After holding fifteen fights last weekend, the UFC returned to Las Vegas with an eight fight card for UFC Fight Night 173. A women’s bantamweight fight between former champion Holly Holm and Irene Aldana was originally scheduled to headline. Aldana was entering the fight coming off a knockout win over Ketlen Vieira as she looked for a big win over Holm. However, she tested positive for COVID-19 in the weeks leading up to the fight, resulting in her removal. As a result, the main event was changed to a three round middleweight fight, due to the short notice. Facing his biggest challenge yet, undefeated Edmen Shahbazyan faced off against Derek Brunson.
In the night’s co-main event, Joanne Calderwood made a risky decision of putting her title shot on the line. Calderwood had originally been scheduled to face the champion, Valentina Shevchenko, this summer. But with the pandemic and a leg injury to Shevchenko, Calderwood got tired of waiting. She decided she needed to remain active and as a result took a short notice fight against Jennifer Maia.
The card lost a few other fights during before and during fight week as well. In fact, a couple of main card fights were scrapped the day of the event. The first of them to fall through was a light heavyweight fight between Ed Herman and Gerald Meerschaert. Meerschaert was pulled from the fight after testing postive for COVID-19. The next one was the opener of the main card as Kevin Holland was expected to take on Trevin Giles. That fight was cancelled just moments before it started after Giles fainted before walking out. Markus Perez also had two fights fall through as his opponents failed to weigh in resulting in his removal from the card.
UFC Fight Night 173 Standout Performances
Although it was a shortened card, it still delivered with some entertaining fights and impressive finishes. With that being said, there will be only three standout performances this week with one honorable mention. In order for a fighter to make this list, their performance must stand out among their peers. This could be quick finishes, flashy knockouts, great submissions, dismantling an opponent, or providing an all-around exciting fight. Along with every performance will be a look at what could potentially come next for each fighter.
#1 Jennifer Maia
def. Joanne Calderwood via Submission (Armbar) at 4:29 of Round One
In her last four fights prior to UFC Fight Night 173, Joanne Calderwood had put together a record of 3-1. That one loss came at UFC 238 as she lost to Katlyn Chookagian, who would go on to fight for the title. But over that time she had put together a submission win over Kalindra Faria and a decision win over Ariane Lipski. In her most recent outing, Calderwood had defeated Andrea Lee by split decision at UFC 242. That win earned her a title shot against Valentina Shevchenko at UFC 251 when it was scheduled for Perth. But as mentioned previously, various reasons allowed for that fight to fall through. When Viviane Araujo was forced out of her fight with Jennifer Maia, Calderwood found her opening to return.
Maia had split her last four entering UFC Fight Night 173, going 2-2. The first of those fights resulted in a loss as she dropped a unanimous decision to Liz Carmouche at UFC Fight Night 133. She then went on to win two straight, winning unanimous decisions over Alexis Davis and Roxanne Modafferi. Her most recent fight happened last November at UFC 244. She faced off against Chookagian and lost by unanimous decision. She looked to rebound from the loss and spoil the title shot that Calderwood had already earned with a big win.
The first half of round one, Calderwood was throwing a lot of kicks while Maia connected with her punches. Maia was able to find success closing the distance and landing hard right hooks. Just about halfway into the round, Maia threw a kick that was caught by Calderwood, allowing Calderwood to get a takedown. Once the two got to the ground, Maia started searching from submissions off her back. Just over two minutes later, Maia was able to lock up Calderwood’s arm and force a tap.
Maia’s armbar win spoils Calderwood’s title shot hopes and now makes things at flyweight interesting. While Calderwood was scheduled to face the champion next before meeting Maia, this win does not necessarily guarantee Maia a title shot next. Just over a month ago, a new contender emerged in the main event of UFC on ESPN 10. That fighter was Cynthia Calvillo as she defeated former title challenger Jessica Eye by unanimous decision. While Calvillo seems deserving of a title shot after that win, it was her first fight at flyweight in the UFC. She may also need at least one more fight before she can make a case for a shot at the champion. With that being said, a number one contender fight between Maia and Calvillo seems like the way to go.
#2 Derek Brunson
def. Edmen Shahbazyan via TKO (Punches) at 0:26 of Round Three
After losing two straight fights by TKO in 2017 to Jacare Souza and Israel Adesanya, Derek Brunson kicked off a win streak. After his loss to Adesanya at UFC 230, he made his return at UFC Fight Night 151 against Elias Theodorou. He snapped his two fight losing streak that night, defeating Theodorou by unanimous decision. He returned three months later at UFC 241 taking on Ian Heinisch. Brunson won his second straight fight that night, defeating Heinisch by unanimous decision. He looked to make it three in a row and derail the hype train against the undefeated Shahbazyan at UFC Fight Night 173.
