UFC 252 Staff Picks and Predictions

The UFC returns to Pay Per View on Saturday with a massive heavyweight main event. The title is on the line, but in reality, there is much more. For a full preview of the match-up between Stipe Miocic and Daniel Cormier, check out this awesome piece from our own Josh Thomas.

As for the entire show, it features “The Suga Show” Sean O’Malley returning against the tough Chito Vera plus a heavyweight showdown between Junior Dos Santos and Jair Rozenstuik!

It’s the first UFC Pay Per View since Fight Island and we’re pumped! Here is the Baseline MMA’s staff picks and predictions for UFC 252.

UFC Heavyweight Championship: Stipe Miocic (Champion, 19-3) vs. Daniel Cormier (22-2, 1 NC)

Gabe Lewis: While some believe Miocic’s first loss to DC was a result of damage from the Ngannou fight, the second fight left no doubt who the better fighter was. For Cormier to win the third, he must control Miocic on the ground with his world-class wrestling. DC is on the wrong side of 40, but still has the skills to wear down the champion. Cormier ends his MMA career on top. Cormier by Split Decision

Josh Thomas: I’m truly torn on this fight. On one hand, I’ve never not pulled for Stipe, but I also would love to see DC go out on a win and ride into the sunset. I feel Cormier will be a lot more reserved and patient on the feet in this bout compared to the previous two. I also see DC utilizing much more grappling in this fight. For the first time, I can’t pick just one. I’ll take Miocic by 2nd Round TKO or Cormier by 3rd Round Submission. Pick ‘Em

Cody Guinn: The winner of this fight will likely be named the UFC’s heavyweight GOAT, but I feel neither man is retiring after this one. I believe this time around it’s back and forth. Rounds 1 and 4, Stipe outboxes Cormier on the feet. Rounds 2, 3 and 5, Cormier gets the fight to the ground leading to a DC decision. Cormier may put on a retirement show post-fight, but there’s too much money on the table with a potential Cormier-Jon Jones heavyweight match-up down the road. Cormier by Unanimous Decision

Sean O’Malley (12-0) vs. Marlon Vera (15-6-1)

Gabe: O’Malley has had some tough luck with drug test debacles and setbacks just getting to a fight. Following his walk-off KO of Eddie Wineland, O’Malley is sipping his own Kool-Aid. I would love Vera to humble O’Malley, but Sean has finished 10 of his last 12 opponents so that would be throwing money away. O’Malley by 2nd Round TKO

Josh: I believe Chito surprises many on Saturday. I’m not a “Suga” Sean hater at all, but think this is a huge step up in competition compared to previous opponents in the UFC. Vera by 3rd Round Submission

Cody: I truly believe O’Malley is a future superstar, but I really hope he isn’t looking past Chito Vera. Vera’s last five finishes have all been spectacular and his fight with Song Yadong was a classic that many though Vera should’ve won. Vera will give O’Malley a run for his money, but I’ll still buy in to the “Suga Show” on Saturday. O’Malley by Split Decision

Junior dos Santos (21-7) vs. Jair Rozenstruik (10-1)

Gabe: I tend to favor the up and coming fighters over veterans past their prime and this one is no exception. I see both men trading shots early and often, but Rozenstruik pulling out the KO against the former champion. Rozenstruik by 1st Round KO

Josh: dos Santos is a long-time top five heavyweight and has some great boxing for the division, but against a man with over 80 professional kickboxing bouts, JDS’ striking may not hold up. While this could be a repeat of dos Santos’ fight against Tuivasa, I believe we see “Bigi Boy” shut the lights off on dos Santos. Rozenstruik by 1st Round TKO

Cody: This fight could go a few different way. Dos Santos could try to grapple where he would have an advantage against the stand-up style of Jair…or Dos Santos could test his boxing against the powerful kickboxer. One of these game plans could get someone knocked unconscious in a scary way. Rozenstruik by 2nd Round KO

Herbert Burns (11-2) vs. Daniel Pineda (26-13, 2 NC)

