Calderwood has won 3 of her last 4 and Maia 2 of her last 3, with both women’s defeats coming to Kaitlyn Chookagian. Maia was originally scheduled to fight Julia Araujo but she pulled out due to coronavirus complications. Calderwood is the type of fighter to just overwhelm you with a mix of techniques. She’s a good striker who isn’t afraid to shoot for takedowns and is comfortable when taken down. Maia’s striking is also her main weapon although she is also great on the floor with 4 KO’s and 4 subs on her professional record. Her last 8 fights have gone the distance though and if that is to happen again, she’ll need to be at her absolute best and hope Calderwood’s near year-long layoff means she’s a step slower. Calderwood should be good enough to control the distance and throw enough for a decision.
PICK – Joanne Calderwood via Unanimous Decision
Derek Brunson (20-7) vs Edmen Shahbazyan (11-0) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
A three round main event this one has a different type of feel to it. Shahbazyan has a perfect 11-0 record with 10 first round finishes among them, including against Brad Tavares and Jack Marshman. Brunson is the current gatekeeper of the middleweight division, with his only defeats coming against the very best in the division. Shahbazyan is seen as the next big thing in the division and rightly so with a record like that, but this is the biggest test of his career so far. Brunson is a heavy wrestler but interestingly enough he tends to reach a lot for his takedowns. He suffered against a crisp striker when he fought against Israel Adesanya and was knocked out in the first round because of that reaching and it could be a similar story in this fight if Shahbazyan can remain on his feet. He has crazy power on the feet and if he somehow ended up in an offensive position on the ground he has got submission skills. Brunson will want to get this to the ground early and use his experience to put Shahbazyan in deep waters but if he can’t he will probably get knocked out.
PICK – Edmen Shahbazyan via Knockout, Round 1