UFC on ESPN+ 31: Brunson vs Shahbazyan Main Card Odds and Picks

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Brunson vs Shahbazyan UFC

On Saturday, August 1st, the UFC returns stateside to the UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada, for UFC on ESPN+ 31: Brunson vs Shahbazyan. This event is also known as UFC Fight Night 173 and UFC Las Vegas 5.

The main event of the evening is a Top 9 middleweight battle between the 8th ranked Derek Brunson and the 9th ranked Edmen Shahbazyan.

The co-main event is a Top 6 women’s flyweight bout between #3 ranked Joanne Calderwood and #6 ranked Jennifer Maia. Also on the main card are Vicente Luque, Lando Vannata, and Kevin Holland.

The main card for this event features five fights and is set to begin at 9 PM ET on ESPN+. After already previewing the UFC on ESPN+ 31 prelims, it’s time to step back into the betting octagon to check out the latest odds for the main card of this UFC Fight Night event.

Trevin Giles vs Kevin Holland

  • Trevin Giles (+175)
  • Kevin Holland (-210)
  • Over (-210)/Under (+175) 1.5 rounds

This middleweight contest was originally scheduled for Jun Yong Park to take on Trevin Giles. Unfortunately, Park was forced to withdraw due to travel issues. Kevin Holland is taking this fight on a week’s notice.

Despite the short notice, Kevin Holland is a sizable betting favorite. He last fought on May 16th and defeated Anthony Hernandez via 1st round TKO in 39 seconds. He was supposed to fight again on May 30th, but withdrew due to a shoulder injury. Now, that he’s all healed, Holland is ready to compete.

What’s interesting about this matchup is that the two fighters came up through Texas and knew of each other. Holland has kept his eye on Giles and there were times where the two could’ve sparred. Holland also turned down a fight against Giles earlier in his career because he didn’t think he was strong enough.

Now, Holland feels not only that has he improved his strength, but that he’s clearly the better fighter:

“I’m the better fighter. I’ve seen him on a local scale. We’ve never been on the same card or stuff like that. I’m always good enough to know I’m faster. I hit harder. I’ve heard out of somebody he’s fought before that he don’t crack that hard. I guess we’ll find out, right?”

14 of his 17 pro wins have come via stoppage with eight by way of TKO/KO. He’s 3-3 when going the distance. Holland is 4-2 inside the octagon.

Trevin Giles, a police officer in Houston, is 3-2 in the UFC having last fought in February where he defeated James Krause via split decision. The win stopped a two fight losing streak.

10 of his 12 pro wins have come via stoppage evenly split among knockouts and submissions. Giles is 2-0 when going the distance.

These two fighters matchup well as they both have similar skills. With that said, Holland will have a three inch height and seven inch reach advantage. That’s a huge advantage for Holland who also appears to be the slicker boxer of the two. Giles is also susceptible to counter striking.

Neither man has been stopped by TKO/KO. In fact, they both have two submission losses in their pro careers. Holland also has three defeats via decision.

The O/U of 1.5 rounds favors the Over (-210), but oddsmakers feel that this fight won’t go the distance (-130). I agree with the Over, but I can see this fight going the full three rounds (-110) as both men are very durable.

I also really like the prop bet of this fight starting the 3rd round (-145). I think that’s a good option for two evenly matched fighters from Texas.

With that said, I am taking Holland to win this fight via decision (+235). I believe that his reach advantage will dictate the pace of the fight. I think both men will nullify each other on the ground, so this should end up being a three round striking affair that favors the longer reach of Holland.

Trevin Giles vs Kevin Holland –Holland (-210)

Over 1.5 rounds (-210)

Fight goes the distance (-110)

Holland wins via decision (+235)

Fight starts the 3rd round (-145)

Lando Vannata vs Bobby Green

  • Lando Vannata (-145)
  • Bobby Green (+125)
  • Over (-290)/Under (+245) 2.5 rounds

This lightweight contest is a rematch as these two men fought to a draw at UFC 216 on October 2016.

Since their first fight, Bobby Green has gone 2-2. For his career, Green is 6-5-1 inside the octagon. He last fought in June and defeated Clay Guida via unanimous decision. The win snapped a two fight losing streak. Green is 2-5-1 in his last eight UFC contests.

17 of his 25 pro wins have come via stoppage with nine by way of submission. He’s 8-6-1 when going the distance in a fight.

Vannata has gone 2-2-1 since the first Green bout. He last fought in February and won via unanimous decision against Yancy Medeiros. Lando is 2-1 in his last three contests and has a 3-4-2 record inside the octagon.