Gabe: This is a classic grappler match-up with this bout. Both men have slick submission skills and the potential to end the fight early. I have Burns as the favorite with more consistency and a bit sharper executing his game plan. Burns by 2nd Round Submission

Josh: Close fight here on paper with two guys who are on hot streaks. I’ll go with Burns in a close bout. Burns by Unanimous Decision

Cody: Pineda is returning to the UFC following a conversational run in PFL. Pineda has looked outstanding since leaving the UFC in 2014 after a 3-4 run and is undefeated since 2018. Burns is on a five-fight winning streak all by finish. This is my favorite for Fight of the Night and I’ll give a slight advantage to the experience of Pineda. Pineda by Split Decision

John Dodson (22-11) vs. Merab Dvalishvii (11-4)

Gabe: Decision is likely in this one as both men have struggled in recent memory putting opponents away. I’ll side with Merab in this decision. Dvalishvii by Unanimous Decision

Josh: Two big statistics standout when looking at this fight: Dodson’s 80% takedown defense rate against Merab’s 8.67 takedowns per round in the UFC. Something has to give and I’ll take Dvalishvii’s game plan to eventually wear down Dodson. Dvalishvii by Unanimous Decision

Cody: This fight will cover the entire Octagon whether it’s from Dodson using his fast feet to keep distance from Merab or if it’s Dvalishvii shooting repeatedly to drag Dodson into deep water. While Dodson doesn’t have the same speed he had in his top ten days, he’s still never been finished in his MMA career. Dodson will likely need to be the one to get a finish in this one to pull out a win. Dvalishvii by Split Decision

Cody’s Quick Prelim Picks
Jim Miller over Vinc Pichel
Virna Jandiroba over Felice Herrig
TJ Brown over Danny Chavez
Livia Souza over Ashley Yoder
Chris Daukaus over Parker Porter
Kai Kamaka III over Tony Kelley

Join us next week on the Baseline MMA Podcast to recap UFC 252 and see how we did with our picks!

MMA Weekend Recap: Lewis Takes Out Oleinik, Chandler UFC Bound?

As many sports around the world continue to return to normalcy, the MMA leader had yet another show featuring multiple finishes on Saturday.

The UFC wasn’t along this weekend though as Bellator and RIZIN both featured big shows over the weekend.

With multiple shows and multiple headlining performances, we take a look back at all things MMA from your weekend.

The Black Beast With Another KO and Another Memorable Quote

In the UFC main event Saturday night, Derrick Lewis returning looking a bit slimmer than usual and came out firing in the first round against long-time fight veteran and submission specialist Aleksei Oleinik.

Lewis played a risky game in the first round throwing Oleinik to the ground and looking for ground and pound. Oleinik would sweep the bigger Lewis and nearly apply a scarf hold, or as Lewis referred to it, a “British Bulldog.” Lewis would survive until the end of the first and go with a new game plan in the second round.

Lewis would come up throwing heavy leather in the second dropping Oleinik and then pouring down heavy punches leading to a stoppage at 21 seconds in the second round.

Lewis has now won three fights in a row and is set up for another likely headliner role next likely against either Alistair Overeem, Curtis Blaydes or possibly a rematch with Francis Ngannou. Before that, Lewis expressed interest in shedding some more weight before returning to the Octagon late this year.

Weidman Back In The Win Column, Wants Another Run at 185

It’s been a tough last four years for former Middleweight Champion Chris Weidman as he entered the Octagon on Saturday on a two-fight losing streak and overall, losing five of his last six being finished in each of those defeats.

It was a must-win situation for the “All-American.”

Weidman faced a tough opponent in Omari Akhmedov and while it wasn’t pretty, Weidman did what he needed to do to earn his first decision win since July 2014.

After using some heavy wrestling in the first round and being out-wrestled and outstruke in the second, Weidman entered the third round with everything on the line. Weidman would come out fast and put Akhmedov on his back, work to mount and spend the round working ground and pound and looking for an arm-triangle finish.

In the end, it was a 10-8 round on multiple scorecards and would lead to a much needed victory for Weidman in the night’s co-main event.

