Edmen Shahbazyan already has his personal id, along with his personal profession and his personal athletic accolades — however admittedly, the Ronda Rousey connection is, for now, arduous to disregard.

Shahbazyan (11-0, 4-Zero within the UFC) is the middleweight phenom who will face the hardest check of his profession on Saturday when he meets Derek Brunson in the primary occasion of UFC Battle Night time contained in the Apex facility in Las Vegas. Brunson, 36, has 16 UFC fights below his belt, and he has fought the likes of Israel Adesanya, Robert Whittaker, Yoel Romero, Lyoto Machida and Anderson Silva.

Brunson (20-7, 11-5 UFC) is a significant step up in competitors for Shahbazyan, not less than when it comes to expertise. And but, the 22-year-old prospect out of Glendale Combating Membership in California is greater than a 3-1 betting favourite.

Shahbazyan signed with the UFC in 2018 after a formidable exhibiting on Dana White’s Contender Sequence, however he was well-known inside MMA circles earlier than then. His longtime head coach is Edmond Tarverdyan, who is sort of completely recognized for his work with Rousey. Shahbazyan can also be represented by Rousey’s administration firm.

Like Rousey, Shahbazyan has a really feel for fast finishes. Ten of his 11 skilled wins have ended within the first spherical.

Shahbazyan’s breakout success and his direct ties to Rousey and Tarverdyan have created an attention-grabbing dynamic. It is arduous to relive the unprecedented success Rousey loved early in her profession, with out reliving her emphatic fall from the highest. Rousey’s knockout losses to Holly Holm and Amanda Nunes in 2015 and 2016 had been so jarring, they pressure their method into any comparisons made to her.

So, as a lot as Shahbazyan stands separate from any storyline involving Rousey, he’s nonetheless inevitably tied to her for now. Together with the comparisons of his fast finishes comes the query: How will he reply when adversity comes? And for Tarverdyan, who was extensively castigated as a motive for Rousey’s downfall in 2015, Shahbazyan is a chance for him to reply some questions himself.

It is nice to be in contrast and linked to one of the crucial well-known figures within the sport’s historical past — however Rousey’s historical past does include baggage. We in all probability will not all the time speak about Shahbazyan in the identical breath as Rousey. They’re two fully completely different athletes. However for now, it is definitely attention-grabbing to match their early success and to see how Shahbazyan shall be completely different.

By the numbers

5: Fighters with UFC wins by each knockout and submission in below a minute. Brunson is one in every of them (48-second rear-naked choke of Brian Houston in 2013, TKO of Ed Herman in 36 seconds in 2015). The others to carry out the twin feat: Ronda Rousey, Tom Lawlor, Joe Lauzon and Andrei Arlovski.

4:17: Whole time it has taken Shahbazyan, in minutes and seconds, to win his previous three fights — two TKOs and a submission.

100: Proportion of takedowns efficiently defended by Brunson within the UFC — 15 for 15. (He isn’t on the official leaderboard, which requires one to have confronted a minimal of 20 makes an attempt.)

9: Knockouts by Shahbazyan, who has ended all however one in every of his 11 profession bouts by end. Brunson has KOs in precisely half of his 20 profession fights, together with six first-round knockouts within the UFC.

4: UFC fighters youthful than the 22-year-old Shahbazyan. It is simply Chase Hooper and Kay Hansen (each 20), and Maycee Barber and Tune Yadong (each 22).

Sources: ESPN Stats & Data and UFC Stats

5 vs. 5

Derek Brunson’s most up-to-date outcomes
Win: Ian Heinisch (UD, Aug. 17, 2019; watch on ESPN+)
Win: Elias Theodorou (UD, Could 4, 2019; watch on ESPN+)
Loss: Israel Adesanya (TKO1, Nov. 3, 2018)
Loss: Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza (TKO1, Jan. 27, 2018)
Win: Lyoto Machida (KO1, Oct. 28, 2017)

Edmen Shahbazyan’s most up-to-date outcomes
Win: Brad Tavares (KO1, Nov. 2, 2019; watch on ESPN+)
Win: Jack Marshman (SUB1, July 6, 2019; watch on ESPN+)
Win: Charles Byrd (TKO1, March 2, 2019)
Win: Darren Stewart (SD, Nov. 30, 2018)
Win: Antonio Jones (TKO1, July 17, 2018)

And the winner is …

I actually do not learn about Shahbazyan being a greater than 3-1 betting favourite. That appears excessive to me, primarily based on expertise alone. And let’s not faux Brunson is a below-average middleweight. He has come up brief in lots of his greatest fights, however he additionally has nearly by no means misplaced to an opponent who wasn’t thought-about nice. That is the query, although. Will Shahbazyan find yourself being a nice middleweight? I feel so. I feel the hype is actual. And though I feel it is nearer than 3-1, I like him right here. Shahbazyan by way of second-round TKO.

