After a swing on the east coast, the UFC returns home for UFC Vegas 73 – Dern vs Hill.
The UFC Apex plays hosts to another busy night of fights, and the co-main event of the evening will see two middleweights battle to propel themselves into the top 15 rankings. There’s a lot of the line, so let’s break the fight down before offering our Hernandez vs Shahbazyan prediction.
The hype around ‘The Golden Boy’ Edmen Shahbazyan took a hit after three consecutive losses a few years ago, but the Armenian-American has the opportunity to regain some of that lost momentum against Anthony ‘Fluffy’ Hernandez.
Both fighters have fought through adversity in their UFC careers. In Shahbazyan’s case, he is looking to break back into the top 15 rankings after his three-fight skip derailed his momentum. Meanwhile, Hernandez is riding the wave of a three-fight win streak and has an opportunity to land a statement victory over one of the divisions hottest prospects.
UFC Vegas 73: Hernandez vs Shahbazyan Prediction
Anthony Hernandez Preview: ‘Fluffy’ In Best Form Of His Career
Hernandez has rebounded well after a slow start to his UFC career. Coming off Dana White’s Contender Series, Hernandez lost his UFC debut against Markus Perez, before adding another L in the loss column in a TKO loss to Kevin Holland. ‘Fluffy’ has responded and has significant improvements in his last three fights. Two submission victories over Marc-Andre Barriault and Rodolfo Vieira and a unanimous decision win over Josh Fremd have put Hernandez on the verge of breaking into the top 15 for the first time.
— UFC (@ufc) May 19, 2023
Hernandez loves to drown opponents with pressure and takedowns, taking them to the mat to wrestle and look for a submission. On his 10-2 record, he’s recorded seven submission victories. Hernandez’ strength also happens to be the weakest part of Shahbazyan’s game. ‘Fluffy’ has not only won his last three fights, but he’s dominated them, and for ‘The Golden Boy’ it’s a horrible time to be facing Hernandez.
The longer this fight goes, the more it suits Hernandez. His previous two submission wins came in the second and third rounds. Hernandez will aim to set a high pace to soften up his opponent before looking to pounce on a submission once they begin to tire. Expect Shahbazyan to come out fast in the first round to counter Hernandez getting into his groove, so ‘Fluffy’ must be on top of his head movement and footwork to prevent being caught by the power of his opponent.
Edmen Shahbazyan Preview: Can ‘The Golden Boy’ Get Back On Track?
As mentioned, when Shahbazyan broke into the UFC the hype was real. It looked inevitable that the kickboxer would be in the title picture in the near future. Derek Brunson disagreed, as did Jack Hermansson and Nassourdine Imavov. Suddenly, the undefeated 23 year-old had notched three consecutive losses and the hype was all but gone.
Now 25, Shahbazyan got back into the win column with a TKO victory over Dalcha Lungiambula in December last year. A sharp kickboxer with fast hands, he’s a fighter that likes that stand and trade with his opponents. As mentioned, his defensive wrestling and conditioning are his biggest flaws which could play into the hands of Hernandez.
— UFC (@ufc) May 19, 2023
This fight will test how much Edmen has improved these weaknesses. His takedown defence will come under scrutiny, alongside his ability to return to his feet from defensive positioning on the ground. One feels that to upset the rhythm of Hernandez, Shahbazyan will have to hurt his opponent early. Using kicks can play a bit part in this, especially to the body. Hernandez’ two stoppage losses came directly from hard shots to the body, so this is an area the underdog Edmen will look to exploit.
Anthony Hernandez vs Edmen Shahbazyan: Nightmare Matchup For ‘The Golden Boy’
Vegas likes Hernandez to continue his winning run in this matchup, as the odds show:
The game of Hernandez is a blueprint of how to beat Shahbazyan. Pressure grappling and cardio from Hernandez against the questionable takedown defence of Shahbazyan, a defence that typically falls off in the later rounds, is the key to this fight.
As a result, our official Hernandez vs Shahbazyan prediction is to back Anthony ‘Fluffy’ Hernandez.
Shahbazyan’s odds are a decent number for the fighter in this matchup with superior striking and fight-ending power, but unless ‘The Golden Child’ hurts his opponent early on in the fight it’s hard to see a path to victory. The longer the fight goes, the more it feels it benefits Hernandez, and it’s hard to pick against a dangerous submission grappling fighter in the smaller cage at the UFC Apex. Some value can even be found for those who fancy a late finish by Hernandez, with +850 odds for a 3rd round finish.
No matter the result on Saturday evening, we will know a lot more about both fighters heading forward after what should be an intriguing battle at UFC Vegas 73.