Coming into his fight with Elias Theodorou on Saturday night in the co-main event of UFC Fight Night 151, Derek Brunson needed a win. Badly.
After losing two in a row and four of his last six, the new Hard Knocks 365 representative was in peril of being tossed aside. Brunson had to dig deep, do a little soul searching and change some things up in his life or else he was in jeopardy of not fighting in the Octagon again. MMA is a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately sport, and losing two in a row via knockout is not a spot any fighter wants to be in. So Brunson did what he needed to and reversed course to back in the winner’s circle.
“I switched up my training camp and moved to Hard Knocks 365,” he said after he toppled Theodorou via unanimous decision. “I think that made a big difference in this fight. They prepared me so well down there and told me exactly what he was going to do, so I felt confident coming in here.”
The duel with Theodorou wasn’t exactly the greatest fight in the history of the UFC, but Brunson did more than enough to earn the win. The North Carolinian tried goading his foe into a fire fight, but Theodorou played it safe throughout their 15 minutes, leaving plenty to be desired in terms of action. But, Brunson said, it wasn’t his fault; he tried bringing the proverbial heat.
“He was harder to hit than I thought he would be,” he said. “But I was faster than him, so I just had to wait for him to try and hit me and then counter. I didn’t really care how it looked, but he was mostly backing up and I was taking the center and winning those exchanges every time. I just had to make reads out there and be the better fighter and I think I did that.”
Brunson has quite a ways to go before he’s back in the conversation as a legitimate middleweight contender. Losing to Ronaldo Souza and Israel Adesanya last year, coupled with another recent two-fight skid against Anderson Silva and Robert Whittaker two years ago will do that to a man, regardless of the fact that all four are current or former world champions. Brunson, 35, still has his sight set on capturing the UFC’s middleweight crown at some point, but he’s not sure exactly what his next step will be.
“I’m going to take some time off, this was tough,” he said. “It’s not always about me, but about the people around me, my friends and my family. If I lose, it reflects on them also, so I had that chip on my shoulder to come out here and get the job done. We’ll take some time and figure out what’s next.”