Derek Brunson had reason to be confident heading into his matchup with Robert Whittaker at UFC Fight Night 101.
After all, the Jackson-Wink MMA product had won his last five fights, including four by knockout or technical knockout inside of a round. However, Brunson looked downright reckless this past November, leading with his chin while winging power punches at his Australian opponent. That proved to be his downfall, as Whittaker wobbled him with a left hook, landed a head kick and then drove Brunson to the canvas to finish with a barrage of punches 4:07 into the first round.
Now, Brunson faces Anderson Silva at UFC 208, an adversary regarded as one of the most dangerous strikers of all time. That said, Brunson isn’t necessarily conceding that he will adopt a more conservative approach against “The Spider” on Saturday night.
“I wouldn’t call it reckless. I would say greedy,” Brunson said of his last Octagon appearance. “I would say pretty much I just pretty much fell in love with trying to knock people out really quickly instead of letting the fight develop. Anderson is a great counterstriker, but I’m pretty fast and, you look at my previous fights where I wouldn’t say I was as reckless but, I went in to finish and I definitely knocked guys out.
“Uriah Hall is on the level of Anderson Silva’s striking. I’m not saying better or less than but another striker. And I was able to knock him out moving forward.”
Regardless of how Brunson chooses to approach the bout, he believes that a win over one of the sport’s pound-for-pound greats will inject him right back into the middleweight title picture following his hiccup against Whittaker.
“ Yes, I think so. Middleweight is the best division in the UFC, MMA in my opinion,” he said. “One through fifteen so many historical guys, so many stacked and game guys. I mean, you go to a guy -- just everybody’s competing at the top level, you know? Everybody’s ready to fight. It’s a coin flip in a lot of the fights with MMA.”
While Silva once ruled the middleweight division, he has fallen on hard times of late. The 41-year-old Brazilian hasn’t tasted an official victory since October 2012, with his UFC 183 triumph over Nick Diaz overturned to a no contest after Silva failed a drug test. Since then, he has lost back-to-back unanimous decision against Michael Bisping and Daniel Cormier.
Still, Brunson sees Silva as someone who has been competitive in most of his fights and is still very dangerous -- even if he is no longer at his peak.
“I’m looking at, I’m fighting a guy who is not as fast as he used to be, but this guy has all of the skills in the world. And considered the best fighter of all time,” Brunson said. “So, whereas everybody else is looking at it like losses, I mean, how did he lose? Those fights were all close, and then it was unfortunate events in those fights. So, I think I’m getting a very game and ready fighter.”