Dubai: Up-and-comer Edmen Shabazyan was given a reality check he will take some time to digest when finding himself on the wrong end of a Derek Brunson masterclass as the UFC returned from Fight Island in Abu Dhabi to its home in Las Vegas on Saturday night.
The 22-year-old former training partner for the great Ronda Rousey went into the middleweight clash as the big favourite following his streak of three wins since joining the UFC in March last year.
However, it did not take the 36-year-old Brunson, a veteran of 17 fights in the UFC Octagon, long to establish his presence and systematically break down the Armenia-born Shabazyan.
By the second round, the smiles that Shabazyan had been flashing in the prelims were nowhere to be seen, instead you could see that he was fully comprehending the challenging situation that he was up against in the knock-out specialist.
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He would survive that round, just barely, with many believing that referee Herb Dean will waive the fight off.
Dean did so in the third as Brunson rained missiles on the younger man leaving him bloodied and deflated, both physically and emotionally.
It’s good to see more young talent surging into the UFC ranks but let them be warned that the old guard are not quite done yet, Just ask Demian Maia, Fabricio Werdum, Antonio Rogerio Bogueira or Yoel Romero, who are all in their 40s.
Brunson drove that point home in emphatic fashion but resisted going overboard and calling out a next opponent. Instead he took to Twitter to say that he had put his heart into the fight and dedicated the win to his supportive friends and family.
In the co-main event between a pair of ranked women’s flyweights, Brazil’s Jennifer Maia used her superior ground control to defeat Scotland’s Joanne Calderwood by submission (armbar) at 4:29 of the very first round.
Saturday’s Fight Night card featured five fights on the main card and four on the preliminary card with the Vicente Luque vs Randy Brown welterweight clash expected to deliver some fireworks and it did.
Mostly from the flying fist of Luque who won via TKO at 4:56 of the second round.
Both Luque, an American of Brazilian and Chilean heritage and Jennifer Main picked up $50,000 bonuses for Performances of the Night, while lightweight Bobby Green, who became a foster child when he was five years old, went home with the $50,000 Fight of the Night award following a points win over Lando Vannata.
UFC Fight Night results
Derek Brunson def. Edmen Shabazyan via third-round TKO
Jennifer Maia def. Joanne Calderwood via first-round submission
Vicente Luque def. Randy Brown via second-round TKO
Bobby Green def. Lando Vannata via unanimous decision (30-26, 30-27, 30-27)
Jonathan Martinez def. Frankie Saenz via third-round TKO
Nate Maness def. Johnny Munoz via unanimous decision (29-27, 29-27, 29-27)
Jamall Emmers def. Vince Cachero via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Chris Gutierrez vs. Cody Durden fight to draw (28-28, 28-28, 28-28)