Chris said post-fight that he was happy to be back at middleweight and sent out a warning to the division saying, “All you top tier guys, I’m coming for you.” Some potential interesting match-ups for Weidman at middleweight division going forward.

Michael Chandler Makes Quick Work Of Ben Henderson, Officially a Free Agent

Long-time Bellator standout Michael Chandler is one of the best fighters in the world to never step foot in the UFC Octagon as a competitor, but did make it 2-0 against former UFC Champion Benson Henderson on Friday night.

After a split decision win over Henderson back in November 2016, Chandler would make a much more definitive statement this time around knocking out Henderson in a little over two minutes in the Bellator headliner.

With the win, Chandler hits the open market as one of the hottest free agents in recent memory. Chandler has an overall record of 21-5, has won five of his last six and is a three-time Bellator Lightweight Champion.

At this point, it’s hard to think there’s anything left to accomplish in Bellator and Chandler has made it well known he wants to prove he can compete with the best lightweights in the UFC and even threw in a jab at former Lightweight Champion Conor McGregor saying, “I finish Conor in under two [rounds]. I wear him down a little bit, make him see Jesus, put him out.”

While Chandler likely jump right into a fight with McGregor, there are some fantastic fights for him in the UFC including Paul Felder, Tony Ferguson and/or Dustin Poirier. Of course, Chandler could decided to stick around as the face of Bellator and make some top tier cash or possibly make a deal where he could fight for both Bellator and RIZIN. Chandler said post-fight about the future, “my phone is on.”

Quick Results

UFC Fight Night: Lewis vs. Oleinik (8/8/20 – Las Vegas, Nevada)
– Derrick Lewis (24-7, 1 NC) defeated Aleksei Oleinik (59-14-1) via KO (punches) – 2nd Round, 0:21
– Chris Weidman (15-5) defeated Omari Akhmedov (20-5-1) via unanimous decision
– Darren Stewart (12-5, 1 NC) defeated Maki Pitolo via Submission (guillotine) – 1st Round, 3:41
– Yana Kunitskaya (13-5, 1 NC) defeated Julija Stoliarenko (9-5-1) via unanimous decision
– Beneil Dariush (19-4-1) defeated Scott Holtzman (14-4) via KO (spinning forearm) – 1st Round, 4:38
– Tim Means (30-12-1, 1 NC) defeated Laureano Staropoli (9-3) via unanimous decision
– Kevin Holland (18-5) defeated Joaquin Buckley (10-3) via TKO (punches) – 3rd Round, 0:32
– Nasrat Haqparast (12-3) defeated Alex Munoz (6-1) via unanimous decision
– Andrew Sanchez (13-5) defeated Wellington Turman (16-4) via KO (punch) – 1st Round, 4:14
– Gavin Tucker (12-1) defeated Justin Jaynes (16-5) via Submission (rear-naked choke) – 3rd Round, 1:43
– Youssef Zalal (10-2) defeated Peter Barrett (11-4) via unanimous decision
– Irwin Rivera (10-5) defeated Ali Alqaisi (8-4) via split decision

Bellator 243 (8/7/20 – Uncasville, Connecticut)
– Michael Chandler defeated Benson Henderson via TKO (strikes) – 1st Round, 2:09
– Timothy Johnson defeated Matt Mitrione via TKO (strikes) – 1st Round, 3:14
– Myles Jury defeated Georgi Karakhanyan via split decision
– Sabah Homasi defeated Curtis Millender via unanimous decision
– Adam Borics defeated Mike Hamel via split decision
– Chris Lencioni defeated A.J. Agazarm via unanimous decision
– Valerie Loureda defeated Tara Graff via KO (punch) – 2nd Round, 5:00
– Grant Neal defeated Hamza Salim via unanimous decision
– Charlie Campbell defeated Nainoa Dung via TKO (leg kicks) – 2nd Round, 1:42
– Dalton Rosta defeated Mark Gardner via TKO (doctor stoppage) – 1st Round, 5:00

