In just three UFC fights, Edmen Shahbazyan has shown all the tools befitting a future champion. The undefeated prospect takes a step up in competition on Saturday against veteran Derek Brunson in a fight that is crucial to the career trajectories of both fighters. The top-10 middleweight battle tops the UFC Fight Night: Brunson vs. Shahbazyan card at the Apex facility in Las Vegas, with the main UFC Fight Night card set for 9 p.m. ET. Shahbazyan sits at No. 9 in the rankings following first-round stoppages in his first three UFC contests.
He faces a litmus test against the rugged No. 8-ranked Brunson, who has shared the Octagon with current champion Israel Adesanya. Shahbazyan is a -330 favorite (risk $330 to win $100), while Brunson is priced at +260 in the latest Brunson vs. Shahbazyan odds from William Hill. In the co-main event, Joanne Calderwood (-155) and Jennifer Maia (+130) meet in a matchup of top-10 flyweights. Before making your UFC Fight Night picks for Saturday, make sure you see what SportsLine MMA analyst Brandon Wise has to say.
A CBS Sports editor specializing in MMA, Wise has been dissecting the sport for more than five years. He specializes in picking main-card fights for UFC, which has enabled him to be profitable every year. Wise is in his second year of consistently delivering winners to SportsLine members. He went a perfect 5-0 at UFC 239 and was 4-1 at both UFC 245 and UFC 249. He also nailed Khabib Nurmagomedov’s destruction of Conor McGregor in 2018, Stipe Miocic’s upset of Daniel Cormier, Holloway’s downfall in 2019 and Justin Gaethje’s TKO victory over Tony Ferguson in May.
Since the UFC returned following a period of inactivity due to the coronavirus pandemic, he has gone 36-16, while nailing the method of victory a remarkable 23 times. Wise kept his 2020 hot streak going by notching a 4-1 record at UFC Fight Night two weeks ago. Those victories included accurately calling wins by Deiveson Figueiredo (-220) over Joseph Benavidez (+180) for the flyweight title in the main event and Jack Hermannson (-105) taking down Kelvin Gastelum (-115) in the middleweight co-main event. Anyone who has followed him is way up.
Now, with UFC Fight Night: Brunson vs. Shahbazyan fast approaching, Wise carefully has studied every matchup on the main card, identified the best value in the UFC odds and released his MMA picks for each fight. He’s only sharing those selections here.
Derek Brunson vs. Edmen Shahbazyan expert preview
At age 22, Shahbazyan is among the youngest fighters on the UFC roster and also is widely viewed as one of its most promising prospects. He has stated his goal to become the promotion’s youngest champion in history, surpassing the mark Jon Jones set at 23 years, 8 months.
Shahbazyan (11-0) turns 23 in November, and the Californian likely would need at least two more wins in order to qualify for a title shot, so his chances of getting an opportunity to break Jones’ record could be considered ambitious. The next step involves getting past a seasoned veteran in Brunson (20-7), who has battled several of the sport’s luminaries.
The 36-year-old North Carolina native has consistently defeated upper-tier UFC opponents throughout his career, but has struggled against elite opponents. His resume includes losses to Adesanya and Robert Whittaker, the former champion who is now the No. 1 contender. He also has absorbed defeats against iconic former champ Anderson Silva and former title-challenger Yoel Romero.
Brunson brushed off suggestions that he might be nearing the end of his career with consecutive victories over prospects Elias Theodorou and Ian Heinisch last year. An upset over Shahbazyan would vault him into the title picture. You can see Wise’s Brunson vs. Shahbazyan picks here.
Top UFC Fight Night predictions
We’ll share one of Wise’s UFC Fight Night main-card picks here: He is backing Kevin Holland (-220) to get a submission win against Trevin Giles (+180) in a showcase of middleweight prospects to launch the main card.
Holland (17-5) has impressed with a well-rounded skill set while going 4-2 in six UFC outings, with losses against veteran Thiago Santos and fellow prospect Brendan Allen. The Texas-based fighter rebounded from his submission loss to Allen with a first-round stoppage of Anthony Hernandez in May.
The San Antonio-born Giles (12-2) won his first two UFC bouts but stumbled against elevated competition. The 27-year-old was submitted by Zak Cummings and Gerald Meerschaert before taking a split decision against James Krause in February.
“Giles has shown a tendency to get caught in guillotine chokes since joining the promotion, and I expect Holland to take advantage when the opportunity is there,” Marley told SportsLine.
How to make UFC Fight Night picks
Wise also has strong picks for Brunson vs. Shahbazyan and every other bout on the main UFC Fight Night card. He’s also backing a combatant who is “the better overall fighter” and in line for a groundbreaking victory. You can see who it is, and get every pick for every fight on the UFC Fight Night main card, at SportsLine.
Who wins Brunson vs. Shahbazyan? And how exactly does each fight end? Visit SportsLine now to get detailed picks on every fight on Saturday’s main UFC fight card, all from the accomplished expert who has been profitable for five straight years, and find out.
UFC Fight Night: Brunson vs. Shahbazyan odds (via William Hill)
Edmen Shahbazyan (-330) vs. Derek Brunson (+260)
Joanne Calderwood (-155) vs. Jennifer Maia (+130)
Vicente Luque (-195) vs. Randy Brown (+165)
Lando Vannata (-155) vs. Bobby Green (+130)
Kevin Holland (-220) vs. Trevin Giles (+180)