The Real Winners and Losers from UFC Fight Night 173August 2, 2020
Another weekend. Another hemisphere.
The UFC returned to its Apex facility in Las Vegas after a month on Fight Island in the United Arab Emirates, kicking off August on Saturday with what became an eight-bout Fight Night show on ESPN.
And unlike the 15-bout marathon that finished out the promotion's Asian adventure over six-plus hours, the homecoming in the Nevada desert began at 7 p.m. ET and was done by 11:15.
Cage announcer Bruce Buffer was on the mic after being replaced by Joe Martinez in Abu Dhabi. Meanwhile, the broadcast team was captained by blow-by-blow man Brendan Fitzgerald and included analysts Paul Felder and Dominick Cruz and backstage reporter Heidi Androl.
Felder was the only one of the four who had been on the job last weekend.
It'll be another busy month, with four shows on the remaining four Saturdays, including the UFC 252 pay-per-view card on Aug. 15.
Bleacher Report will be there for all of it, but not before finishing off another compilation of the real winners and losers from an unusual card that included multiple delays, myriad changes and an ill-timed collapse.
Among it all was a match between top-10 middleweights Derek Brunson and Edmen Shahbazyan.
Alas, there will be no spoilers.
Instead, we encourage you to take a look at our impressions and see how yours stacked up.
Winner: Standing Up to the New Kid
Brunson was ranked No. 8 at middleweight. His opponent was ranked No. 9.
Yet all week leading up to the fight, the veteran consistently heard that his 22-year-old foe—a protege of Ronda Rousey—was the next big thing and saw the youngster installed as a heavy favorite.
Needless to say, it didn't sit too well with the proud North Carolina native.
Brunson took out that frustration on his comparatively inexperienced foe, eschewing his normally frenetic style for a more patient approach that paid off in the form of a third-round TKO stoppage.
It was the first loss after 11 straight wins for Shahbazyan, who had been out of the first round just once in his career and hadn't exceeded two-and-a-half minutes in three appearances on UFC pay-per-view undercards.
"It's not a surprise," Cruz said. "He did the perfect thing. He took him out of the first round and stayed very patient, which we usually don't see from Brunson. He made perfect adjustments. It was an amazing performance."
It was all but over by the end of the second round, when a clearly fatigued Shahbazyan was taken down, mounted and pummeled with a series of fists and elbows that left him bloody and dazed at the horn.
"He was pretty much out," Brunson said. "I thought it was gonna be stopped right there."
A doctor entered the cage and gave Shahbazyan clearance to begin the third, but he was quickly taken down again and took three ground strikes before referee Herb Dean intervened after 26 seconds.
The win boosted Brunson to 21-7, was his 15th stoppage overall and his eighth finish in the UFC middleweight division, placing him fourth on the promotion's all-time list.
He's also 3-0 since moving his training headquarters to Sanford, Florida.
"There were so many people betting against me, but I had so much support," he said. "I'm ecstatic right now."
Loser: Putting Off a Title Shot
Joanne Calderwood had everything to lose.
Rather than sitting on the sidelines to maintain a title shot against injured flyweight champ Valentina Shevchenko, she chose to stay active and stay busy on short notice while risking her No. 3 contender status against dangerous sixth-ranked challenger Jennifer Maia.
Maia had been set to meet Viviane Araujo, but saw that bout scrapped when Araujo tested positive for COVID-19.
Turns out Calderwood's ambition, while noble, was rendered imprudent within a single round when Maia maneuvered her into an armbar and forced a tapout at 4:29.
It was Maia's fifth submission victory and her sixth first-round finish.
"She was landing right hands. She was piecing together combinations," Cruz said. "She was having it her way on her feet. Then she was able to get the takedown and start the sequence that led to the armbar. You've got to give her credit, and you've got to feel for Calderwood."
The quick victory prompted a tweet from Shevchenko, who simply said "See you soon, Jennifer Maia."
Maia happily responded, saying: "It's going to be a pleasure to fight her. I'm very happy, and I'm getting better every time I go out there. I'm getting ready for the title."
Winner: Calculated Violence
The second round was in its final throes, and Felder, Cruz and Fitzgerald were beginning to opine about what would happen in the final five minutes of a welterweight scrap between Vicente Luque and Randy Brown.
But Luque wasn't in the mood for another round.
Instead, he saw an opening and violently filled it with a hard right knee that left Brown defenseless and led to a stoppage by referee Mark Smith just four seconds before the horn.
Brown was hunched over against the fence and lunging for the mat, which would turn him into a grounded fighter and thus made a knee strike illegal. But Luque held up Brown so he was unable to reach the floor and then drove the knee to the side of his head.
Rude Boy slumped and was hit with three more punches before Smith's intervention at 4:56.
It was Luque's 11th finish at welterweight, putting him third on the UFC's all-time list.
"That's something I was working on," he said. "I was thinking, 'This guy has a head so low. If I make sure his hands aren't on the floor, I'm gonna knee him and see if I can finish this fight.'"
He entered the fight ranked 11th at welterweight and immediately called out No. 12 Nate Diaz.
"There are so many guys," Luque said. "If we're gonna follow the rankings, I'm above him. It'd be a banger of a fight."
Loser: Staying Dry-Eyed
It wasn't enough that Bobby Green put on an epic performance in defeating second-time rival Lando Vannata in a deliciously violent three-rounder at lightweight.
He had to raise the content bar after Buffer made the verdict official.
The 33-year-old was a shutout winner on all three cards against Vannata, against whom he fought to a draw in 2017, taking the rematch by scores of 30-26, 30-27 and 30-27.
