Judging from the pre-fight promotional material, the UFC expected Edmen Shahbazyan to walk through Derek Brunson and launch himself into the middleweight stratosphere. The 22-year-old Shahbazyan might eventually do just that, but Brunson delayed Shahbazyan’s accession to the upper reaches of the weight class on Saturday night. Brunson, who has only lost to the top fighters at middleweight, stopped a fatigued and seemingly mentally defeated Shahbazyan in the early moments of the third round of their matchup.
In the evening’s co-main event, Jennifer Maia took Joanne Calderwood’s presumed title fight opposite Valentina Shevchenko with a first-round armbar submission.
Below are the winners and losers from the UFC Vegas 5 fight card.
Derek Brunson: The knock on Brunson is his sometimes reckless striking. In the early going of his middleweight bout against Edmen Shahbazyan he was calm and effective. That made all the difference in this contest.
Yes, there were moments that Brunson’s head got out over his body and he charged forward recklessly a couple times, but neither of those things happened as much as they usually do in a Brunson scrap. For the most part, Brunson controlled those negative tendencies and that worked out well as he conserved energy and absorbed the strikes of his much younger opponent.
Brunson did nearly everything right against Shahbazyan and it earned him an upset win and kept him in the middleweight mix. It was an outstanding performance from the veteran competitor, who is now on a three-fight winning streak.
Bonus points to Brunson for this tweet:
No POTN BONUS . Somebody big mad— Derek Brunson (@DerekBrunson) August 2, 2020
Jennifer Maia: Maia was initially booked to face the No. 8 ranked Viviane Araujo on this card. Instead, she faced the No. 3 ranked Joanne Calderwood after Araujo tested positive for COVID-19.
Maia did not waste any time making the most of her opportunity. Her striking was crisper than Calderwood’s and when the fight went to the mat, Maia slapped on an armbar that drew a tap from Calderwood before the end of the first round.
After the event, UFC president Dana White said Maia’s win put her in line for the next shot at women’s flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko.
Vicente Luque: UFC commentator Paul Felder knew what Luque had planned for Randy Brown. Luque landed a lot of kicks to the calf of Randy Brown. Once Luque had tenderized Brown’s leg, Luque came over the top with a punch that dropped Brown, just like Felder said he would.
Luque’s calf kicks continued in the second round and Luque sent Brown to the mat early with that technique. Later in second stanza, the fight went to the fence. As Brown reached for the mat to put a hand down, Luque held Brown’s head and did not allow him to put that hand on the mat. Luque then unloaded a knee to Brown’s head that finished the fight.
Luque is 8-2 in his past 10 UFC fights. His two losses came to Leon Edwards and Stephen Thompson. At just 28, Luque is someone to keep an eye on.
Bobby Green and Lando Vannata: I can’t be the only one who thought the matchup between these two fellas would at least be an entertaining scrap based on the big personalities of Green and Vannata. Not only was the welterweight bout an entertaining one, it was an excellent matchup.
Both Green and Vannata fought like they had made a pre-fight agreement to eschew defense and keep their hands below their waists until they decided to throw punches.
Green got the best of the fight and earned a unanimous decision. Green has sometimes been frustrating to watch. A talented fighter with a solid all-around game, he has landed on the wrong end of many decisions. He is now on a two-fight winning streak — his first since 2013-2014 — so there’s some hope that he has discovered a missing ingredient that will allow him to find some consistency going forward.
Vannata should not be ashamed of his performance. He’s a skilled fighter as well, but he also loves to entertain.Even with the loss, Vannata’s job should be safe. However, at some point he might want to consider the advice his corner gave him against Green, which was to not get involved in firefights.
Jamall Emmers: Emmers looked excellent in earning his first UFC win. He used his length very well on the feet. He was fluid with his movement and landed some powerful strikes to varied targets on his way to a unanimous decision victory over a tough and game Vincent Cachero. Emmers did not get the finish he was chasing, but he did show a good all-around MMA game and a decent fight IQ.