Nine of his 11 pro wins have come via stoppage with five by way of submission. He’s 2-3-2 when going the distance.

I’m a bit surprised that Vannata is the favorite by this much. He’s not a better fighter than Green. In fact, I would say that Green has the advantage in athleticism and strength.

It’s been four years since Vannata has stopped an opponent, which also bodes well for Green. Conversely, Green hasn’t stopped anyone since 2013, which should give Vannata more confidence.

The Over 2.5 rounds (-290) and the fight going to decision (-245) are heavily favored. Vannata has gone the distance in six of his last seven fights. Green has gone the distance in nine of his last 10 fights including six in a row.

I think it’s safe to say that this fight will also go the distance as we have two opponents who have already fought to a draw before and have shown very little stoppage abilities over the last several years.

With that said, we must now turn our attention towards which fighter will win via decision: Vannata (+130) or Green (+220). I’m not confident in either man to be honest. Green offers more value, but Vannata appears to be the favorite with online betting sites and UFC pundits.

If you are adamant about wagering on this fight, make it a small one as these two veterans are too inconsistent to feel good about. The safe play is Vannata to win via decision, but Green via decision is worth a small flier.

Lando Vannata vs Bobby Green –Vannata (-145)

Over 2.5 rounds (-290)

Fight goes the distance (-245)

Vannata wins via decision (+130)

Vicente Luque vs Randy Brown

  • Vicente Luque (-185)
  • Randy Brown (+160)
  • Over (-175)/Under (+155) 1.5 rounds

In this exciting welterweight matchup, the 11th ranked Vicente Luque takes on the unranked Randy Brown. Luque isn’t letting Brown’s unranked status fool him. The Brazilian is 100% focused on Brown and realizes just how dangerous the 30 year old Jamaican is:

“He’s dangerous. I’ve been getting ready. His main skill is boxing – his boxing is very sharp. He’s a tall guy who uses distance very well, he throws good straight punches and he also has an interesting wrestling game. He’ll sometimes push his opponents against the fence to score points and he can also deliver some dangerous ground-and-pound with his elbows. He may not be ranked, but he is dangerous. It’s a challenge for me – I like challenges.”

Luque is giving up four inches in height and three inches in reach. As stated, Brown does use his reach advantage each time out as he fights from a distance. Luque is an accomplished striker as well. 10 of his 18 pro wins have come via TKO/KO.

Luque last fought in May and defeated Niko Price via 3rd round TKO. It was the second time he beat Price. Vicente is 7-1 in his last eight fights and 11-3 inside the octagon.

Randy Brown last fought in November 2019 and defeated Warlley Alves via 2nd round submission. He enters this weekend’s bout having gone 3-1 in his last four fights including two wins in a row. Brown has a 6-3 record inside the octagon.

10 of his 12 pro wins have come via stoppage with six by way of TKO/KO. He’s 2-1 when going the distance in a fight.

This is the leading candidate for fight of the night as both men are finishers and will look for the stoppage. Additionally, both fighters aren’t afraid to stand and strike in the middle of the octagon.

I’m a fan of Luque. He really got my attention with the 3 round war against Bryan Barberena in February 2019. He then cemented my fandom with a fight of the year candidate against Mike Perry last August.

Luque has shown an improvement in getting inside and closing the distance against bigger fighters. So, I don’t see Brown’s reach advantage being too difficult for Luque.

Both men have fought Belal Muhammad and Niko Price. Brown lost to both fighters while Luque stopped those opponents in all three fights. If Luque can take Mike Perry’s best shots then I believe he will take Brown’s best shots as well.

The Over/Under is set at 1.5 rounds with the Over favored at -175 odds. The fight ending inside the distance is listed at -210. We must first decide whether or not this fight will go the full three rounds or not. One thing is for sure, it’s going over 1.5 rounds.

If Niko Price can knockout Brown then I believe Luque will get a stoppage along the way. However, it will probably be late in the fight as Brown’s distance striking will eat up some clock.

Eventually, I believe Luque will work his way inside and do some damage before finally finding the stoppage via TKO (+259). The best value for this fight is Luque winning inside the distance at +100 odds. Let’s not forget that he also has six submission wins on his resume.

