Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports
Edmen Shahbazyan is entering the biggest fight of his professional MMA career later tonight (Sat., Aug. 1, 2020) at UFC Vegas 5 live on ESPN+ from inside UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada, as the undefeated middleweight meets perennial contender Derek Brunson in the main event.
While Holly Holm vs. Irene Aldana was originally scheduled to lead the dance at UFC Vegas 5 the responsibility eventually fell on Shahbazyan and Brunson after Aldana tested positive for COVID-19. The result is Shahbazyan’s first official UFC main event and a true opportunity to break out at 185 pounds. Unfortunately for “Golden Boy,” he will have just three rounds to defeat Brunson in “Sin City.”
“[The UFC] offered us five [rounds],” said Shahbazyan during UFC Vegas 5’s virtual media day earlier this week. “I was OK with five, but I guess something happened with the other side, because I was down for five.”
Shahbazyan, just 22, has won all four of his trips to the Octagon since making his debut nearly two years ago. His success includes stoppages over veterans like Brad Tavares, Jack Marshman, and Charles Byrd. Shahbazyan hasn’t faced the best of competition during his short stint with the promotion but he has dominated every step of the way.
Brunson, who is coming into this main event riding a two-fight win streak, is undoubtedly the toughest test of Shahbazyan’s career thus far. The 36-year-old veteran is one of the best power punchers in the division and an athletically-gifted fighter who can use raw power and wrestling to control any opponent. Needless to say, Shahbazyan is going to have to be at his best to look good against someone like Brunson.
“He mixes up his wrestling and his wild strikes, and recently, he’s shown a little bit of patience,” Shahbazyan said of Brunson. “I’m happy to go in there and showcase my skills and get the victory.”
If Shahbazyan is able to take out Brunson at UFC Vegas 5 and extend his UFC unbeaten streak to five he will put his name on the short list of title contenders for 2021. And while current titleholder Israel Adesanya has plenty of suitors to choose from it could be Shahbazyan who ends up giving the champion a run for his money next year.
“I think he’s a good, skilled fighter,” Shahbazyan said of “Last Stylebender.” “He’s a good champion, even though he’s got his style of talking. He’s a good fighter all in all.”
Adesanya, who is another one of the division’s undefeated draws, has been dominating the competition since his UFC arrival in 2018. The flashy finisher is currently scheduled to defend his UFC middleweight title against Paulo Costa, another undefeated fighter, at UFC 253 this September. It’s one of the most anticipated fights of 2020 and a matchup that Shahbazyan is giving to the champ.
“I think he’s going to catch Costa coming in, and in the near future, of course, my full focus is on Derek Brunson,” he said. “But in the near future, I would love to face Adesanya.”
That said, Shahbazyan is preparing for anyone and everyone that UFC throws his way. If Costa is able to take out Adesanya or if former champion Robert Whittaker happens to fight his way back into a title fight, “Golden Boy” has his sights set on every possible scenario.
“Both of them,” said Shahbazyan when asked if he’d like to fight Adesanya or Costa. “I want to be the best in the world, so I’ve got to beat everybody. I’ll fight anybody.”
MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 5 fight card RIGHT HERE, starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. ET, followed by the main card portion that also streams on ESPN+ at 9 p.m. ET.