RIZIN FF 22 (8/9/20 – Yokohama, Japan)
– Roberto de Souza defeated Yusuke Yachi via TKO (punches) – 1st Round, 1:52
– Ayaka Hamasaki defeated Tomo Maesawa via Submission (armbar) – 2nd Round, 1:14
– Kanna Asakura defeated Mizuki Furusa via TKO (punches) – 1st Round, 1:35
– Naoki Inoue defeated Shooto Watanabe via Submission (rear-naked choke) – 1st Round, 1:40
– Tetsuya Seki defeated Kouya Kanda via KO (punch) – 2nd Round, 3:47
– Kyohei Hagiwara defeated Rikuto Shirakawa via TKO (punches) – 3rd Round, 4:40
– Kenji Kato defeated Erson Yamamoto via Knockout (punch) – 1st Round, 3:32

UFC Fight Night: Lewis vs. Oleinik Staff Picks and Predictions

When it comes to the heavyweight division, many are already chomping at the bit to get to the trilogy title fight next weekend between DC and Miocic.

But, first, we get another wild heavyweight main event this weekend between “The Black Beast” Derrick Lewis and submission specalist Aleksei Oleinik.

This card is flying under the radar, but we have the Baseline MMA staff locked in with their picks for the upcoming event from The APEX in Las Vegas.

Derrick Lewis (23-7, 1 NC) vs. Aleksei Oleinik (53-13-1)

TJ Lobello: Either way, this fight ends early. But, I’ll lean towards Lewis landing the knock out blow early in the first. Lewis by 1st Round KO

Josh Thomas: Oleinik can outgrapple the greater portion of the UFC roster, but when you look at his most recent losses, they’re all on the feet. Lewis enters this fight on a two-fight winning streak and I think he holds on to that and makes it three. I give him the edge based on his power. Lewis by 1st Round TKO

Gabe Lewis: Let’s keep it simple: if it’s a slugfest, Lewis wins in the first. The longer the fights drags out, the more likely an Oleinik submission becomes. Oleinik is a veteran and is battle tested and Lewis is susceptible to takedowns, but I’ll bet on Lewis to get it done on Saturday. Lewis by 1st Round TKO

Cody Guinn: This fight has potential to be over quick or drag on for nearly the entire twenty-five minutes. Lewis must keep this fight standing or he’ll be in trouble in any round. With that said, Oleinik’s recent losses to power punchers lead me to side with Lewis by an early finish. Lewis by 1st Round TKO

Omari Akhmedov (20-4-1) vs. Chris Weidman (14-5)

TJ: Weidman is a former champion and needs a big win. I see him entering this fight motivated and earning a nice return win. Weidman by Decision

Josh: Weidman is in a tough spot as he’s been stopped in five of his last six bouts. Weidman is a black belt and very competent grappler will give him the edge against Akhmedov. The former champ is a big step up in competition for Omari. Weidman by Decision

Gabe: I truly think Weidman’s best days are behind him, but that doesn’t mean he can’t get the job done. Chris will look to get this on the ground and keep it there, but Akhmedov is on a five-fight winning streak and will look to make his name off of Chris’. Weidman experimented at light heavyweight, but the power of Dominick Reyes made him reconsider and Chris now returns to his comfort zone at 185, but regardless, Weidman has struggled losing five of his last six. Akhmedov by Decision

Cody: Weidman can’t afford another loss right now, but the UFC isn’t doing him any favors against a hard-hitting, physically strong opponent like Omari Akhmedov. Akhmedov can really put himself on the map with a win or finish of Chris, but Weidman needs this win more than any other fighter needs a win currently in the UFC. Weidman by Decision

Maki Pitolo (13-5) vs. Darren Stewart (11-5, 1 NC)

TJ: Another closely matched fight between two guys looking to break out of the pact at middleweight. I’m inclined to run with Maki in a close fight. Pitolo by Decision

Josh: Pitolo has one of the best names in the UFC and one of the best nicknames “Coconut Bombz.” I think he gets it done against Stewart as Maki is more refined and his counter striking will be his way to victory. Pitolo by 2nd Round TKO

Gabe: A toss-up fight between two talented strikers. I’ll award Stewart with the slight power advantage as he knocks out opponents at a 64% clip while Pitolo is at 54%. I’ll side with Stewart in a close one. Stewart by Decision