An eight-fight card: The way we got to such a small number of fights on this card was grim, but still, eight fights made for a nice night of fights at the UFC Apex.
Edmen Shahbazyan: Shahbazyan threw every strike he attempted against Derek Brunson with fight- ending intentions. He landed his fair share of strikes and some of those hurt Brunson, including some to the body of his opponent. Shahbazyan’s use of energy cost him dearly in the second round and by the 10-minute mark of the contest, Shahbazyan’s body language was of a fighter who had no interest in being inside the cage. His corner would not have been out of line in stopping the contest before the final stanza.
Referee Herb Dean allowed the doctor to check on Shahbazyan before the start of the third round and allowed the bout to continue, but when Shahbazyan showed no defense early in the third, Dean waved things off.
Joanne Calderwood: Calderwood did not want to wait for women’s flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko and it cost her. Instead of waiting for the champ, Calderwood elected to face the dangerous Jennifer Maia and Maia submitted her in the first round via armbar. It was a rough 4:29 for Calderwood who could not find her groove against Maia.
Randy Brown: Brown did a nice job with his jab in the early going of his bout against Vicente Luque, but after he ate a bunch of calf kicks, Brown was more reluctant to throw that jab. Brown could never get his striking game going and Luque finished him in the second round via a nasty knee. This bout was a big opportunity for Brown as Luque was ranked No. 11 in the welterweight division at the start of the contest.
Frankie Saenz: Saenz was incredibly aggressive early, pushing Jonathan Martinez to the fence, but he couldn’t do much with that aggression other than score a takedown. Saenz was in over his head in the striking matchup and that cost him as he was dropped three times before he was finished.
Johnny Munoz: Munoz had a good first round, with a takedown and some nice ground strikes, but he also landed two low blows which might have slowed Nathan Maness. He also scored with two powerful takedowns in the second round. However, a third low blow in the final stanza cost him a point and an inability to produce any significant offense in the last five minutes left some questions about Munoz.
Cody Durden: Durden totally controlled the first round against Chris Gutierrez. He used a nice body lock and racked up a lot of strikes on the ground along with a submission attempt. That first round earned him a 10-8 score and a draw, but he did not have the striking to compete with Gutierrez on the feet.
UFC hype: Edmen Shahbazyan got a lot of shine from the UFC heading into this bout and once again that blew up in the face of the promotion. The UFC should know by now not to tempt fate.
Dana White: There were a fair amount of fights that fell through on fight week due to different issues. Despite the UFC already having fighter pay for the complete event budgeted, Dana White said the fighters who had their fights scratched would get “some money,” but not their show money. This, of course, is unfair and wrong, but not unexpected from the UFC.
Jonathan Martinez: Martinez missed weight for his bout against Frankie Saenz by four-and-a-half pounds and that might have given him an enormous advantage over Saenz. Martinez landed a lot of powerful kicks and nearly finished Saenz in the second. He wrapped things up in the third with a nasty knee. The 26-year-old looked very good, but the weight miss is a big mark against him.
Nathan Maness: Maness struggled early against Johnny Munoz, but perhaps that had something to do with the two low blows in the first round. However, he did have a decent third round, despite a third low blow. I’d like to see Maness compete in a fight where he isn’t fouled so much before making a judgement.
Vincent Cachero: Cachero was dominated for the entire fight by Jamall Emmers, but he took the fight on short notice and never gave up on himself even though he was largely out of the bout from the start. That counts for something and it will be worth seeing what he can do with a full camp under his belt.
Chris Gutierrez: Gutierrez was clearly the better fighter in his matchup against Cody Durden, but he did not get the win because of the first round. All three judges scored the first round 10-8 for Durden because Gutierrez gave up a body lock and accepted many strikes to his head as well as a single submission attempt. Had Gutierrez not accepted the position and tried to escape, perhaps he would have won the fight. This one will go down as a learning experience for Gutierrez.