Vicente Luque vs Randy Brown –Luque (-185)

Over 1.5 rounds (-175)

Fight ends inside the distance (-210)

Luque wins inside the distance (+100)

Luque wins via TKO/KO (+259)

Jennifer Maia vs Joanne Calderwood

  • Jennifer Maia (+125)
  • Joanne Calderwood (-145)
  • Over (-390)/Under (+320) 2.5 rounds

This Top 6 women’s flyweight battle was originally scheduled for Jennifer Maia to take on Vivian Araujo. However, Araujo was forced to withdraw due to covid. Joanne Calderwood decided to take this matchup instead of waiting for a title fight against Valentina Shevchenko.

The champ had knee surgery and wouldn’t be able to fight again until the end of the year. Calderwood, who hasn’t fought since last September, didn’t want to wait any longer and took this opportunity instead. She has more to lose than gain, but the #3 ranked women’s flyweight wanted to be active.

Calderwood is 3-1 in her last fought fights and 6-4 inside the octagon. She defeated Andrea Lee last September via split decision. Six of her 14 pro wins have come via stoppage with five by way of TKO/KO. She’s 8-2 when going the distance.

For the 6th ranked Maia, this fight is a bigger chance for the Brazilian to move up in the standings and get one step closer to a title fight. Maia views this fight as an opportunity to showcase what she can do:

“JoJo Calderwood is on a pretty high level. My team and I expected that I’d get to face her sooner or later. I am happy I have a new opportunity to showcase my work.”

Maia last fought in November and lost via unanimous decision to Katlyn Chookagian. Maia is 2-2 inside the octagon. The loss snapped a two fight winning streak.

Eight of her 17 pro wins have come via stoppage. Those victories are evenly split among TKO/KOs and submissions. She’s 9-4-1 when going the distance.

The Over 2.5 rounds (-390) is heavily favored in this bout as well as the fight going to a decision (-365). When looking at their records, it’s easy to see why both of these wagers are favored.

Combined, these two women have gone the distance in 24 of their 42 pro fights. Maia has gone to eight straight decision outcomes and Calderwood has gone the distance in four of her last five fights.

I don’t see either of these two women stopping the other. Calderwood is the better overall striker and has more power. Maia is more known for being a points fighter and volume striker. They both are pretty even on the mat as well.

For this bout, it comes down to which woman can convince the judges in each round. With that said, I have to give Calderwood the edge in this one. She’s a better overall fighter and is a title contender for a reason. I believe she will outwork Maia on the mat or upright and win via unanimous decision.

Jennifer Maia vs Joanne Calderwood –Calderwood (-145)

Over 2.5 rounds (-390)

Fight goes the distance (-365)

Calderwood wins via decision (-110)

Derek Brunson vs Edmen Shahbazyan

  • Derek Brunson (+270)
  • Edmen Shahbazyan (-330)
  • Over (-105)/Under (-115) 1.5 rounds

The main event of the night features the second largest betting disparity as the 8th ranked middleweight Derek Brunson is a huge underdog at +270, while the 9th ranked middleweight Edmen Shahbazyan is listed as a -330 betting favorite.

Derek Brunson is 14 years older than his opponent and has almost three times as many pro fights. In fact, Brunson has more UFC fights (16) than Shahbazyan (11) has professional fights.

Brunson hasn’t been in the octagon for almost a year. His last bout came at UFC 241 where he derailed Ian Heinisch via unanimous decision. Brunson also believes that he will derail the Shahbazyan hype train this weekend and put himself back into the title hunt:

“He’s good at what he does. He’s a consistent guy. He likes to come forward, striking based. He’s solid. He’s young, energetic and he hasn’t lost so he’s confident. I go out here and beat him up, that takes everything away. He’s got to reset and that puts me back in the picture and people will start talking about me and my title hunt also.”

14 of Brunson’s 20 pro wins have come via stoppage with 11 by way of TKO/KO. He’s 6-2 when going the distance and 11-5 inside the octagon.

Edmen Shahbazyan is undefeated in his professional career and 4-0 inside the octagon. He last fought in November 2019 and won via 1st round TKO over Brad Tavares. In fact, 10 of his 11 pro wins have all come in the 1st round with nine by way of TKO/KO.

The 22 year old Shahbazyan not only welcomes a tough fight against a Top 10 ranked opponent, but he believes it will help him accomplish his goal of one day becoming the youngest champion in UFC history:

“I know being the youngest champion is at 23 years and 8 months by Jon Jones. I turn 23 in November and then I have eight months after that. That leaves me until July of next year. That’s a good amount of time for me to reach my goal of being champion. That’s one year from now, and I believe the way I’m going with a couple more wins, it will put me in that position to make that goal into reality.”