Shahbazyan made his UFC debut after a TKO win on the Contender Series in 2018. His debut happened at the TUF 28 Finale where he took on Darren Stewart. He won his debut, improving his record to 8-0, defeating Stewart by split decision. Shahbazyan picked up his first finish in his next outing as he defeated Charles Byrd by first round TKO at UFC 235. He picked up another career achievement in his next appearance with his first submission win. His first career submission came at UFC 239 as he submitted Jack Marshman by rear naked choke. In his most recent outing, he faced off against Brad Tavares at UFC 244. He picked up another big finish that night, finishing Tavares in the first round by knockout.
In the beginning of round one, they were both feeling each other out, landing good, short combinations. About two minutes into the round, Brunson lunged forward with a combination before changing levels for the first takedown of the fight. Immediately after getting the takedown, Brunson was able to take Shahbazyan’s back. Shortly after, Shahbazyan was able to use the fence to get back to his feet. After a couple more seconds in the clinch, they broke apart as Brunson landed a hard elbow. After they broke apart, Shahbazyan started pressuring forward and landing hard punches. With just over a minute left, they clinched once again as Brunson looked for a takedown late in the round, but they broke apart seconds later. They ended the round on their feet as they traded combinations.
Round Two & Three
Round two opened up as Brunson landed a leg kick and Shahbazyan returned with a heavy body kick moments later. Minutes into the round, Shahbazyan landed a hard body kick followed by heavy punches, Brunson started pressuring forward with his own shots. This forced Shahbazyan to look for a takedown but it was quickly defended by Brunson. The two then worked in the clinch before Brunson landed a heavy knee that broke them apart. During the last two minutes of the round, Brunson pressured forward, landing hard shots before getting another takedown with about a minute left. Brunson used the last minute to pour down ground and pound. During the last ten seconds, he landed an elbow that opened up Shahbazyan’s face. It looked like it could have been stopped soon, but the horn sounded, allowing Shahbazyan a third round.
Brunson opened up round three throwing a couple of leg kicks before he pressured forward. He pushed forward with hard punches as he backed Shahbazyan up to the fence. Shahbazyan quickly covered up and allowed Brunson to easily take him down. Once down, Shahbazyan gave up his back where Brunson started landing more ground and pound. After just a few shots, the ref stepped in as it was clear Shahbazyan did not want to be in there anymore.
The win now puts Brunson at three in a row as he looks to climb back towards the top of the middleweight division. When looking at the top of the middleweight division, there are not a whole lot of options for Brunson. The name that would make the most sense would be Jack Hermansson. Hermansson last fought at UFC Fight Night 172 as he took on former interim middleweight title challenger Kelvin Gastelum. He won the fight in the first round, submitting Gastelum with a heel hook. He now sits at number four in the division with everyone ahead of him booked. With both fighters coming off big wins, a match up between the two makes sense. A win for Hermansson would put him one or two more wins away from a title shot. Meanwhile a win for Brunson would put him right back in or around the top five.
#3 Vicente Luque
def. Randy Brown via TKO (Strikes) at 4:56 of Round Two
From 2017-2019, Vicente Luque had put together a six fight winning streak. All but one of those wins came by way of a finish. During that time, he had put together KO/TKO wins over Chad Laprise, Jalin Turner, Bryan Barberena and Derrick Krantz. He also finished one fight by submission, defeating Niko Price with a d’arce choke at UFC Fight Night 119. The one fight he did not finish occurred at UFC Fight Night 156 as he defeated Mike Perry by split decision. After the win over Perry, Luque’s win streak was snapped as he lost to Stephen Thompson by unanimous decision at UFC 244. Prior to UFC Fight Night 173, Luque faced off against Niko Price once again at UFC 249. Luque defeated him once again, this time finishing him by TKO.
In his last four before UFC Fight Night 173, Randy Brown had put together a record of 3-1. His first fight during that span resulted in a win as he defeated Mickey Gall by unanimous decision at UFC 217. His next fight resulted in a loss as he was knocked out by Niko Price at UFC Fight Night 133. After the loss, Brown won his next two straight fights. The first of those wins came at UFC Fight Night 154 as he defeated Bryan Barberena by third round TKO. In his most recent outing before UFC Fight Night 173, Brown submitted Warlley Alves with a triangle choke at UFC Fight Night 164.
In the first round, Luque made it clear he was looking to affect the movement of the lengthy Brown. He landed a lot of hard leg kicks to kick off the round until just about halfway in, he landed a hard right hand that dropped Brown. Luque landed a couple of shots on the ground before the two got up about thirty seconds later. The latter half of the first round was much like the first as Luque pressured forward with leg kicks. Brown would have his moments occasionally as he lunged forward with a flurry of punches. With just under a minute left, Luque landed a hard left hook that almost dropped Brown again. But Brown grabbed the fence to steady himself and remained on his feet. Brown then pressured forward and landed some knees in the clinch before they broke apart for the last ten seconds.
