Fight Study – August 1, 2020
For the second straight week, the UFC has created a Main Event featuring two ranked contender middleweights in Edmen Shahbazyan and Derek Brunson. This fight pits 22-year-old Shahbazyan against one of the most successful middleweights in UFC history in 36-year-old Brunson. The undefeated Shahbazyan is the heavy favorite and is priced at the top of the list of fighters for both DraftKings and Fanduel on Saturday. He is priced at $9,100 on DraftKings and at $20 on Fanduel. Brunson is much cheaper and will be available for $7,100 and $13 respectively. Although this fight is scheduled for five rounds of MMA action, oddsmakers make this fight a -122 favorite to finish before the halfway point of the second round.
Shahbazyan is a perfect 11-0 as a professional and has finished all but one of his opponents in the very first round. He has nine wins by KO/TKO, one win by submission, and one win by decision. On five separate occasions he has finished his opponent inside of a minute. Current odds make him a -185 favorite to win inside the distance. After fighting in the Contender Series, Shahbazyan went on to fight in the UFC and has won four straight inside the octagon. His game is very well rounded and he is capable of winning with both his striking and grappling. He is also very adept at changing levels with an average of 2.34 takedowns for every five minutes inside the octagon. Whether on his feet or by ground and pound, he is one of the best finishers in the UFC today.
Brunson will give up 1″ in height to Shahbazyan but will have a 3″ reach advantage on Saturday. He has fought the best fighters in the UFC’s middleweight division and in sixteen fights he has only lost to some of the very best. His five losses to date were against Yoel Romero, Robert Whittaker, Anderson Silva, Ronaldo Souza and current middleweight champ, Israel Adesanya. His loss to Anderson Silva earned him the “Robbery of the Year” award from both Sherdog and MMA Junkie in 2017. He was a Division II collegiate wrestler and was a 3-time All-American. Brunson will need to rely on his years of experience and wrestling skills if he wants to be able to contend with Shaybazyan. Chief among his attributes is his perfect takedown defense over sixteen fights in the UFC. If he is able to nullify Shahbazyan’s takedowns and keep this fight upright, he may earn himself the chance at a knockout punch.
With average fight times of 3:59 and 7:25 for Shahbazyan and Brunson, it is clear why the oddsmakers project this fight to end quickly. Although Brunson may be best served by trying to slow things down, I expect both fighters to come out firing early. On their feet, Shahbazyan’s record would lead one to expect he would have the best of things, but Brunson has power and is not afraid to take risks in hopes of landing his shot. Brunson is the biggest test for Shahbazyan to date, and despite the heavy odds in his favor, he will need to be careful against an opponent as dangerous as Brunson. If this fight finds its way to the ground, it is unclear which fighter will have the advantage. Both fighters have just one submission apiece in the UFC and though both have the ability to finish an opponent on the ground, this fight has a very small chance of ending by submission. This fight figures to end by KO/TKO.
Shahbazyan is the favorite, and he has a strong chance of finishing this fight by KO/TKO, but I do believe the odds on this one should be a little tighter than currently projected. Both fighters are capable of finishing their opponent. At Shahbazyan’s salary on both platforms, he is priced at or near the top of all fighters and will need to put up a big number in order to justify his price. He is quite capable of this. Brunson, however, is also capable of finishing this one but is less likely to do so. This fight should end early and I expect the winner of this fight to put up a very nice number in DFS contests. Given the disparity of their pricing, both bring value to their salaries but Shahbazyan is the preferred play for cash lineups. In GPP contests, lineups can be allotted to both fighters, but Shahbazyan should get the majority of those lineups. Brunson is a decent underdog play, however, and his upside is worth the risk for a measured number of lineups in multi-entry contests.