Brunson vs. Shahbazyan Betting Preview, Odds & Prediction for UFC on ESPN+ 31

  • Date & Location: Saturday Aug. 1 @ UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada
  • Odds: Derek Brunson +250, Edmen Shahbazyan -325
  • Prediction: Shahbazyan by knockout

On August 1, Edmen Shahbazyan fights in the first main event of his young UFC career when he faces veteran competitor Derek Brunson in a middleweight contest that serves as the main event of UFC on ESPN+ 31.

Shahbazyan, who is the No. 9 ranked fighter in the official UFC middleweight rankings is 11-0 with three consecutive first-round finishes on his record. Brunson, who is the No. 8 ranked 185-pounder, is on a two-fight winning streak with the UFC.


Fighter Odds
Derek Brunson +250
Edmen Shahbazyan -325


Brunson has a tendency to forget his game plan at times. When he does that, he often gets knocked out. Of Brunson’s seven losses, five have come by way of knockout. That number includes three of his past four setbacks.

The problem with Brunson’s striking style is that he often rushes in and gets his head far out in front of his body and feet. That gives his opponent the chance to tag him right on the jaw. With a heavy hitter like Shahbazyan, Brunson needs to be fully aware of his approach and defense.

If Brunson can remain calm and not put himself in a bad position, he has a chance to go the distance and maybe even win this fight because of his experience. However, I’m not sure that facing someone like Shahbazyan, who the UFC seems more interested in than Brunson, is an ideal proposition for Brunson.

I think Shahbazyan, who seems to have the tools and drive to work his way up to the top of the UFC middleweight division, will score the knockout win here and get close to the top-five of the weight class before his next outing.


Shahbazyan is a finisher. He has nine knockout wins, one submission victory and one decision triumph in his undefeated career. Three of those finishes have come with the UFC. Each of Shahbazyan’s UFC stoppages came in the first round. The times of those finishes were 0:38, 1:12 and 2:27.  He did go the distance in his UFC debut.

The styles of these two fighters favors Shahbazyan to get the knockout, but there is a chance that Brunson could use his wrestling to go to the mat where he is less likely to be finished. However, I believe Brunson will be his normal aggressive self and that Shahbazyan will catch him for the knockout. If there is a lack of confidence in Shahbazyan’s finishing ability a decision win is not out of the realm of possibility.


The 22-year-old Shahbazyan has the edge over the 36-year-old Brunson. Despite his limited octagon time, Shahbazyan has better offensive numbers than Brunson. He lands more strikes per minute than Brunson, is more accurate and has a better defense. Shahbazyan also gets hit less than Brunson. This fight looks like it was designed to give Shahbazyan a win over a veteran opponent and launch him into bouts against other fighters who are on the come up in the middleweight division. Yes, Brunson does have perfect takedown defense, but I don’t see Shahbazyan shooting for takedowns unless Brunson tags him with a few good strikes and then the takedown attempts will be to give Shahbazyan time to recover his wits.

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Derek Brunson Category Edmen Shahbazyan
36 Age 22
11-3-6 Record 11-0
11 Knockout Wins 9
3 Submission Wins 1
6 Decision Wins 1
6’1″ Height 6’2″
185 Weight 185
77″ Reach 74″
Southpaw Stance Orthodox
3.39 Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute 4.11
45% Striking Accuracy 52%
2.91 Significant Strikes Absorbed Per Minute 2.16
54% Striking Defense 62%
2.80 Takedown Average Per 15 Minutes 6.77
29% Takedown Accuracy 40%
100% Takedown Defense 75%
0.50 Submission Average Per 15 Minutes 0.8


Fighters do not want to be relegated to gatekeeper status and that’s what could happen if Brunson loses to Shahbazyan on Saturday night. If he can score a win over the up-and-coming fighter, Brunson will extend his career as a viable title contender in the 185-pound division.

This fight could be a breakout performance for Shahbazyan. His near future depends on how he performs against Brunson. If Shahbazyan runs through the older fighter, he will continue to get tougher opponents and work his way up the rankings. If Shahbazyan stumbles or has a tough time in this fight, the speed of his middleweight rise will slow.



Trent Reinsmith

Trent covers UFC and MMA for MTS. He has written for USA Today Sports, Vice, Bloody Elbow, Fight! Magazine, UFC 360, and Narratively among others. He has been involved with MMA since he and some friends threw some money together to purchase the pay-per-view of UFC 1, and the rest is history.

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