Vengeance may not be the only driving force behind Derek Brunson at the moment, but one has to imagine it occupies a prominent place in the heart of the Ultimate Fighting Championship middleweight contender.
Brunson will tackle former Strikeforce champion and two-time Abu Dhabi Combat Club Submission Wrestling World Championships gold medalist Ronaldo Souza in the UFC on Fox 27 headliner this Saturday at the Spectrum Center in Charlotte, North Carolina. It serves as a rematch of their August 2012 encounter, which Souza ended with a volley of punches just 41 seconds into the first round. Brunson carries a two-fight winning streak into their second meeting, having blasted through Dan Kelly and Lyoto Machida in consecutive appearances. The 34-year-old has quietly pieced together a 9-3 record since joining the UFC roster a little more than five years ago -- a run of sustained success that has thrust him into the promotion’s top 10 rankings at 185 pounds.
As Brunson eyes his pivotal showdown with Souza, here are five things you might not know about him:
1. Wrestling gave him a base from which to operate.
Brunson won three region championships and was a three-time NCAA All-American at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke -- a Division II institution in Pembroke, North Carolina. He compiled 121 career victories for the Braves, good for sixth on the school’s all-time list.
2. He fights like he has an appointment to keep.
An explosive and powerful athlete, Brunson has five sub-minute finishes on his resume. He delivered a 14-second technical knockout against Todd Chattelle, a 36-second TKO on Ed Herman, a 41-second knockout against Edward Jackson, a 48-second submission on Brian Houston and a 52-second submission against John Bryant.
3. Opponents often hit the deck against him.
Brunson has recorded five knockdowns in Ultimate Fighting Championship competition, according to FightMetric. That ties him with Vitor Belfort for sixth among active UFC middleweights, behind Anderson Silva (13), Thiago Santos (seven), Michael Bisping (six), Tim Boetsch (six) and Yoel Romero (six).
4. He has no glaring defeats on his resume.
The five men to whom Brunson has lost -- Silva, Souza, Romero, reigning UFC middleweight champion Robert Whittaker and “The Ultimate Fighter 3” winner Kendall Grove -- own a cumulative record of 112-36. Only Souza, Romero and Whittaker have finished him.
5. He excels close to home.
Brunson was born and raised in Wilmington, North Carolina, and owns a perfect 4-0 record in his home state. Those four fights lasted a combined 5:42. However, Brunson has not fought in front of his fellow Tar Heels since Dec. 4, 2010.