Matches to Make After UFC Fight Night 191

An unexpected late-career surge has allowed Derek Brunson to shed his gatekeeper label in the Ultimate Fighting Championship middleweight division.

The Sanford MMA export pushed his winning streak to five fights, as he disposed of Darren Till with a rear-naked choke in the third round of their UFC Fight Night 191 main event on Saturday at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas. Brunson brought it to a decisive close 2:13 into Round 3, executing his first submission in nearly eight years. Afterward, he called for a rematch with the last man to defeat him: reigning middleweight champion Israel Adesanya.

Till was effectively neutralized by three takedowns—one in each round—and the resulting aftershocks. Brunson paired those efforts with a crushing top game and damaging ground-and-pound, as he outstruck the Team Kaobon standout by a 101-28 margin and piled up more than seven minutes of control time. Till had the Wilmington, North Carolina, native on skates with a series of left hands early in the third round, only to have further progress cut off by his defensive deficiencies. Brunson regrouped to ground the Brit once more, transitioned to his back and cinched the choke.

In the aftermath of UFC Fight Night “Brunson vs. Till,” here are five matches that ought to be made:

Derek Brunson vs. Jack Hermansson: Brunson drifted into afterthought territory following his November 2018 defeat to the aforementioned Adesanya, but consecutive wins over Elias Theodorou, Ian Heinisch, Edmen Shahbazyan, Kevin Holland and now Till have brought him back into the conversation at 185 pounds. The 37-year-old owes much to his move to Sanford MMA, where Henri Hooft and others have recalibrated his approach and made him a far more difficult riddle to solve. Even so, Brunson’s previous loss to “The Last Stylebender” complicates his case for a shot at the middleweight title. With Robert Whittaker, Paulo Costa and Jared Cannonier all seemingly in line in front of him, it stands to reason that he will need to clear several more hurdles before he gets to Adesanya. Hermansson last fought at UFC Fight Night 188, where he took a unanimous decision from Shahbazyan on May 22.

Tom Aspinall vs. Shamil Abdurakhimov-Chris Daukaus winner: Nothing UFC matchmakers have thrown at Aspinall thus far has forced him to deviate from his path. Team Kaobon’s blue-chip prospect continued his steady rise through the heavyweight ranks in the co-headliner, where he blew away Sergey Spivak with a first-round elbow strike and follow-up punches. Aspinall sealed the Moldovan’s fate 2:30 into Round 1, as he improved to 11-2 as a pro and a perfect 4-0 inside the Octagon. He has secured all 11 of his victories by knockout, technical knockout or submission, 10 of them inside one round. Abdurakhimov will confront Daukaus at UFC 266 on Sept. 25.

Alex Morono vs. Mickey Gall: True action heroes have become something of a dying breed in modern mixed martial arts, but Morono consistently delivers in the entertainment value department. The Fortis MMA rep moved to 9-4 in the UFC with his unanimous decision over David Zawada in a three-round welterweight showcase that saw the two men combine to land 176 significant strikes. Morono may never reach the upper tier of the 170-pound weight class, but he has certainly shown the ability to hang with those who either already congregate in the Top 10-15 range or have aspirations to do so. Gall last fought at UFC on ESPN 27, where he submitted Jordan Williams with a rear-naked choke a little less than three minutes into their July 24 affair.

Khalil Rountree vs. Dustin Jacoby: Rountree remains a puzzling case. A toolsy and physically imposing presence in the cage, his on-paper results have not always lined up with his eye-popping abilities. However, “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 23 finalist put forth one of his most memorable performances to date when he blitzed Modestas Bukauskas out of the gate, settled into a manageable rhythm and ultimately stopped the former Cage Warriors Fighting Championship titleholder with a devastating side kick to the leg. The impact exploded the Lithuanian’s knee inward and led to his being carried out of the Octagon on a stretcher. The win was Rountree’s first since April 2019 and allowed “The War Horse” to right his ship following back-to-back losses to Ion Cutelaba and Marcin Prachnio. Jacoby last competed on Aug. 28, when he cut down Darren Stewart with punches in the first round of their UFC on ESPN 30 pairing.

Paddy Pimblett vs. Mason Jones-Alan Patrick winner: Pimblett—he of the He-Man haircut—made his hotly anticipated promotional debut, withstood a handful of concussive punches from Luigi Vendramini and eventually put away the upset-minded Brazilian with punches 4:25 into the first round of their lightweight attraction. The performance did little to answer questions surrounding the charismatic Englishman’s long-term ceiling in the sport. Nevertheless, the 26-year-old Pimblett has now strung together three straight victories and appears to have at least a few major opportunities in his not-too-distant future, provided he can continue to dodge bullets inside the cage. Jones and Patrick have been booked opposite one another at UFC Fight Night 196 on Oct. 23.


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