Saturday’s UFC Battle Evening card was a chilly dose of actuality for a pair of fighters who seemed to be on the precipice of main breakthroughs. Edmen Shahbazyan bumped into the stiff offense of Derek Brunson and suffered the primary lack of his profession, whereas Joanne Calderwood noticed her speedy title hopes shrink after taking a short-notice struggle and falling by submission to Jennifer Maia.
The winners and losers of these bouts will every really feel the impact of Saturday’s outcomes, however so too may reigning UFC girls’s flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko, with the checklist of high contenders to her belt shuffled after Saturday’s outcome.
ESPN’s panel of MMA consultants — Ariel Helwani, Phil Murphy, Marc Raimondi and Jeff Wagenheim — break down all the fallout from UFC Battle Evening and mission what lies forward.
What’s your greatest takeaway from Saturday’s primary occasion?
Helwani: Brunson is nobody’s stepping stone. That is for positive. Now, I do not assume it was a mistake to e book him towards Shahbazyan as a result of this appeared like an appropriate subsequent step for the 22-year-old, contemplating how good Shahbazyan regarded as of late. Nevertheless it’s clear Shahbazyan’s not on the extent of the Brunsons of the world but, not to mention the highest contenders. And that is OK. He’s solely 22. Bear in mind, Brunson is 36. He is been combating since 2010. Shahbazyan, in the meantime, has been combating since 2017. I’ve little doubt Shahbazyan shall be again and be a participant at 185, however the coronation must wait.
For Brunson, contemplating he stumbled within the highlight versus Robert Whittaker and Israel Adesanya prior to now, it was good to see him proper these wrongs. He is not a gatekeeper and deserves somewhat extra respect. Hopefully folks acknowledge that now.
Raimondi: Brunson is an actual drawback below the steering of the staff at Sanford MMA and coach Henri Hooft. He’s 3-Zero since happening to the Florida health club. This model of Brunson is rather more affected person. He is not head looking. He is utilizing his oppressive wrestling skills. He is holding a excessive tempo. Plus, Brunson nonetheless has massive energy in his palms. These are all elements for a high middleweight fighter within the UFC. It will not be loopy for Brunson to get somebody like Jack Hermansson subsequent. With three straight wins, Brunson is just not removed from middleweight competition. By the way in which, that division is as attention-grabbing because it has been in years with guys like Israel Adesanya, Paulo Costa, Whittaker, Jared Cannonier and others on the high.
Wagenheim: I’ve at all times liked the philosophy of Conor McGregor‘s coach, John Kavanagh: We win or we be taught. For Shahbazyan, the influence of Saturday’s setback won’t be actually understood till the following time he steps contained in the Octagon. He regarded sharp and harmful within the first spherical, nevertheless it was not one-way visitors, as a few of his earlier fights had been, and the back-and-forth wore him down. By Spherical 2, Shahbazyan appeared a step slower, whereas Brunson, displaying extra endurance than what we might come to count on from him, was methodical in turning the struggle his approach. This was a step up in competitors for Shahbazyan, and forgive the 22-year-old for not recognizing that — as a result of the oddsmakers actually didn’t, both, putting in the teenager as an almost 3-to-1 favourite. The following step for Shahbazyan is to get again to the health club and proceed to construct on an already sturdy ability set. And this is hoping he doesn’t lose any of the arrogance that acquired him to the place he’s.
Murphy: It is simple to clown Shahbazyan for the fuel tank draining to “empty” within the second spherical Saturday. The primary spherical, although, revealed some holes, even earlier than Brunson took him into the deep finish.
Brunson represented a brand new degree of opponent for the 22-year-old Shahbazyan, and “The Golden Boy” regarded like a fighter in his first UFC primary occasion. He was inflexible early and overextended on a number of energy pictures. When he landed, Shahbazyan demonstrated immense energy. Individuals cageside bodily recoiled when Brunson absorbed clear kicks to the physique.
