UFC Fight Night APEX 5, Derek Brunson vs. Edmen Shahbazyan - MMA Betting & DFS Preview

A middleweight bout between Derek Brunson & Edmen Shahbazyan highlights this UFC Fight Night APEX 5 main card. MMA expert Casey Olson runs down the best bets & DFS plays.
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While other major sports organizations continue to work out the kinks to ensure completion of their upcoming schedules, the UFC completed 12 fight cards so far through the pandemic, including their four-card event over at Fight Island without any hiccups. 

Now, they head back to home soil this Saturday for UFC Fight Night: Brunson vs. Shahbazyan, live from the UFC APEX in Las Vegas, where #8 Derek Brunson (20-7) looks to slow the rise of hot prospect #9 Edmen Shahbazyan (11-0). This will be the night's new main event, as Holly Holm vs. Irene Aldana was pulled and will be rebooked in October. The card is scheduled for 11 fights in total, all airing live on ESPN+, kicking off at 6 pm ET for the prelims, followed up at 9 pm ET for the main card.

UFC Fight APEX 5 Details

DATE: SATURDAY 08/01/2020
BROADCAST: ESPN+
VENUE: UFC APEX
LOCATION: Las Vegas, Nevada
# MATCHES: 11

MAIN CARD

MIDDLEWEIGHT 185 LBS

#8 DEREK BRUNSON 20-7 VS. #9 EDMEN SHAHBAZYAN 11-0

WOMEN’S FLYWEIGHT 125 LBS

#3 JOANNE CALDERWOOD 14-4 VS. #6 JENNIFER MAIA 17-6-1

WELTERWEIGHT 170 LBS

#11 VICENTE LUQUE 18-7-1 VS. RANDY BROWN 12-3

LIGHTWEIGHT 155 LBS

LANDO VANNATA 11-4-2 VS. BOBBY GREEN 25-10-1

MIDDLEWEIGHT 185 LBS

KEVIN HOLLAND 17-5 VS. TREVIN GILES 12-2

PRELIMS

BANTAMWEIGHT 135 LBS

FRANKIE SAENZ 12-6 VS. JONATHAN MARTINEZ 11-3

LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT 205 LBS

ED HERMAN 24-14 VS. GERALD MEERSCHAERT 31-13

Note: This fight has been canceled after Meerschaert tested positive for COVID-19.

BANTAMWEIGHT 135 LBS

RAY BORG 13-5 VS. NATE MANESS 11-1

*(CANCELED. JOHNNY MUNOZ WILL FILL IN FOR RAY BORG)*

MIDDLEWEIGHT 185 LBS

ERIC SPICELY 12-5 VS. MARKUS PEREZ 12-3

*(CANCELED)*

FEATHERWEIGHT 145 LBS

JAMALL EMMERS 17-5 VS. VINCE CACHERO 7-2

BANTAMWEIGHT 135 LBS

CHRIS GUTIERREZ 15-3-1 VS. CODY DURDEN 11-2

MAIN EVENT PREDICTION 

#8 DEREK BRUNSON 20-7 VS. #9 EDMEN SHAHBAZYAN 11-0

Athlete vs. a pure martial artist in this one. The first thing to note is that this main event is three rounds, as opposed to the usual five rounds. Not sure that will matter though, as we have two fighters that have a very high percentage of fights finishing inside of round one. We will get into that, but first, let's look at the two fighters we have matched up. Brunson, the No. 8 ranked middleweight, has won his last two fights via unanimous decision, after previously being KO’d twice consecutively inside of one round against current champ Israel Adesanya and Jacare Souza. 

In 27 fights, Brunson has had the fight end in the first round on 18 occasions. He’s a very awkward, fast starter, with great striking and above-average power in his left hand. Brunson is the great athlete I mentioned earlier, compared to his opponent here, who is a pure mixed martial artist. Brunson was a competitive cheerleader and wrestler in high school and went on to receive scholarships for both. In his college wrestling career, he was a three-time Division II All-American. Immediately following college, he turned his attention to mixed martial arts, and after going 6-0 in his first year as a pro, he was signed by Strikeforce and eventually made his way to the UFC. Historically looking at his fights, Brunson tends to push forward recklessly and hang his chin out there for the taking. This is what has led to 71% of his losses coming by way of knockout. It appears he’s worked on not only this but also adding some patience. He's made it to the final bell in his last two fights. But in those fights, I still saw this Achilles’ heel of his there, yet neither opponent took advantage of it. Shahbazyan will. 

“The Golden Boy” began training martial arts at the age of 9. He's been training since the age of 12, and in his teens, worked as a training partner for Ronda Rousey. Shahbazyan made his professional debut about three years ago, winning his first fight in impressive fashion, where it took only 43 seconds to TKO his opponent via head kick followed by strikes. He went on to go 6-0 in the California circuit, winning all his fights by first-round knockout, leading to an invitation to fight on Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series in 2018. In that match, he again won via TKO impressively, and in under one minute, leading to a UFC contract for the then 20-year-old phenom. Since, Shahbazyan has gone 4-0, stretching his record to 11-0, with all but one coming by way of first-round finish. Brunson will be a slight jump in opponent for Shahbazyan after he finished No. 15 Brad Tavares in just over two minutes. I see this going very similarly. 

