For an undefeated fighter, every fight is a new test of their limitations. Every win against an opponent illustrates how high on a ladder of a division someone can climb before they’re stopped. Most fighters can be compared to a balloon, as they fill and fill until they reach their limit and pop, or, in this case, lose.
Saturday night will work as another test of Edmen Shahbazyan’s limitations. In his 12th fight in professional MMA and his fifth in the UFC, the middleweight
is matched with eight-year UFC vet Derek Brunson.
Brunson had a successful 2019 with two wins, although his last loss, which was against Israel Adesanya, was a very similar story to what could be produced on Saturday.
At the time, Adesanya was heading into his fourth UFC fight, but he was still within his first year in the promotion. Brunson acted as the gatekeeper, a much more experienced fighter who could make or break Adesanya’s quick route to being in the title picture.
Being his first main card pay-per-view fight, Adesanya put on a dominating one-round performance with a large number of eyes on him at UFC 230. Winning a performance bonus for the night, Adesanya’s star was made that night in Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York, USA.
While to say that Shahbazyan’s star could be made on Saturday might be a stretch, there’s no doubt that “The Golden Boy” will be under more of a spotlight than ever. The three-round fight on Saturday sees itself in the headlining spot, as the former main event with Holly Holm was postponed after Irene Aldana tested positive for COVID-19. On a week’s notice, Shahbazyan and Brunson found themselves as the poster-boys for UFC’s return to Las Vegas, Nevada, USA.
Shahbazyan’s four previous fights in the UFC were impressive showings, although they did not make headlines. Three of Shahbazyan’s four fights were on undercards for pay-per-views, with the fourth being on the main card of a show that peaked at 465,000 viewers on Fox Sports 1.
We’ve seen before that the right performance matched with the right audience can toss someone up the food chain quickly. This has been demonstrated countless times including recently, where newcomer Khamzat Chimaev was praised endlessly for his back-to-back UFC wins on “Fight Island.”
For Adesanya’s fight at UFC 230, there was the right crowd and the right performance. It’s hard to measure whether Saturday will be the “right crowd” for Shahbazyan, given the only possible measurement will be a television rating reported after the fact, but it can be said it will be Shahbazyan’s biggest crowd yet. And they await the right performance.
Saturday could be a big moment for Shahbazyan. He could continue his streak of explosive wins, moving him higher in the middleweight division, putting him in a small and elite class of 185-pound fighters. Or, like has happened to an untouchable fighter before, his limitations could be found.