Cody: An underrated fight to make a run at Fight of the Night, Pitolo is sharp with solid boxing and some devastating ground and pound. Darren Stewart has fought some hard-nosed middleweights since joining the UFC in 2016. This fight will be close, but I’m giving a slight edge to Pitolo. Pitolo by Decision

Yana Kunitskaya (12-5, 1 NC) vs. Julija Stoliarenko (9-4-1)

TJ: Stoliarenko is jumping in on short notice against an underrated women’s bantamweight. I’m going with Kunitskaya all the way. Kunitskaya by Decision

Josh: Even coming off a loss, I still like Kunitskaya in this fight and in this division. Yana has good takedown defense and I truly believe she’ll keep this fight on the feet. I’m confident with her training background out of Jackson-Wink, she’ll have the advantage and earn the decision. Kunitskaya by Decision

Gabe: Coming off a 3rd round loss to Aspen Ladd last year, Kunitskaya is determined to get back in the win column against a submission specialist. Both fighters are well versed on the ground, but on the feet, I give the advantage to Kunitskaya has she has the better striking and can finish her as the fight prolongs. Kunitskaya by 3rd Round TKO

Cody: Yana has only loss to top tier 135ers and 145ers including Aspen Ladd, Cris Cyborg and split a series with Tonya Evinger in Invicta. With that said, Stoliarenko is no slouch as a former Invicta champion and has finished eight of her nine wins with an armbar. As long as Kunitskaya can avoid that, she should earn a nice win. Kunitskaya by Decision

Beneil Dariush (18-4-1) vs. Scott Holtzman (14-3)

TJ: Two up and coming lightweights who can put on a show to kick-off the main card. I’ll go with Dariush to earn a nice win. Dariush by Decision

Josh: This could be Fight of the Night to kick-off the main card. Based on pure experience, Dariush edges it out in my book. I also like Dariush on the ground as he is more proficient overall. Dariush by Decision

Gabe: This fight has decision written all over it, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be exciting! I’m leading towards Dariush to get the finish based off performances against the likes of Michael Johnson and James Vick. Dariush by 2nd Round Submission

Cody: Two tough fighters who aren’t scared to trade right inside the pocket. This fight may come down to who has the better chin or who can mix it up the best maybe sneaking in a takedown or using more angles and movement. Dariush just recently landed in the UFC’s top fifteen rankings, but I think Holtzman will find a way to win. Holtzman by 2nd Round TKO

Cody Quick Prelim Picks
Laureano Staropoli over Tim Means
Kevin Holland over Joaquin Buckley
Alex Munoz over Nasrat Haqparast
Wellingotn Turman over Andrew Sanchez
Gavin Tucker over Justin Jaynes
Youssef Zalal over Peter Barrett
Al Alqaisi over Irwin Rivera

Join us next week on the Baseline MMA Podcast to recap UFC Fight Night: Lewis vs Oleinik and see how we did with our picks!

Baseline MMA – Episode 4: Brunson Upsets The Golden Boy, The Black Beast Is Back!

The full crew is locked in on a big fight weekend as Cody, TJ and Josh recap UFC Fight Night: Brunson vs. Shahbazyan and preview the upcoming shows in both the UFC and Bellator.

Also, the Fightcast segment announces some upcoming big fights, the guys look ahead to some upcoming non-UFC events, and picks are locked in for this weekend!

UFC Fight Night: Brunson vs. Shahbazyan Results and Recap

The UFC returned stateside to the UFC APEX in Las Vegas on Saturday with an event that had some late notice trouble, numerous low blows and some fun fights and finishes.

The show originally was scheduled to feature eleven fights, but the show lost three fighters on Thursday leading to changes.

Come Saturday morning, the show was booked with nine fights, but would lose Gerald Meerschart on fight day due to a positive COVID-19 test result. When the show officially got underway, the nine-fight card was tied for the smallest card in the last five years.