At the beginning of round two, Brown landed a heavy body kick which forced Luque to come back with a hard leg kick. But the kick landed high and caused a break in the action. It did not take long for Brown before Brown said he was good to go again. The two exchanged shots in the middle before Luque started pressuring again. As he backed Brown towards the fence, he landed another hard leg kick that forced Brown to go down. After a few seconds, Luque would let him up again.
During the last three minutes of the round, both fighters were exchanging. Luque continued pressuring forward with leg kicks while Brown started landing some shots including a hard spinning elbow. With a minute left in the round, Brown lunged forward and got a takedown. Unfortunately it did not take long for Luque to create separation and get back to his feet. As the round came to a close, Luque backed him up to the fence where he landed a knee that dropped Brown. After a couple of shots on the ground, the fight was over.
After the win, that makes it two in a row for Luque with both wins coming by TKO. With the win, he should look to fight up in the rankings. If he does not mind facing someone that is coming off a loss, that leaves Rafael dos Anjos and Demian Maia open. Or he could face someone that is coming off three straight wins, which could allow him to move close to the top five with a win.
That would be a match up with Michael Chiesa. Chiesa moved up to the welterweight division in 2018, submitting former interim welterweight champion Carlos Condit. He would then go on to face UFC veteran and TUF alum Diego Sanchez at UFC 239. Chiesa won his second straight fight that night, defeating Sanchez by unanimous decision. In his most recent outing, Chiesa faced off against Rafael dos Anjos at UFC Fight Night 166. He defeated the former lightweight champion for his third straight win that night, winning by unanimous decision. While he has been wanting a fight against Colby Covington, Chiesa may have to settle with Luque as Covington could be shaping up to face Tyron Woodley soon.
Jonathan Martinez def. Frankie Saenz via TKO (Strikes) at 0:57 of Round Three
Early on in the first, Saenz seemed to be in control of the fight, holding Martinez against the cage and looking for takedowns. Once the two broke apart, Saenz was able to land some shots here and there. Martinez was also landing shots of his own including some heavy body knees. It was not until close to the end of the round where Martinez started landing some punches that seemed to daze Saenz.
Martinez opened up round two with kicks, landing multiple head kicks to start things off. About a minute and a half into the round, Saenz shot in for a takedown but Martinez defended well. As Saenz got his footing back, Martinez landed some hard punches before throwing a hard body kick as Saenz fully stood up. Shortly after, Martinez landed another hard head kick that stunned Saenz. About a minute went by as Martinez landed good shots with body kicks mixed in. Just over halfway into the round, he landed another head kick, this time dropping Saenz. Martinez landed some heavy ground and pound but Saenz was able to get back to his feet. During the last couple minutes of the round, Martinez continued putting the pressure on. He nearly finished it again with about thirty seconds left, landing another head kick, but Saenz survived again.
After a short break in action due to a low blow, it was not long into the third round that the finish came. Martinez landed another head kick as he pressured forward. Then Saenz began pressuring and as Martinez backed up to the fence he jumped up and landed a knee that dropped Saenz. He landed some ground and pound and the ref stopped the fight.
Next week the UFC remains in Vegas with a heavyweight showdown in the main event of UFC Fight Night 174. Coming off decision wins in his last two outings, Derrick Lewis looks to make it three in a row as he takes on Aleksei Oleinik. Lewis’ last two fights came at UFC 244and UFC 247 as he defeated Blagoy Ivanov by split decision and Ilir Latifi by unanimous decision. As for Oleinik, he looks to win his sixtieth pro fight as he enters the cage against Lewis. He too has won his last two straight with the first of them coming at UFC 246. He defeated Maurice Greene that night, submitting him in the second round with an armbar. His most recent win came against former heavyweight champion Fabricio Werdum as he defeated him by unanimous decision at UFC 249.
Also, in the co-main event, former UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman takes on Omari Akhmedov. Weidman enters the fight coming off two straight losses. At UFC 230, he lost in a fight of the night with Jacare Souza as Souza defeated him by third round knockout. Weidman then moved up to light heavyweight where he faced Dominick Reyes in the main event of UFC on ESPN 6. Reyes defeated him that night to earn a title shot as he won by first round knockout. Meanwhile, Akhmedov enters the fight on a six fight unbeaten streak. He holds five wins over that time as he and Marvin Vettori fought to a draw in 2017. His last three wins have all come by unanimous decision as he beat Tim Boetsch, Zak Cummings and Ian Heinisch. Be sure to check back here next week for UFC Fight Night 173’s standout performances.