The UFC has put on plenty of ‘cursed’ shows over the years, and last night’s UFC Fight Night 173: Brunson vs. Shahbazyan was definitely among them.
Last week’s UFC show featured a seven-fight main card. This weekends? By the time all was said and done, the main card had just four fights on tap, and the whole show was only eight fights deep.
Thankfully though, for the most part, we were treated to some fun fights. However, it was a painful reminder that things aren’t getting back to normal by any means.
Here are the best and worst moments from UFC Fight Night 173: Brunson vs. Shahbazyan.
#1 Best: Brunson remains the UFC’s best gatekeeper at 185lbs
The word ‘gatekeeper’ is often frowned upon in the world of MMA, but it honestly shouldn’t be taken as an insult. In the case of Derek Brunson, it simply means that while he’s not quite a title contender, to become one in the UFC’s Middleweight division, you have to get past him.
Robert Whittaker and Israel Adesanya – who both went onto claim the UFC Middleweight title – were able to do it. Elias Theodorou and Dan Kelly on the other hand failed to get past him. Last night was Edmen Shahbazyan’s turn, and despite garnering more hype coming in, ‘Golden Boy’ was unable to get the job done.
Still just 22 years old, Shahbazyan fought well in the opening round. He escaped a couple of takedowns and even stunned Brunson with a right hand at one point. But Brunson remained calm under fire and came back strongly in the second round.
He took the fight to Shahbazyan, who seemed to be wilting the longer the round went on. By the end of the stanza, the fight appeared to be over. Brunson destroyed ‘Golden Boy’ from the top position, almost knocking him out before the buzzer sounded.
The fight probably should’ve been stopped there, but Shahbazyan was allowed to continue. He didn’t last much longer though, as Brunson overwhelmed him just 26 seconds into the third round.
The setback shouldn’t really harm Shahbazyan in the long run – it showed him that he is vulnerable and needs to improve if he wants to reach the top. Brunson on the other hand re-affirmed his spot as the division’s toughest gatekeeper. And on this form, he might even climb into title contention yet.
#1 Worst: Things fall apart for the UFC upon their return to Vegas
After the UFC’s four-show stretch on Abu Dhabi’s ‘Fight Island’ went largely without a hitch, things fell apart entirely this weekend for the promotion upon its return to Las Vegas.
No fewer than 11 fights that were scheduled for last night fell apart – with COVID-19 responsible for five of those cancellations.
It was living proof that the pandemic is far from over, even for the UFC, who have handled things incredibly well over the past few months.
The show wasn’t just cursed by COVID-19, though. Somehow, five of the 11 canceled fights were scrapped with just 36 hours to go before show-time.
The latest was the Middleweight clash between Trevin Giles and Kevin Holland, which fell through when Giles fainted just moments before his walkout – giving longtime fans memories of a similar incident that befell then-UFC champ Kevin Randleman all the way back at UFC 24.
Obviously, all of the cancellations were out of the UFC’s control, but to see a show cut to its bare bones on such late notice was still alarming. Hopefully, the shows coming in the next few weeks – particularly UFC 252 – avoid such a curse.