Once under way, the fights as usual were exciting and fast-paced from an opening draw to back to back upsets on the main card. Here’s a full recap of UFC Fight Night: Brunson vs. Shahbazyan:

Middleweight (185 lbs.) Main Event: Derek Brunson (21-7) defeated Edmen Shahbazyan (11-1) by 3rd Round TKO at 0:26

In a fight that many considered an opportunity for young California prospect Edmen Shahbazyan to truly shine and emerge in the middleweight division, instead it was Derek Brunson proving he’s in no way at gatekeeper.

Brunson and Shahbazyan traded on their feet early in the fight, but it was clear in the second round that Brunson had a wrestling advantage and landed some big ground and pound nearly getting the fight stopped at the conclusion of round two. After both Shahbazyan’s corner and the doctor okay’d the fight to continue for round three, Brunson went right to work dragging Shahbazyan to the ground and landing a few more big shots leading to referee Herb Dean stopping the fight under 30 seconds into the round.

For Brunson, it marks his third straight win after changing camps to work closer with coach Henri Hooft and now puts him right back into the mix in the middleweight division.

Shahbazyan is still young as he taste defeat for the first time at 22-years-old, but this was a big learning experience for the former training partner of Ronda Rousey. Shahbazyan will likely recover and learn more from this then he would another quick win and I expect another impressive run from the prospect beginning closer to the end of the year.

Women’s Flyweight (125 lbs.): Jennifer Maia (18-6-1) defeated Joanne Calderwood (14-5) by 1st Round Submission (armbar) at 4:29

Joanne Calderwood took a risk accepting a short-notice fight when earlier this year, she was scheduled to meet Flyweight Champion Valentina Shevchenko for the gold until Valentina was forced to withdraw due to injury. The risk did not pay off as submission specialist Maia would lock in a tight armbar for the finish late in round one.

After exchanging some strikes in the first few minutes of the fight, Calderwood would take the fight to the ground against Maia and look to work some of her dangerous elbows from the guard of Maia. Maia would be patient and then throw up a slick armbar attempt that would forced Calderwood to fall to the side and allow Maia to lock up the arm deeper leading to the tap.

Shortly after the finish, the champ Shevchenko would tweet, “See you soon Jennifer Maia” leading to speculation that Maia likely earned a future title shot with her finish of Calderwood.

Welterweight (170 lbs.): Vicente Luque (19-7-1) defeated Randy Brown (12-4) by 2nd Round TKO at 4:56

Vicente Luque continues to be one of the most fun to watch finishers in the UFC. Against the long and rangy Randy Brown, Luque would close the distance and land some hard leg kicks and strong hooks to drop Brown twice leading to a late finish in the second round.

Luque has won six of his last seven with five of those wins coming by TKO. Post-fight, Luque expressed interest in a fight Nate Diaz. In the end, Luque deserves a top tier opponent next after a great run so far in 2020 with finishes of Niko Price and now, Randy Brown.

Lightweight (155 lbs.): Bobby Green (26-10-1) defeated Lando Vannata (11-5-2) by Unanimous Decision

In the night’s best fight, Bobby Green and Lando Vannata would throw a combined 169 significant strikes over three rounds, but Green would be the one that landed 115 of those plus three takedowns leading to a decision victory.

The fight was a rematch from a bout back in 2017 which ended in a draw. Lando landed some of his trademark wild strikes, but in the end, the clean boxing and solid clinch striking would lead to Green’s second win of 2020. The performance from both men would lead to it being the Fight of the Night by the promotion.

The middleweight main card opening fight between Trevin Giles vs. Kevin Holland was cancelled as on his way to the Octagon, Giles would faint. Once Giles recovered and was able to sit backstage under his own power, he requested to continue and proceed to the fight, but the commission wouldn’t allow it.

Bantamweight (135 lbs.): Jonathan Martinez (12-3) defeated Frankie Saenz (13-7) by 3rd Round TKO at 0:57

Jonathan Martinez would pick apart Frankie Saenz in the final preliminary fight of the evening dropping Saenz three times with some great striking including lethal head kicks leading to a stoppage early in the third round.

While Martinez looked very good, he also came into the fight overweight missing the bantamweight mark by 4.5 pounds. Saenz earned 30-percent of Martinez’s fight purse, but would also take home a tough loss. With how good he looked in the fight, Martinez may consider a move to featherweight.

