LAS VEGAS — Edmen Shahbazyan still has nearly a year to fulfill his goal of becoming the youngest UFC champion in history, but Derek Brunson made that road a lot more difficult for him Saturday with a dominant performance at Apex.
Brunson’s wrestling and punching controlled the 11-0 fighter, particularly in the second half of the bout. Brunson nearly finished a laid-out Shahbazyan with ground-and-pound at the end of the second, but got the finish 26 seconds into the third to score the upset and prove that experience means as much as talent.
The first round was relatively even, but Brunson began to take over as the second round wore on. His left hand kept finding a home and began to wear down Shahbazyan, whose manager, ex-UFC champion Ronda Rousey, said it was not a matter of it, but when, he became the middleweight champion.
But he couldn’t keep Brunson off of him as Brunson mixed up his attacks and hurt him repeatedly with the left hand. Shahbazyan’s game plan seemed to be to work the body early, and he had success with that in the opening round.
With the exception of one punch which backed Brunson to the cage, though, it didn’t seem the strategy was hurting Brunson or forcing him to alter his plan.
Brunson dropped Shahbazyan with a little more than 40 seconds left in the second round and was pounding him from the top. Shahbazyan’s face was crimson from the blood and it appeared as the clock wound down that Shahbazyan was out.
The horn sounded to end the round and some in Brunson’s corner felt referee Herb Dean had stopped it. But Dean loudly said, “I didn’t stop it,” and allowed the fight to continue.
The doctor checked Shahbazyan just before the start of the third round and allowed him to continue, but it was just a matter of time at that point. Brunson was like a tractor trailer speeding down hill.
He dropped Shahbazyan on the cage and Dean stopped it after just a few punches from Brunson.
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