THE UFC returned to Las Vegas this weekend after a successful venture out to Fight Island, with plenty of news for fans to wrap their heads around after the latest Fight Night. Once again hosted out of the promotion’s APEX Centre, UFC Vegas 5 boasted just eight fights across a compromised card.
The late scratchings of Timur Valiev, Ray Borg, and Eric Spicely had already sent matchmaking into a spin, before Gerald Meerschaert was pulled due to a positive Covid-19 test, and Trevin Giles was deemed medically unfit to fight after fainting right before he was due to make the walk.
It meant fans would go from being treated to a record 15-fight card last time out, to the lowest amount of scheduled bouts since UFC 177 in 2014. Adding to the apparent curse surrounding the event, a bizarre trend of groin strikes piled up into double digits, and led to one very costly point deduction.
There was still plenty of fun to be had, and we bring you the best of the action in our top-to-bottom card recap.
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FOTN: Vannata vs. Green
POTN: Vicente Luque, Jennifer Maia
Experience counted for plenty as Derek Brunson handed rising middleweight prospect Edmen Shahbazyan his first professional loss. Ranked number eight at 185lbs, the American shrugged his gatekeeper tag and proved he was on a surge of his own, putting the 22-year-old away in Round 3.
Herb Dean and the ringside doctor took a good look at Shahbazyan come the end of Round 2, right after Brunson had very nearly put him out with some vicious ground-and-pound. The Armenian’s body language was telling, as Dean brought a merciful stop to the contest right as Brunson readied to unleash once again.
While all the hype surrounding this matchup spawned from either man’s ability to finish fast, a more reserved and patient Brunson would wear on his younger opponent with terrific chain wrestling pressure, combined with heavy hands both up top and on the mat.
The result may see Brunson, 21-7 push for top five status once more, but more significantly brings an abrupt end to the undefeated run of one of the UFC’s brightest up-and-comers. Now 11-1, Shahbazyan has plenty of time yet to regroup and rise to the top.
Shahbazyan wasn’t the only fighter whose plans were foiled, as Jennifer Maia snatched a title shot off Joanne Calderwood in the co-main event. Taking a fight in between her slated meeting with flyweight champ, Valentina Shevchenko was always deemed risky for ‘JoJo’, and proved an unnecessary one as she was submitted in Round 1.
Former Invicta champion, Maia looked dangerous in all departments, first landing good shots on the feet before getting to work as the fight hit the floor. After initially searching for a triangle, Maia transitioned to an armbar attempt, snatching up Calderwood’s arm and making the right adjustments as her opponent looked to scramble out, eventually yielding a tap.
Vicente Luque was another big winner in his main card dig, accounting for the unranked Randy Brown within two rounds. In what was Brown’s toughest test yet, matching the 11th ranked Brazilian proved a step too far as he fell victim to some nasty calf kicks, before Luque put him away in a beautiful finishing sequence.
Brown looked to be reaching for the mat to claim downed status, but was held up just enough to ensure his grasp would evade the floor and allow Luque to land a big knee to the head. Having crumbled his opponent, the Brazilian finished the job with punches and called out Nate Diaz post-fight.
Bobby Green and Lando Vannata produced a fight of the night performance to open the show, but it was mainly one-way traffic in favour of Green. The two men fought to a split draw in 2017, but there was no doubting this result as Green looked one step ahead on the feet to claim a dominant decision victory, his second-straight.
Derek Brunson  def. Edmen Shahbazyan  | TKO (punches) 0:26 Rd 3
Jennifer Maia  def. Joanne Calderwood  | Submission (armbar) 4:29 Rd 1
Vicente Luque  def. Randy Brown | KO (knee and punches) 4:55 Rd 2
Bobby Green def. Lando Vannata | Decision (unanimous) 30-26, 30-27, 30-27
Prospects emerged on the preliminary card, headlined by a slick performance from Jonathan Martinez in the featured bout. Against a tough veteran in Frankie Saenz, Martinez got his patented kicking game going with an awesome mix of strikes to the legs, midsection, and head. A beautifully timed knee going backwards got the job done in Round 3, after Martinez dropped Saenz multiple times with his left high kick.
At the opposite end of the card, Martinez’s teammate Chris Gutierrez fought to a unanimous draw against UFC debutant Cody Durden. The 28-28 scorecards told the story of Gutierrez being dominated on the ground through Round 1, but edging out Rounds 2 and 3. Despite taking two rounds to Durden’s one, Gutierrez’s early complacency cost him dearly.
Nate Maness and Jamall Emmers both ground out solid unanimous decision victories, with Maness’ win marred by a point deduction to his opponent, Johnny Munoz for illegal low blows. Emmers took on a late notice replacement in Vince Cachero, who looks like being a game bantamweight prospect having survived some big shots at featherweight.
Jonathan Martinez def. Frankie Saenz | TKO (knee and punches) 0:56 Rd 3
Nate Maness def. Johnny Munoz | Decision (unanimous) 29-27, 29-27, 29-27
Jamall Emmers def. Vince Cachero | Decision (unanimous) 30-27, 30-27, 30-27
Chris Gutierrez drew w/ Cody Durden | Decision (unanimous) 28-28, 28-28, 28-28