Coupling the fact that Shahbazyan is 3-0 against southpaws (Brunson is as well), and the openings Brunson will provide wherever this one goes, this makes for a very dangerous matchup for Brunson. Shahbazyan is very sharp and will pick his spots. He will probably land a fight-changing counter while avoiding Brunson’s left hand. There are two positions I like here. Over 1.5 rounds is possibly in play, as both will play chess a bit and avoid big shots out of the shoots. We've seen this from Brunson in his last two fights. 

At +100 on the over 1.5, it's worth a look. Shahbazyan winning inside the distance has a high probability, and with the TKO prop priced very comparably to the ITD, why not take the ITD at -155. The ML is just too wide for my liking.

PREDICTION: EDMEN SHAHBAZYAN wins inside the distance -155

OTHER WAGERS

#3 JOANNE CALDERWOOD 14-4 VS. #6 JENNIFER MAIA 17-6-1

Calderwood was set to face Shevchenko for the belt originally, and the fight was scrapped as Shevchenko pulled out with an injury. Maia’s original opponent tested positive for COVID, so here we are. Calderwood will look to be the more offensive fighter in this matchup, and I see the majority of this one on the feet. Maia rarely goes for takedowns with only .25 takedowns avg per 15 minutes. That said, Calderwood’s ability to control the distance while mixing in some leg kicks should result in her scoring more in the judges' eyes, resulting in her staying on track for that next shot at the belt with most likely a decision win here in a 29-28 type fight.

PREDICTION: JOANNE CALDERWOOD -140 (look a DEC prop +100)

#11 VICENTE LUQUE 18-7-1 VS. RANDY BROWN 12-3

I like Luque in this spot. Brown is coming off of two straight wins, but before that, he went 3-3. On the other side, Luque has won 7 of 8, and six of those wins have come by way of finish. He's won 11 of his last 13, and in many of those fights, he’s just straight walked down his opponents getting into firefights they just don’t want. I took Luque at -175 and will also look at the TKO/KO prop at +250 at some spots. Luque’s last five finishes have been by way of TKO/KO, and his SLpM at 5.66 in comparison to Brown’s 3.41 will be visible in there.

PREDICTION: VICENTE LUQUE -175 (look at TKO/KO prop at +250)

KEVIN HOLLAND 17-5 VS. TREVIN GILES 12-2

Trevis Giles dropped two in a row, and it was almost three against a guy that had one day notice. (James Krause). I have been wrong before, but I believe Giles is here for a paycheck. He's focused on his career as a full-time police officer, which has led to limited training time. Holland will have the size and output advantage.

PREDICTION: KEVIN HOLLAND -210

LANDO VANNATA 11-4-2 VS. BOBBY GREEN 25-10-1

These two fought to a draw in 2017 in a great fight that I thought Green edged out. Green just decisively beat Clay Guida a month ago and has momentum behind him. On top of that, Green should have a better gas tank and will pick him apart on the feet while avoiding the big power shots from Lando. It's almost as if Green is offended that Lando wants to fight him again, so watch Green ensure a clear way to victory as long as he avoids Lando's well-known flashy stuff. This should be a good fight.

PREDICTION: BOBBY GREEN +130

ED HERMAN 24-14 VS. GERALD MEERSCHAERT 31-13

Note: This fight was canceled Saturday after Meerschaert tested positive for COVID-19.

Herman looked good recently, stringing together two wins against Khadis Ibragimov and Patrick Cummins. He also dropped a split against Gian Villante in a very close fight. Meerschaert is returning six weeks after suffering a round one TKO loss to Ian Heinisch back in June. Herman has a chin and will have more power on the feet with a great clinch game. It's no secret Meerschaert will look to get this one down to work his strength in submissions, but should struggle, as Herman is tough to submit, and hasn’t lost in that fashion for over seven years.

On top of that, the last two guys that have submitted Herman are Jacare Souza and Demian Maia—ever heard of them? Herman has been training for some time now and will be ready to go. He's had two fights against Da Un Jung canceled over the last four months, so in steps Meerschaert, again pretty quickly after a TKO. Look for a loud corner in Herman’s corner with no fans in attendance in a great dog spot for the 14-year UFC vet.

PREDICTION: ED HERMAN +155

RAY BORG 13-5 VS. NATE MANESS 11-1 

*(CANCELED. JOHHNY MUNOZ WILL FILL IN FOR RAY BORG)*

Although he will have a nine-inch reach advantage, is a No. 1 Kentucky circuit featherweight on a debut to beat the former world title contender? It sounds like he's been tied up working 12-hour construction days in the last couple of weeks.

