Anthony “Fluffy” Hernandez, 29, is on a tidy little three-fight winning streak with two submissions and one decision win. Overall, “Fluffy” is 4-2 in the UFC with three wins by submission and both losses coming via finish.
Edmen “Golden Boy” Shahbazyan lost a little of his shine with a three-fight losing streak during 2020-2021. He’s since rebounded with a second-round knockout in his most recent bout. Overall, “Golden Boy” is 5-3 in the UFC with four wins via finish and two losses in the same fashion.
Anthony Hernandez vs. Edmen Shahbazyan is a main card bout on this Saturday’s UFC Fight Night 244 fight card and will air exclusively on ESPN+.
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MyBookie has solid odds for Edmen Shahbazyan as an underdog, listing him at +180 while most other bookmakers have a tighter line. Read on to find out why Shahbazyan is our best bet for this fight.
BetUS is the place with the best odds for those who want to bet on Anthony Hernandez to win. The -200 odds compare favorably against other bookmakers.
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Hernandez burst into another level of recognition after submitting the “Black Belt Hunter” and one of the best jiu-jitsu practitioners on the planet in Rodolfo Vieira. That fight opened the eyes of many to show just how skilled Hernandez is on the mat.
However, for all the skills he has, his decision-making still seems to be his biggest obstacle. Hernandez is a solid wrestler who shoots takedowns at a high rate – averaging 6.5 attempts per 15 minutes – and has the cardio to continue his hunt to the ground for all 15 minutes. Once on the mat, though, is where his decision making comes into question.
In his most recent bout, Hernandez landed 8 takedowns against a below-average grappler but failed to find the finish after the first 7 attempts. And, in the fight before that, he landed another 8 but never found the finish. The broadcast team even pointed out that Hernandez continued to try for an armbar over and over rather than realizing other submissions were available.
That sums up Hernandez’s wrestling and grappling well. He can land takedowns consistently but struggles to find the most efficient path to victory once on the mat, even though his fight against Vieira showed how talented he is with his jiu-jitsu.
Well-known by now, Shahbazyan was billed, at a young age, as the next contender. He has elite power, excellent striking, and seemingly an inability to age – he’s still only 25 years old!
Early in his career, Shahbazyan’s dangerous mix of technical kickboxing with huge power resulted in several early finishes. What his early finishes didn’t get the chance to show are Shahbazyan’s two key issues in the cage: cardio and defensive grappling.
He has shown a clear vulnerability to dirty, grapple, and pressure-heavy fighters who have the chin to withstand Shahbazyan’s countershots early in the fight. Then, if the fight enters round 2, Shahbazyan’s striking and cardio decrease, making him more susceptible to the pressure of most wrestlers.
In a fight where Shahbazyan can keep range and has the space to kickbox, we are able to see his potential on full display. He is athletic, varied, well-schooled, and hits like an anvil when he connects.
Recently, following his losing streak, Shahbazyan left his old coach and joined one of the more established and well-known MMA gyms – Xtreme Couture. It’s rare to expect a fighter to fix a career-long gap in his game if he’s at the same gym; but, with a new coach and game plan, it’s possible Shahbazyan improves his deficiencies and amplifies his strengths, putting him back on the hype train while he’s still young.
Hernandez vs. Shahbazyan prediction
This fight is a tale of two trajectories. Shahbazyan’s game has been exposed; and, after his three-fight losing streak, his stock has never been lower. Meanwhile, Hernandez is on a three-fight winning streak and his stock has never been higher. Yet, Shahbazyan has fought significantly better competition.
The blueprint to beat Shahbazyan is pressure grappling and cardio; he has minimal takedown defense which gets exorbitantly worse if the fight enters round 2 or 3. Hernandez’s bread and butter is pressure grappling.
However, Shahbazyan is still only 25 years old and is finally in a new gym: Xtreme Couture. So, it is possible that he, as most young fighters do, has made significant improvements.
This is a bet on potential and Hernandez taking a big step up in competition more than anything; but, at +180 odds, you’re getting a great number to do so. Shahbazyan is the far more dangerous striker, has fight-ending power, and Hernandez can be hit. If Shahbazyan has improved his takedown defense or cardio enough over the last 6 months then he has a better shot to win than his odds suggest.
A value bet to be sure, I like “Golden Boy” in this one.
Best Bet: Shahbazyan to win (+180 odds at MyBookie)
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