He greeted the announcement with a prodigious water bottle spit-take that drenched his corner team and then played to the in-cage cameras and shouted "I just paid my bills. I just paid off my house."
Upon making the trip to a remote location to chat with Felder, however, he let the emotions go in a message to his three young children.
"Your daddy left you with this bloodline," he said. "This bloodline I give you. This heart I give you. You have the heart of a lion. That pumps through you guys, and you guys can endure anything. I've been in 50 different homes. I've been from place to place. I've seen some dark days."
Winner: Shaking Off a Loss
Jonathan Martinez had already dropped some cash.
The tall Texan was forced to hand over 30 percent of his purse to opponent Frankie Saenz after badly missing weight for their scheduled three-rounder at bantamweight. In fact, he weighed 140.5 pounds to Saenz's 136 and surrendered $6,600, to be exact.
Once the fight began, though, he wasn't in the mood to lose anything else.
Martinez strafed Saenz with strikes from the outside in the initial round, dropped and nearly stopped him with a head kick in the second and made the nightly highlight reel with a vicious knee that led to a TKO in the final session.
"Martinez always takes his time, and he picks his shots perfectly," Cruz said.
Indeed, Saenz was charging forward and had attempted to land an overhand punch when Martinez connected with a left knee, immediately dropping his opponent to the floor. He followed with four consecutive ground strikes to prompt the intervention of referee Chris Tognoni after 57 seconds of the third.
"That's how we work," Martinez said. "All day, that's how we do it."
Loser: Sensitive Spots
Felder knew it was coming.
The lightweight-turned-analyst was surely still lagging after covering more than 8,000 miles between Abu Dhabi and Las Vegas, and looking forward to the quick night that a mere nine-fight show would bring.
But then, the groin strikes. Oh, the groin strikes.
The action was halted no fewer than seven times in the four preliminary bouts, including three times alone in the penultimate prelim match between Nathan Maness and Johnny Munoz.
Munoz landed a knee and two kicks to Maness' cup, each of which prompted a delay and cost Munoz a point deduction by referee Mark Smith.
Three more delays for low blows followed on the main card, as well as an eye-poke stoppage.
"It figures," Felder said. "We have 15 fights on Fight Island. Looking to have a night on the town in Las Vegas, we have nine fights, and the MMA gods are like 'Nope. We're going to slow you down, and we'll have about 15 groin strikes.' We're trying to break all the records tonight."
Winners: Underdogs and Losers
It wasn't a great night for the betting chalk.
Only four of the fighters deemed favorites across the night's eight bouts came out on the winning end, and both of the fighters who arrived unbeaten left with losses.
Main event winner Brunson was the biggest underdog to strike gold, having entered his bout with Shahbazyan as a +285 choice, per Caesars Palace. Shahbazyan, in addition to flopping as a -350 favorite, was also one of the pair who lost the zero in the loss column.
He'd been 11-0 before Saturday, while Munoz was 10-0 before losing a narrow unanimous decision to Maness.
Featherweight Jamall Emmers, at -450, was the biggest favorite on the card and proved the placement worthwhile with a grinding unanimous decision over Vince Cachero.
Emmers was taller, broader and more dynamic than Cachero and dominated with strikes from the outside, scored well with powerful knees in clinches and scored all five of the bout's takedowns.
Bantamweights Chris Gutierrez and Cody Durden provided a rare push in the show's first bout while battling to a unanimous draw. All three judges scored it 28-28 after awarding Durden a trio of 10-8 counts in the initial round before giving Gutierrez 10-9 nods in the final two.
Overall, eight bets on favorites would have resulted in a loss of $270, while bets on all eight underdogs yielded a profit of $145.
Loser: Keeping Original Schedules
The return to the UFC Apex didn't quite go as planned.
Three bouts, including the main event between bantamweights Holly Holm and Irene Aldana, were nixed because of positive COVID-19 tests.
Aldana's exit prompted the Brunson-Shahbazyan middleweight match to be moved to the card's marquee position, while light heavyweight Gerald Meerschaert's positive test made his go-round with Ed Herman a late scratch and resulted in a nine-fight show.
An even later change came when Trevin Giles fainted as he began the walk-out for his middleweight bout with Kevin Holland to begin the main show, resulting in a cancellation by Nevada Athletic Commission officials. Giles was taken to a local hospital for a post-incident check-up.
Other changes included flyweight Araujo, who pulled out of her bout with Maia after a positive COVID-19 test; Timur Valiev, who lost his spot against Jamall Emmers because of visa issues; Ray Borg, who withdrew from a match with Nate Maness; and Eric Spicely, whose weight issues caused him to drop out of a bout with Markus Perez.
Perez was subsequently matched with Charlie Ontiveros, but that fight was not approved by the Nevada commission.
UFC Fight Night 173 Full Card Results
Derek Brunson def. Edmen Shahbazyan by TKO, 0:26, Round 3.
Jennifer Maia def. Joanne Calderwood by submission (armbar), 4:29, Round 1.
Vicente Luque def. Randy Brown by KO (knee), 4:56, Round 2.
Bobby Green def. Lando Vannata by unanimous decision (30-26, 30-27, 30-27).
Jonathan Martinez def. Frankie Saenz by TKO (knee), 0:57, Round 3.
Nathan Maness def. Johnny Munoz by unanimous decision (29-27, 29-27, 29-27).
Jamall Emmers def. Vince Cachero by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27).
Chris Gutierrez drew with Cody Durden by unanimous decision (28-28, 28-28, 28-28).
Performances of the Night
Vicente Luque, Jennifer Maia
Fight of the Night
Bobby Green vs. Lando Vannata