PREDICTION: RAY BORG -235

CHRIS GUTIERREZ 15-3-1 VS. CODY DURDEN 11-2

Gutierrez was set to face a much higher-ranked opponent in Luke Sanders, though Sanders withdrew, opening up a spot for Atlanta’s Cody Durden. Durden is fresh off a TKO victory in just over a minute against John Sweeney, which put him at a seven-fight winning streak, all by way of finish. He has some experience in kickboxing and boxing and is great on the feet with the ability to switch stances while mixing things up, while constantly moving forward, pressing the pace. Durden also has great grappling, and I wouldn't be surprised if we see him take Gutierrez down at some point, scoring from the top. He's very aggressive, and I believe he will surprise some folks here. Gutierrez is coming off an impressive win against Vince Morales, where he picked him apart with leg kicks and had the fight won early on, eventually via finish in the second. If Gutierrez can control the range, he’ll be able to take this one, though Durden’s pressure and ability to mix the wrestling with the standup, he's in this fight, in my opinion. The line is wide enough to grab my attention.

PREDICTION: CODY DURDEN +285

FULL MAIN CARD & PRELIM PREDICTIONS

  • EDMEN SHAHBAZYAN defeats DEREK BRUNSON
  • JOANNE CALDERWOOD defeats JENNIFER MAIA
  • VICENTE LUQUE defeats RANDY BROWN
  • BOBBY GREEN defeats LANDO VANNATA
  • KEVIN HOLLAND defeats TREVIN GILES
  • JONATHAN MARTINEZ defeats FRANKIE SAENZ
  • ED HERMAN defeats GERALD MEERSCHAERT
  • JAMALL EMMERS defeats VINCE CACHERO
  • CHRIS GUTIERREZ 15-3-1 VS. CODY DURDEN 11-2

UFC FIGHT NIGHT BET SUMMARY

  • EDMEN SHAHBAZYAN wins inside the distance -155
  • JOANNE CALDERWOOD -140 (look a DEC prop +100)
  • VICENTE LUQUE -175 (look at TKO/KO prop at +250)
  • KEVIN HOLLAND -210
  • BOBBY GREEN +130
  • ED HERMAN +155
  • CODY DURDEN +285

Fight card predictions overall: 223-123-6 (65%)
Targeted matchups (wagers): 87-37-2 (70%)

UFC FIGHT NIGHT DFS Plays & DFS Strategies

  • Choose active fighters. Coupling an active fighter on his/her way to a unanimous decision will give you key points for your team. Just like any other DFS traditional sport, you want the active, offensive player that scores. Key metrics here are SLpM and TD AVG/15min.
  • Play the heavyweights. The approximate overall finish rate in the UFC is 54%. Most of the weight divisions range from 40%-60%, while the heavyweights push a 75% finish rate. You will receive bonus points for finishes inside the distance.
  • Try always to include the main event or title fights. Five round fights mean more time to rack up points if you pick the right fighter. In some cases, even if you have the loser, the points can be more than a three-round winner.
  • Don’t get excited and rush a pick based on stats, consider sample size. Some fighters have limited fights compared to their opponents when looking at metrics. Stats could be exaggerated. Do your research. Watch for spots with debuting fighters as well. Always check the records of the opponents they faced on their way to the UFC. Always pull fight tape as well. You’d be surprised at what you will find.
  • Review methods of victory. I supply the finish rates within this article, and as you dive in, you can compare method of victory to method of loss for the matchups. For example, you can find matchups where Fighter A has a high percentage of submission victories matched with Fighter B, with a high percentage of submission losses.

As mentioned in the tip sheet above, here’s my MMA DFS Heat Chart for UFC Fight Night APEX 5. As you can see, the chart is ranked based on fight finish odds. Fight finishes are where the points are in MMA DFS. Take a glance at the stack, and we will break down the individual matchups below.

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Two key offensive metrics are strikes and takedowns. They get off on their opponents and watch your points rack up quickly. Here's my Offensive Output Meter for the card. With this chart, you can compare historical fighter averages in these two key metrics as I rank all fighters participating Saturday.

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3

Historical striking differential comparisons 
(Strikes landed minus strikes absorbed)

4

UFC Fight Night Apex 5 Final Recommendations

  • Fighters that typically press the action, land takedowns, and/or high finish rates matched up against those that get finished, roster. (see my charts above)
  • Take a look at the main event. Although this one is only three rounds, I still really like Shahbazyan.
  • Fights projected not to go the distance include:
    • Brunson/Shahbazyan -385
    • Spicely/Perez -195 *(CANCELED)*
    • Brown/Luque -185
    • Herman/Meerschaert -175
    • Holland/Giles -155
  • Top-tier fighters to build around include Shahbazyan, Luque & Holland.
  • Mid-tier fighter considerations are Perez & Martinez.
  • Live Dogs are Green, Herman & Durden.