Featherweight (145 lbs.) Nate Maness (12-1) defeated Johnny Munoz (10-1) by Unanimous Decision

After a tough opening round as Munoz would do some good work on the ground on top of Maness, Nate would recover nicely to win the following two rounds.

Munoz also hurt himself by hitting Maness with three low blows in the fight leading to a one-point deduction following the third illegal strike. While Munoz would land a nice slam in the opening round and work some ground and pound, from that point on, Maness would stuff 14 of the next takedown attempts in the fight.

Featherweight (145 lbs.) Jamall Emmers (18-5) defeated Vince Cachero (7-3) by Unanimous Decision

One of the fights that fell apart at the weigh-ins was the Jamall Emmers-Timur Valiev fight, but stepping up on short-notice was Vincent Cachero to meet Emmers.

In the end, Emmers would land over 100 significant strikes and hit five of his seven takedown attempts leading to a dominant victory.

Bantamweight (135 lbs.): Chris Gutierrez (15-3-2) drew with Cody Durden (11-2-1)

You know the night will be a bit wild when the opening bout ends in a unanimous draw. Chris Gutierrez would dominate round one having full back control UFC newcomer Cody Durden for nearly four minutes.

In rounds two and three, Durden would keep the fight standing and land some clean strikes while defending the takedowns much better than he did in the opening frame. According to MMA Decision, it was the first unanimous draw in UFC history with no point deductions in the fight.

Join us this upcoming week for our FightMaker bouts following this card and a new episode of the Baseline MMA Podcast with a full round-up of the show and upcoming events and match-ups!

UFC Fight Night: Brunson vs. Shahbazyan Staff Picks and Predictions

The UFC returns to the APEX in Las Vegas on Saturday with a fun fight card featuring a middlweight showdown between Derek Brunson and Edmen Shahbazyan.

The Baseline MMA staff made their picks and predictions for the main card and one thing we’re all in agreement on: this card is loaded with Fight of the Night potential bouts!

Derek Brunson (20-7) vs. Edmen Shahbazyan (11-0)

Josh: When this fight was made, I remember seeing a handful of posts that read, “why are they doing Brunson like that?” An undefeated killer against a veteran who’s respectfully revered as a bit of a gatekeeper. Undoubtedly, it should be the toughest fight for Edmen yet, but I believe his crisp striking gets the job done. Brunson could pressure forward and utilize his wrestling, but I think Edmen’s power and technique will be too much; for further reference, refer to Brunson’s fight with Adesanya. Shahbazyan by 2nd Round TKO

Gabe: Not the most thrilling main event, but this is what we have. Do you think Brunson’s chin will hold up? I don’t think so either. Look for Edmen to end this is spectacular fashion. Shahbazyan by 1st Round KO

Cody: Brunson is solid and would love to shed the “gatekeeper” status and he’ll have that chance against an undefeated prospect. No doubt Edmen has the tools to end this fight early, but I believe this is a must-win for Brunson to stay relevant in the middleweight division. Bruson will make Edmen work, but Shahbazyan will still do enough to get the nod. Shahbazyan by Unanimous Decision

Joanne Calderwood (14-4) vs. Jennifer Maia (17-6-1)

Josh: Joanne seemed to be next in line to fight Valentina for the title and she risks losing it by staying active? I can respect that and I truly like her chances against Maia. Maia has missed weight in her last two fights and is 2-2 in her last four. Calderwood is tough and in pure technical ability, I feel she’s the more balanced fighter offering a mixed attack on the feet and on the ground. Calderwood by Split Decision

Gabe: Calderwood is going to get her out of there early as Maia’s gas tank will come into play as the fight goes into deep water. Calderwood by 2nd Round TKO

Cody: A big risk taking a short-notice fight while seemingly the number one contender, but it also gives “JoJo” a chance to secure a future title shot if she can finish Maia. Much easier said than done though as Maia hasn’t been finished since 2012. Calderwood by Unanimous Decision

Vicente Luque (18-7-1) vs. Randy Brown (12-3)

