Edmen Shahbazyan will attempt to continue his relentless march up the UFC middleweight rankings when he battles veteran Derek Brunson in the main event of UFC Fight Night at the company’s Apex facility in Las Vegas on Saturday.

Edmen Shahbazyan Derek Brunson
Edmen Shahbazyan (pictured) will try to continue his run toward the UFC middleweight title when he takes on Derek Brunson on Saturday. (Image: Josh Hedges/Zuffa/Getty)

Shahbazyan (11-0) enters the fight as the No. 9 ranked contender in the UFC middleweight division, while Brunson (20-7) ranks eighth.

Shahbazyan Chasing UFC Record Book

That puts both men just outside of true title contention. But for Shahbazyan, it represents a lightning-fast assault on the division since he joined the UFC in 2018. After knocking out Antonio Jones on Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series, he booked a split decision win over Darren Stewart to mark his UFC debut. Since then, he’s fought three times, winning in the first round in each bout.

Now, the 22-year-old has his eyes set on breaking records in the UFC, though he’ll need to act quickly to do so.

“I know being the youngest champion is at 23 years and 8 months by Jon Jones,” Shahbazyan told MMA Fighting. “I turn 23 in November and then I have eight months after that. That leaves me until July of next year. That’s a good amount of time for me to reach my goal of being champion.”

Brunson poses the biggest threat to Shahbazyan’s goals yet. While Brunson is only 4-4 in his last eight fights, his losses have come to some big names: Robert Whittaker, Anderson Silva, Ronaldo Souza, and current middleweight champion Israel Adesanya.

Brunson Ready to End Another Hype Train

Once content to see every fight end in a quick knockout, win or lose, Brunson has shown more patience in his last two fights — unanimous decision wins over Elias Theodorou and Ian Heinisch. Now, Brunson thinks he has the formula to end the Shahbazyan hype train.

“He hasn’t faced anyone like me yet. As seasoned, as gritty, a guy that can match him on speed and strength,” Brunson told MMA Fighting. “This guy right here, he’s talking about being the youngest champion. I go out here and beat him up, that takes everything away. He’s got to reset and that puts me back in the picture and people will start talking about me and my title hunt also.”

This bout could easily end in the first round. If Shahbazyan pushes the action early, the tone of the fight will come down to whether Brunson continues to show patience or goes back to his old “live by the sword, die by the sword” tendencies. Sportsbooks expect Shahbazyan to keep rolling toward a title shot. Shahbazyan enters as a -310 favorite over Brunson (+250), according to FanDuel Sportsbook.

UFC Fight Night Odds (Main Card)

  • Derek Brunson (+250) vs. Edmen Shahbazyan (-310)
  • Joanne Calderwood (-154) vs. Jennifer Maia (+130)
  • Vicente Luque (-184) vs. Randy Brown (+154)
  • Lando Vannata (-154) vs. Bobby Green (+130)
  • Kevin Holland (-215) vs. Trevin Giles (+180)

Odds via FanDuel Sportsbook

Women’s flyweight contenders Joanne Calderwood (14-4) and Jennifer Maia (17-6-1) face off in the co-main event. Calderwood stepped in as a late replacement after Viviane Araujo tested positive for COVID-19. Despite the lack of prep time, Calderwood (-154) remains favored over Maia (+130) in the bout.