Title contention seemed to be in Derek Brunson's future.
On a five-fight winning streak capped off by four consecutive first round knockouts, tying Anderson Silva for the most consecutive knockouts ever recorded by a middleweight, Brunson entered his headlining bout against Robert Whittaker in position to earn a title eliminator matchup against an elite opponent.
Brunson was knocked out in just over four minutes in front of the vibrant Australian crowd. Fighters who lean too heavily on their punching power can eventually become overaggressive. Overaggressive fighters have historically opened themselves up to knockout losses. Such was the case for Fabrico Werdum in his title-losing performance against Stipe Miocic back in May, and so too was the case for Derek Brunson.
Brunson, for his part, assessed his performance honestly. Speaking to MMAJunkie, he said,
“I just wasn’t really smart tonight,” Brunson said. “But hat’s off to Whittaker. I’ll just take it on the chin.”
“I had him against the cage, and I felt him breathing really hard,” he said. “I could have really slowed him down and gotten the takedown. But I didn’t make smart decisions. Instead of going to my wrestling, which I knew I had the upper hand, I was more intent on trying to knock him out.”
“It really sucks. I put together a streak, and worked really hard. But I came out here and fought with no game plan, like a chump tonight. I’ll take it on the chin. I’m better than I showed."
“This sport is growing. It’s about patience, rather than getting caught up in five in a row, want a title shot, main event. The goal is to put on a great fight and be smart.”
Though a huge setback, the American middleweight is an exceptional athletic talent with a powerful wrestling game and should continue to find prolonged success at the UFC level. Just six and a half years into his career, Brunson has yet to reach his full potential, and his future is most assuredly bright.