Josh: More than likely your Fight of the Night, Luque has made quite the name for himself for being always game and ready to always throw down! Brown, making his first appearance in 2020, is an absolute finisher with a rangy boxing style and some deadly clinch strikes. Luque has great boxing and is willing to eat one here and there while on the attack. Randy has upset potential here if he can touch him clean, but I don’t think it happens against Luque’s movement. Vicente’s tough and gritty fighting style will give him the edge. Luque by Unanimous Decision

Gabe: One of the best fights on the card, Luque is tough as nails and dishes out nearly six strikes per minute. He’s precise, technical and can do serious damage if you are reckless. However, Luque does absorb a fair amount of damage and one mistake could lead to Brown walking away with a big win. Brown is a long, rangy fighter who could pick you apart at a distance if he’s disciplined. The money is coming in on Luque and I tend to agree. Luque by 3rd Round TKO

Cody: As both Josh and Gabe pointed out, this is likely your Fight of the Night if not of the entire year! Luque is a brawler with a great mix of power and a top-notch chin. Luque’s only losses over the last five years have been decisions to Stephen Thompson and Leon Edwards; no shame in either of those. Luque is pure violence, which means Brown must avoid that style of fight. Brown must use his distance and try to stay on the outside to earn a decision win or find a clean opening. If Brown can effectively use his range and distance, he has a good chance, but if things get ugly, Luque may earn another bonus and a top tier opponent for later this year. Luque by 2nd Round TKO

Lando Vannata (11-4-2) vs. Bobby Green (25-10-1)

Josh: What a treat! A rematch I’ve wanted to see for awhile. Green is fun to watch and Lando has established himself as “must see TV.” In terms of striking, although Lando is flashy and exciting, on paper, Green has the heavier shots and higher accuracy. We also can’t forget that Lando is a BJJ brown belt and his February win over Yance Meideros makes me pull for him in this match-up. Vannata by Split Decision

Gabe: Second times a charm, right? These two warriors fought to a draw in 2017 and both fighters will come in looking to settle the score. Both men are content in fighting the full fifteen so I expect that again in this one. I think Green gets the edge in this one. Green by Unanimous Decision

Cody: Could be one of the first fights in UFC history to be a draw twice! These two are evenly matched with Lando’s wild striking and Green’s walk-you-down style. I can honestly see Lando hurting Green early with an elbow or flying knee and winning the opening round 10-8 then Green just outstriking and outworking Lando in rounds two and three seriously leading to a second draw (you can see it now too, huh?), but for the sake of picks, I’ll run with Green picking up a close victory. Green by Split Decision

Kevin Holland (17-5) vs. Trevin Giles (12-2)

Josh: This fight will be a banger as well. Holland had a flawless victory in his last fight while Giles is coming off a win over James Krause. This fight could go anywhere: Giles has the grappling advantage and throws wild strikes while Holland has nasty ground and pound and more tuned and refined striking. I see Kevin using his counter striking and sleeping Giles in the first! Holland by 1st Round KO

Gabe: This is another great striking battle between two up and coming middleweights. I can see it going either way, but I’d lean slightly towards Giles pulling out the decision win. Giles by Spit Decision

Cody: Both these guys have been a bit inconsistent in their UFC runs so far with Holland 3-2 in the promotion with his losses to Thiago Santos and Brendan Allen while Giles is also 3-2, but has loss two of his last three and his split decision win against James Krause in February did more for Krause than it did Giles considering Krause stepped up a weight class on one-day notice, but was just overpowered. When Giles looks good, he looks like a future contender, but I like Holland much better overall especially in the opening three minutes of this match-up. Holland by 1st Round TKO

Cody Quick Prelim Picks:
Jonathan Martinez over Frankie Saenz
Gerald Meerschart over Ed Herman
Nathan Maness over Ray Borg
Markus Perez over Eric Spicely
Timur Valiev over Jamall Emmers
Chris Gutierrez over Cody Durden

Join us next week on the Baseline MMA Podcast to recap UFC Fight Night: Brunson vs. Shahbazyan and see how we did with our picks!