The bodily presents are there. Many fighters get an early wakeup name within the highlight and rebound to adorned careers; Max Holloway, Rose Namajunas and Amanda Nunes are only a few. Shahbazyan’s subsequent struggle now turns into a very powerful of his profession, and accountability shifts to Glendale Combating Membership to make sure he’s prepared.
Who’s subsequent for Brunson?
Murphy: Brunson took the “gatekeeper” label personally. Brunson had not been as steep a betting underdog as he was heading into Saturday’s struggle since his Strikeforce days. Now he is gotten his hand raised 3 times in as many fights since relocating to Sanford MMA, née Blackzilians, early final 12 months.
The previous assumes Romero beats Uriah Hall in three weeks. Brunson misplaced a Battle of the Evening to Romero in 2014, so a rematch is warranted. However Brunson is a more durable out for Romero than most followers would credit score. The 43-year-old Romero — on a three-fight skid — needs the shortest path to a ultimate title shot.
In the meantime, Gastelum advantages from a brief rebound after a fast loss to Jack Hermansson on Battle Island. Gastelum, equally, has three consecutive losses. Brunson may preserve climbing by beating a former title challenger, and Gastelum may get again within the win column towards a revered veteran. Late Saturday, Dana White talked about Gastelum as a potential opponent for Brunson.
Who’s subsequent for Shahbazyan?
Helwani: The UFC must be cautious with who they e book Shahbazyan towards subsequent. He simply misplaced his first professional struggle and acquired beat fairly badly on the finish. He’s a prospect price taking care of, so this subsequent step is essential. They should construct his confidence again up. I might e book him towards a No. 15-or-so ranked fighter, and even an unranked one. No disgrace in taking a step again, even when he stays within the rankings. An Ian Heinisch-type would make sense. If not, somebody like Brendan Allen, Antonio Carlos Junior or Eryk Anders would work, too. A troublesome, stable fighter however not an enormous threat. Bear in mind, Shahbazyan has stable wins over Brad Tavares and Jack Marshman on his UFC document, so it isn’t like he is been combating tomato cans.
Vicente Luque knocks out Randy Brown chilly at UFC Battle Evening in Las Vegas.
Who’s subsequent for Vicente Luque?
Wagenheim: In our panel dialogue following final weekend’s fights, I steered Luque as a potential subsequent opponent for the 170-pound taste of the month, Khamzat Chimaev. However after Saturday’s efficiency, Luque’s eighth win in his final 9 fights (seven by end), he deserves higher than that. He made a respectful callout of Nate Diaz, and if these phrases catch fireplace within the 209, a lot the higher. Nevertheless it does not sound like a struggle that might entice Diaz again to the Octagon. And, actually, Luque’s nasty KO warrants an opponent increased than him within the rankings. How about Michael Chiesa? He is been a preferred goal of callouts these days, so Luque may discover himself standing in line. However Saturday’s efficiency simply may propel Luque entrance and middle.
After Joanne Calderwood’s loss, what do you do with Valentina Shevchenko?
Helwani: I would not e book Shevchenko vs. Maia simply but. Initially, Shevchenko is not coming again subsequent month. She instructed me on Saturday night time that whereas she is again to coaching she is aiming to return “earlier than the tip of the 12 months.” She stated her present objective is to return in November. That is three months away, however not set in stone. Maia is on a one-fight successful streak now. She missed weight in her final two fights going into this one. I do not assume a win over Calderwood, as spectacular because it was, ought to imply she ought to be subsequent for the champ.
I might e book her towards Cynthia Calvillo, who regarded good in her flyweight debut in June, subsequent after which see if somebody emerges as a legit contender for Shevchenko. Fact is, there is no such thing as a risk to Shevchenko proper now at 125, and there will not be one for some time. The hole between her and the remainder of the load class is very large — perhaps the largest ever — so it would not damage to get the following contender, whomever it could be, somewhat extra work. Plus, I might wish to see Maia make weight not less than yet another time earlier than she will get a title shot.