Saturday’s combat schedule

ESPN+, 9 p.m. ET
Derek Brunson vs. Edmen Shahbazyan | Middleweight
Joanne Calderwood vs. Jennifer Maia | Ladies’s flyweight
Vicente Luque vs. Randy Brown | Welterweight
Lando Vannata vs. Bobby Inexperienced | Light-weight
Kevin Holland vs. Trevin Giles | Middleweight
ESPN+, 6 p.m. ET
Frankie Saenz vs. Jonathan Martinez | Males’s bantamweight
Ed Herman vs. Gerald Meerschaert | Mild heavyweight
Johnny Munoz vs. Nate Maness | Males’s bantamweight
Charles Ontiveros vs. Markus Perez | Middleweight
Jamall Emmers vs. Vince Cachero | Males’s featherweight
Chris Gutierrez vs. Cody Durden | Males’s bantamweight

Watch the fights on ESPN+. If you do not have ESPN+, get it right here.

What else to search for … past the primary occasion

The co-main occasion is dangerous enterprise

Joanne Calderwood didn’t have to combat on this card. She was all lined up for a title shot after profitable three of her previous 4 bouts. However an damage to flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko delayed issues.

Calderwood, a 33-year-old Scotswoman who’s No. Four in the ESPN divisional rankings, might have waited for Shevchenko to heal, however as an alternative she opted to take this short-notice combat towards ninth-ranked Jennifer Maia. The Brazilian, 31, had a two-fight profitable streak snapped in her most up-to-date combat.

Daring transfer by Calderwood.

Listed here are a few key numbers associated to every fighter:

Calderwood (14-4, 6-Four within the UFC):

4: Flyweight victories, one shy of tying the division document held by Shevchenko and Katlyn Chookagian.

6.67: Important strikes landed per minute within the UFC, the very best output in girls’s flyweight historical past.

Maia (17-6-1, 2-2 UFC):

8: Consecutive fights which have gone to resolution. (She is 6-2 over that span.)

8: Finishes amongst her 17 profession wins (Four KOs, Four submissions).

5 extra issues to know (from ESPN Stats & Data)

1. Vicente Luque, who faces welterweight Randy Brown, is looking for his 12th UFC win. Since Luque’s debut in 2015, solely former Blackzilians teammate Kamaru Usman, the champion, has extra wins at welterweight (12). Luque’s most up-to-date victory, a third-round TKO of Niko Worth at UFC 249 on Could 9, was his 10th end, leaving him one shy of former champ Matt Hughes for second most in UFC welterweight historical past.

2. Lando Vannata meets Bobby Inexperienced in a rematch of their draw at UFC 216 in October 2017. That was one in every of two attracts in Vannata’s profession, making him one in every of 4 fighters in UFC historical past with a number of fights to be scored a draw.

3. Kevin Holland, who faces middleweight Trevin Giles, is returning to the Octagon after a win over Alexander Hernandez in Could. Holland completed Hernandez at 39 seconds of the primary spherical, the third-fastest knockout because of physique strikes in UFC historical past.

4. Ed Herman, the runner-up in Season Three of “The Final Fighter” in 2006, shall be competing within the Octagon for the 24th time when he faces submission specialist Gerald Meerschaert at mild heavyweight. Herman is on a two-fight profitable streak and is looking for his first three-fight profitable streak since 2012.

5. Within the occasion opener, Chris Gutierrez faces UFC newcomer Cody Durden at bantamweight. This shall be Gutierrez’s first look since beating Vince Morales by leg kicks in Could, making him one in every of 11 fighters with a end because of leg strikes in UFC historical past.

Jeff Wagenheim contributed to this combat card preview.