Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Middleweight bruisers Jack Hermansson and Edmen Shahbazyan will scrap this weekend (Sat., May 22, 2021) at UFC Vegas 27 inside UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Hermansson was really, really close to a title shot in 2019 until Jared Cannonier’s power-punching proved too formidable an obstacle. Since then, Hermansson is just 1-1, splitting a pair of bouts against top-notch Middleweights. While he’s clearly still one of the best 185-pounders in the world, Hermansson really needs to string some wins together. Shahbazyan is coming off a rough loss as well, as his first main event slot did not exactly go as planned. A strong start vs. Derek Brunson ended with the veteran bashing his tired head in, but fortunately, Shahbazyan is just 23 years old and has plenty of time to improve upon his already excellent skills.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
Key Wins: Kelvin Gastelum (UFC Fight Island 2), Ronaldo Souza (UFC Fight Night 150), David Branch (UFC on ESPN 2), Thales Leites (UFC 224), Gerald Meerschaert (UFC on FOX 31)
Key Losses: Jared Cannonier (UFC Fight Night 160), Marvin Vettori (UFC Vegas 16), Thiago Santos (UFC Fight Night 119), Cezar Ferreira (UFC Fight Night 100)
Keys to Victory: Hermansson has a pretty unique style. He uses a lot of lateral movement and false starts on his feet to set up heavy kicks, counter punches, and running takedowns. Once in top position, Hermansson is absolutely nasty with his ground strikes and submissions.
The long term goal in this match up is to gain top position and finish Shahbazyan. However, the young striker is likely to provide a serious layer of wrestling defense early on, so it may not be that simple. Hermansson likely has to tire his opponent out first.
To do so without getting picked apart by straight shots, Hermansson has to avoid the boxing range. He wants this bout to take place at long distance — where he can chop low and body kicks — or in the clinch, as Hermansson is quite good at fatiguing his foes in dirty boxing scenarios. That middle ground is to be avoided, so Hermansson’s footwork will be a major key.
Hermansson has to really commit to the takedown. Even if Shahbazyan proves impossible to take/hold down initially, forcing him to wrestle constantly will exhaust the gas tank and slow down those quick punches.
Key Wins: Brad Tavares (UFC 244), Darren Stewart (TUF 28 Finale), Jack Marshmann (UFC 239), Charles Byrdd (UFC 235)
Key Losses: Derek Brunson (UFC Vegas 5)
Keys to Victory: Shahbazyan’s loss to Brunson may have been a bit ugly, but that shouldn’t take away from his overall skill and potential. He’s still demonstrated tremendous knockout power and advanced craft, so don’t count out the young puncher just yet.
This is really a perfect bout for Shahbazyan to demonstrate his improvement. He’s going to have a considerable edge in the stand up, but again, he’ll be forced to defend takedowns while managing his gas tank against an experienced and durable veteran.
Perhaps the most effective way to do so will be establishing his jab and 1-2. Historically, Hermansson struggles a bit to see straight shots, and his own punches tend to have a bit more arch to them. If Shahbazyan is pitching fast balls down the middle, they will land, and he’ll have a distance tool to help him prevent the shot.
Equally important is Shahbazyan’s ability to manage his own pace. He has to recognize that Hermansson is incredibly tough, unlikely to go down unless put fully out. That’s not to say Shahbazyan cannot stop his opponent, but “Golden Boy” has to be careful not to tire himself out by chasing the finish.
Both men have a lot of pressure on them to rebound following main event losses.
Hermansson, 32, is in the prime of his career. He’s still ranked inside the Top 10, so despite his recent losses, the title is not impossibly far away. If that run is to happen, however, it likely has to begin with a win here. Otherwise, “The Joker” slips further down the ladder, and the road to the belt grows much longer.
The pressure on Shahbazyan is different. He could struggle here and make another run in four years — look at Robert Whittaker, for example! However, the expectations of “Golden Boy” are sky high, and living up to them means being a Top 10-ranked fighter right now. Perhaps that’s unreasonable, but that’s the downside of gaining hype at a young age.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 27 fight card this weekend, starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance on ESPN+ at 7 p.m. ET.
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At UFC Vegas 27, Jack Hermansson and Edmen Shahbazyan will square off. Which Middleweight will return to the win column?