Raimondi: I am unsure if the UFC will view Maia as title-fight prepared, particularly since she entered Saturday coming off a loss to former challenger Katlyn Chookagian. The very best wager proper now might be Cynthia Calvillo. She’s coming off a win over former challenger Jessica Eye and is unbeaten in 4 straight. Positive, Calvillo’s flyweight debut was towards Eye, however she was a severe risk at strawweight earlier than that and is lengthy somebody the UFC has considered as a future star. Relying how for much longer Shevchenko is out, the UFC may do Maia vs. Calvillo for the title shot.
See you quickly Jennifer Maia 👊🏻
— Valentina Shevchenko (@BulletValentina) August 2, 2020
Wagenheim: Saturday’s victory, as spectacular because it was, places Maia on a whopping one-fight successful streak. She got here in at No. 9 within the ESPN girls’s flyweight rankings, and she or he must do extra to ascend to the highest rung of the ladder. If Shevchenko is healed up and able to go within the subsequent couple of months, the title shot ought to go to fifth-ranked Cynthia Calvillo (9-1-1, 6-1-1 within the UFC), who’s unbeaten in her final 4 fights and likewise owns a victory over Calderwood. If the champ should stay on the shelf for longer, perhaps pit Calvillo towards Maia in a No. 1 contender elimination bout. That may not sit effectively with No. 6 Lauren Murphy, winner of three straight, however Maia’s eye-opening efficiency does warrant a chance towards somebody increased within the high 10.
What’s subsequent for Maia?
Raimondi: What an enormous win for Maia. She’s the previous Invicta FC flyweight champion, however till Saturday had by no means overwhelmed anybody of Calderwood’s caliber — a perennial contender within the UFC’s flyweight and strawweight divisions. Calderwood was queued up for the title shot towards champion Valentina Shevchenko, however took the danger and fought Maia to remain recent whereas Shevchenko recovers from a leg harm. Maia now has a case for a title alternative — and Shevchenko instantly referred to as her out on Twitter. It is unclear if the UFC believes Maia is prepared for that kind of struggle. If a title eliminator between Maia and Cynthia Calvillo is just not within the offing, Maia taking over Lauren Murphy could be very attention-grabbing.
What’s subsequent for Joanne Calderwood?
Raimondi: Calderwood nonetheless needs to be thought of one of many high girls’s 125-pound fighters on the earth, regardless of the loss. She nonetheless is not terribly distant from a title shot in what continues to be a younger division. There are a number of attention-grabbing choices obtainable for Calderwood subsequent. Maybe a very good subsequent opponent is Viviane Araujo, an up-and-comer from Brazil who was purported to struggle Maia on this card, earlier than Araujo withdrew because of a constructive take a look at for coronavirus. One other fascinating matchup could be Calderwood towards Antonina Shevchenko, the older sister of the champion.
Was it a mistake for Calderwood to take the struggle towards Maia?
Murphy: Latest information affirmed knowledge in Joanne Calderwood’s resolution to take this struggle. What occurred within the Octagon on Saturday has little impact on that.
Earlier this week, Brett Okamoto reported former strawweight champion Jessica Andrade is finalizing an October bout settlement with former flyweight challenger Jessica Eye at 125 kilos. Many individuals consider flyweight is Andrade’s optimum weight class — a scary proposition, on condition that she fought at bantamweight till 2016.
Calderwood’s yet-to-be-officially rebooked struggle towards champion Valentina Shevchenko has not moved the needle. Shevchenko opened as a 12-to-1 favourite of their initially scheduled June pairing, extra lopsided than Khamzat Chimaev towards Rhys McKee. Andrade holds a head-to-head win over Calderwood from UFC 203. Who amongst us would’ve been shocked had Andrade minimize Calderwood in line?
Calderwood needed to pad her resume within the interim. Issues have been going effectively till she didn’t roll out of Maia’s armbar try. There absolutely will not be a title shot now, however I am not satisfied one was ready for Calderwood anyway, had she remained idle.