Another weekend of fisticuffs has come and gone, as UFC Vegas 5 blew the roof off the UFC APEX facility in Las Vegas, Nevada. Plenty of fighters were left licking their wounds, including Joanne Calderwood, who had her championship dreams spoiled at the hands of Jennifer Maia (recap here). And Randy Brown, who was knocked out by Vicente Luque during their Welterweight showdown (highlights).
But which fighter is suffering from the worst post-fight hangover, now a few days removed from the show?
Coming into his first-ever headlining bout against Derek Brunson, the hype was strong with “The Golden Boy.” And with good reason, as he was undefeated at 11-0 and had won his first four bouts inside the Octagon, three of them by way of stoppage.
He also talked a pretty good game, as well, determined to become the youngest UFC champion ever. The means to that end was taking that title from the pound-for-pound best fighter at the moment, Jon Jones, who won the UFC light heavyweight championship at just 23 years of age.
And while there is still a big possibility for Shahbazyan to become a UFC champion within the next 18 months, the climb will be a bit steeper (and a bit more fragile) after suffering the first loss of his career.
Brunson derailed the Shahbazyan hype train by laying the punishment on thick, nearly knocking him out in the final seconds of the second frame. Those last 15 seconds were just a sign of things to come, as Brunson finished the job with more devastating strikes early in round three, giving him his third straight win and forcing Shahbazyan back to the drawing board.
It was a truly humbling defeat for the 22 year-old prodigy, who offered up zero excuses after losing to the better combatant.
“I’m ok everyone just need some stitches,” Shahbazyan wrote on social media. “Thank you for all your messages, love you all! Congrats to Derek Brunson tonight he did a great job. No excuses, it’s the fight game and I’ll be back! Blessed to have the support I have from everyone!"
Experience proved to be a big factor in the fight, as the usually-aggressive Brunson played his cards just right, being patient throughout the bout in order to avoid Edmen’s heavy strikes. It was a strategy that worked to perfection, as Shahbazyan had a distinct size advantage and one clean strike could’ve had the win going the other way.
On the bright side, Shahbazyan is still young and has plenty of time to learn and improve from his first-ever loss. While he would love nothing more than to take Jones’ title of youngest champion ever, It would behoove him to take things slowly.
I’m not saying a fight against Brunson was too much, too soon, I actually think it was a perfect measuring stick for “The Golden Boy.” But trying to squeeze in five or six fights in 18 months to get to a title shot could prove to be a bad move.
Perhaps a fight against Antonio Carlos Junior is in order. He is on a two-fight skid and while he may not be the biggest name around, he is still a legit Top 15 opponent.
For complete UFC Vegas 5 results and coverage click here.