Shahbazyan is certainly on track for reaching this goal. If he can win on Saturday against Brunson, Edmen will move on to a Top 5 fight at the end of this year or early 2021. If he wins that fight also, Shahbazyan would theoretically be the top contender for a middleweight title shot.

Keep in mind, Whittaker, Costa, Cannonier and Hermansson are all well ahead of Shahbazyan right now. Yet, a convincing win by Shahbazyan this weekend could put him in line with these top contenders. Although he dreams big, Shahbazyan declared that he isn’t overlooking Brunson this weekend.

The Over/Under for this fight is set at 1.5 rounds with the Under slightly favored (-115). The fight is also favored to finish inside the distance at -285.

If Shahbazyan is truly going to be a contender then he has to beat a middle of the pack fighter like Brunson and do so convincingly. Fortunately, I do see that happening. Shahbazyan is the better striker and is under control when pressuring and being aggressive. Brunson gets careless often.

Just look at Brunson’s last four losses. Three of them came in the 1st round against Souza, Adesanya and Whittaker. All three are great strikers. Shahbazyan has the ability to become a great striker as well, which will give Brunson problems this weekend.

I see Shahbazyan coming out and pushing the pace while pressuring Brunson. Eventually he will catch Brunson when the veteran makes a mistake and finish him off. Five of Brunson’s seven losses have come via TKO/KO. I see his 6th coming this weekend as Shahbazyan will win via TKO/KO.

The only question is whether Edmen will do it Over or Under 1.5 rounds. Because this is his toughest test to date, I have some hesitation with going Under 1.5 rounds. Nevertheless, I will still take the Under as I have very little confidence in Brunson at this stage of his career.

Derek Brunson vs Edmen Shahbazyan –Shahbazyan (-330)

Under 1.5 rounds (-115)

Fight ends inside the distance (-285)

Edmen Shahbazyan wins inside the distance (-160)

Edmen Shahbazyan wins via TKO/KO (-120)

Favorite Value Bets for the UFC on ESPN+31 Main Card

Check out my favorite value plays for the UFC on ESPN 31+ main card:

Holland vs Giles Starts the 3rd Round (-145)

These two Texans are evenly matched and both of them have never been stopped by TKO/KO before. Each fighter has two submission losses, but Holland also has three decision defeats as well.

The fight is favored to go over 1.5 rounds (-210), which is halfway through the 2nd round. So, we’re looking at them going at least 2.5 more minutes in order to touch the third round.

With two fighters competitively similar, it’s hard to feel confident in which one will win. With that in mind, I feel confident that these two men will take this fight at least into the 3rd round, if not all the way to a decision.

Luque Wins Inside the Distance (+100)

This fight is heavily favored to finish inside the distance (-210) and has an O/U of 1.5 rounds. Yet oddsmakers don’t think that the contest will start the 3rd round (-135).

These two men are finishers and will look to put away the other fighter within the allotted time. With that in mind, I believe Luque is the better overall striker despite being the smaller fighter in this matchup. He also has the power advantage, which should help him get the victory inside the distance.

Calderwood Wins via Decision (-110)

Sites with MMA betting odds heavily favor the Over 2.5 rounds (-390) and for this fight to go to a decision (-365). These two ranked female fighters have gone the distance in 24 of their combined 42 professional contests.

Furthermore, Calderwood has gone the distance in four of her last five bouts, while Maia has gone the distance in eight straight fights.

I have no doubt that this fight will go the distance. With that said, I believe Calderwood is the better overall fighter between the two and she will take the decision victory.

Edmen Shahbazyan Wins via TKO/KO (-120)

Edmen Shahbazyan is a fast rising prospect looking to dispatch of his veteran opponent in Derek Brunson. Shahbazyan is the second biggest betting favorite (-330) of the event while Brunson is the second largest underdog (+270).

Furthermore, this fight has an O/U of 1.5 rounds and the Under is favored at -115. UFC betting sites also favor this fight to finish inside the distance (-285).

10 of Shahbazyan’s 11 pro wins have come inside the distance with nine by way of TKO/KO. All 10 wins have also come in the 1st round. Five of Brunson’s seven losses have come via TKO/KO with three of his last four defeats coming in the 1st round.

Even if Brunson can survive the first round, he’s not making it the full distance. Shahbazyan winning inside the distance is listed at -160. For a better return, take the prop bet of Edmen Shahbazyan getting the win via TKO/KO at -120 odds.

Rick Rockwell

As a longtime freelance writer, avid sports fan, former athlete, and experienced sports bettor, Rick Rockwell has risen up the ranks at GamblingSites.org to become the self-professed "King of the Blog" in his first year with the site. ...

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