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!