The UFC returns to Las Vegas on Saturday, August 1, to the APEX Fight Center for its next card, and while modest on paper, there are a few bangers definitely worth paying attention to —I’m looking at you Vicente Luque and Randy Brown. Another positive for this card is that in going back to the APEX Center we go back to the smaller cage, which many believe encourages fighters to “go for broke,” a concept we’ll surely see in several of the fights on this event.
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Edmen Shahbazyan ($9,100)
Shahbazyan is a prospect on the rise with a pristine 11-0 record, with four of those wins coming inside the octagon. He is a striking machine who is equally lethal with his hands and feet, with his most recent win being a head kick KO of Brad Tavares at UFC 244. At just 22 years old, the Glendale Fight Club product has only gone the distance once and has made it past the first round just that one time. Shahbazyan has very good grappling acumen with an impressive takedown game. He’s lightning quick with the footwork and precision to match, but more importantly, he makes good in-fight decisions and is able to make the necessary adjustments to maximize positions. This is key in a fight with Derek Brunson ($7,100), who has had some plummets in fight IQ historically. A win here could propel Edmen right into contender status.
Joanne Calderwood ($8,700)
Calderwood is a Scottish Muay Thai champion who has a high work rate and excellent technical striking. She uses her teep kicks like a range-finding jab and her boxing gets better with every outing. She’s fast and has some nice pop on her punches, which she sets up with big kicks that translate into knockout combinations. She sometimes has trouble with strong grapplers but has been working hard to shore up that deficiency. Joanne’s opponent, Jennifer Maia ($7,500), is prone to getting boxed up at range and in the clinch, and while she may manage a takedown, she’s going to get punished for it. Calderwood is just a better athletic talent than Maia and should be able to outclass her on the feet to score another hard-fought decision.
Editor’s note: Ray Borg has been taken off Saturday’s UFC Fight Night card.
Ray Borg ($9, 000) Ray Borg had just put together back-to-back wins when he ran into Ricky Simon and lost a split-decision to the hard-hitting contender. Now he’s paired up with the 5-foot-10 regional talent, Nathan Maness ($7,200) who has finishing capabilities, but against a lower quality of opposition than Borg has faced and beaten. He may have a near comical height and reach advantage, but Maness can be controlled and punished by much smaller opposition, as Taylor Lapilus demonstrated a little over a year ago. Against a seasoned wrestler with very good standup like Borg, Nathan is going to be outmatched, especially on the ground where Borg shines. If Ray dictates the pace and pushes Maness against the fence where he can control the lanky newcomer, the fight is his to lose.
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Derek Brunson ($7,100)
I can’t help but feel that when Brunson ends up on the underdog side of the lines, he goes out of his way to make a statement. Shahbazyan is a shooting star right now, but Brunson has the star destroyer in that left hand as Lyoto Machida can attest to. Brunson is also excellent at stopping takedowns, possessing a 100% takedown defense rate, so if “The Golden Boy” plans on getting this fight to the ground, his work won’t be easy. Derek has the experience advantage and has been in some real dogfights, so this fight could very well end up in the judges’ hands. He’s had some questionable in-fight decision making but seems to be fighting smarter and more defensively of late. Brunson has all the necessary tools to play spoiler here, especially with that great equalizer he packs.
Randy Brown ($7,400)
Randy Brown is a steal at this price and, quite frankly, the line gap between him and Vicente Luque ($8,800) is absolutely bonkers. Brown is a talented athlete who knows how to get a fight finished. He’s both a knockout artist and a submission specialist, having notched perhaps his biggest win over another grappling ace, Warlley Alves. Brown is going to give up the experience edge in this contest, but the scales even out a bit when you consider how much damage Luque is willing to take in a fight, and for Vicente, that number is staggering (he absorbs 5.79 strikes/minute). Much has been made of Luque’s chin durability but when a fighter has the kind of wars he’s had, one has to wonder how long that chin foundation will last before it starts to erode. Choosing Randy Brown is quite a bold pick, but his chances of beating the odds are better than one might think.
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