Edmen “The Golden Boy” Shahbazyan will enter the cage on Saturday winless since 2019 and on a three-fight losing streak. Shahbazyan was a perfect 11-0 with nine knockouts and one submission wins before his recent losing streak, where he has been knocked out twice and gone to decision once.
Dalcha “Champion” Lungiambula, 35, is a decade older than Shahbazyan but only has two more professional fights. His professional record stands at 11-5 with six finish wins and four finish losses. He, too, is on a three-fight losing streak, where he has been finished in back-to-back fights.
Shahbazyan opened as a larger favorite but has lost around .30 on the dollar since the line first dropped.
- Shahbazyan: -300
- Lungiambula: +240
Shahbazyan took the MMA world by storm as a young fighter. He was famous for training closely with Ronda Rousey since he was a kid and ended nine of his first ten professional fights in the first round. Shahbazyan, still only 25, was fast-tracked to the belt but ran into three roadblocks that exposed flaws in his game and sent him back down the rankings. The flaws in Shahbazyan’s game are clear and simple: cardio and wrestling. Early in his career, Shahbazyan ran through competition that simply was not as skilled or talented as he was. He was able to showcase his impressive and dangerous striking game without much pushback. But, once he neared the top five in the rankings, Shahbazyan quickly found that others were as skilled as him and could absorb his power without withering in the first round. In all three of his losses, Shahbazyan looks impressive early, at times nearly finishing the fight. However, his experienced opponents were able to withstand “Golden Boy’s” power shots, recover, and rally for wins. Shahbazyan, meanwhile, demonstrated that he does not have reliable cardio outside of five minutes; and, while he is naturally strong and athletic enough to temporarily defend takedowns, eventually, he will hit the mat. Once down, Shahbazyan does not have much of a ground game or ability to get the fight back standing. In the first round, though, Shahbazyan is dangerous. He uses his length well, fighting behind a jab often, and can follow up prodding shots with heavy-handed combinations. He has progressed from a wild puncher who overwhelmed opponents into a more polished and technical striker that still has the same power, speed, and finishing ability. In a fight against a willing dance partner, Shahbazyan often wins and wins emphatically. But, against a gritty opponent with a chin who closes distance and forces the fight into a dirty clinch brawl, Shahbazyan has not proven to have the cardio or skill set to win.
Lungiambula is built like a brick sh*thouse and he hits like a truck. Outside of his power, though, Lungiambula has not shown a developed or well-rounded game. Typically, Lungiambula will either fight with all offense or all defense. When he decides it’s time for all-offense, Lungiambula will blitz forward and swing haymakers that can shut the lights out of an opponent in an instant. The risk in this approach is that his punches are often looping and telegraphed so a more technical fighter can land first and a fighter with footwork can avoid the big man’s power shots. If the blitz style doesn’t result in a quick knockout, Lungiambula often falls into his opponent against the cage and lays on him as he catches his breath. “Champion” rarely looks to advance position or deal much damage when clinched. Instead, he looks for a breather and then to explode with a power shot once the clinch breaks up. When Lungiambula is in defense mode, which has become increasingly common as he has aged, he looks to implement the same clinch and swing game plan but does so from his back foot. He will often let his opponent back him into the cage, clinch for a breather, and then swing big on the break. He does have undeniable power and opponents have to fight intelligently to avoid those shots, but, if they can, Lungiambula does not have a plan B.
Both fighters are on three-fight losing streaks, but those streaks are not created equally. Shahbazyan has lost against two high-level wrestlers that were able to expose his poor ground game and against a highly technical fighter with a solid chin. In hindsight, all three were difficult matchups for “Golden Boy.” Meanwhile, Lungiambula faced willing brawlers and an average wrestler who has struggled against size in the past. All three should have been positive matchups.
Looking specifically at this bout, Shahbazyan should get the fight he wants against a slower, less technical, and defensively porous striker who also has poor cardio. In short, Shahbazyan is set up for what should be another quick finish. Look for Shahbazyan to play with his food a bit early, wary of Lungiambula’s power, but eventually clip him and find the finish.
Pick: Shahbazyan by knockout