It turns out Derek Brunson was an ideal dance partner for Robert Whittaker.
“The Ultimate Fighter: The Smashes” winner cut down Brunson with a first-round head kick and follow-up punches, as he continued his climb on the Ultimate Fighting Championship middleweight ladder in the UFC Fight Night 101 “Whittaker vs. Brunson” headliner on Saturday at Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne, Australia (online betting). Whittaker (17-4, 8-2 UFC) drew the curtain 4:07 into Round 1.
Brunson (16-4, 7-2 UFC) charged out of the gate like a madman, leading with his chin while winging power punches. He was effective early, but his lack of control proved costly. Whittaker waited for his opening and did not miss it, as he uncorked a left hook that set the Strikeforce veteran on rubbery legs. Rapid-fire uppercuts followed before Whittaker reset himself and fired a kick upstairs that marked the beginning of the end. He drove Brunson to the canvas and showed no mercy, prompting referee Herb Dean to act with a continues barrage of punches.
Whittaker, 25, has rattled off six straight wins.
Holbrook Upsets Hometown Favorite Matthews
Andrew Holbrook sprang the upset in the three-round lightweight co-main event, as he captured a three-round split decision from “The Ultimate Fighter Nations” graduate Jake Matthews. All three cageside judges scored it 29-28: Anthony Dimitriou and Evan Field for Holbrook, Charlie Keech for Matthews.
Neither man showed any desire to cede ground to the other. Matthews leaned on stinging right hands, leg kicks and takedowns but struggled to keep momentum; and an apparent foot injury suffered in the first round did little to aid his cause. Holbrook (12-1, 2-1 UFC) was relentless on the mat, where he transitioned from one submission attempt to another. He advanced to Matthews’ back in the first round, answered two takedowns with aggression off his back in the second and threatened the Australian prospect throughout the third.
Matthews (10-3, 4-3 UFC) has lost consecutive fights for the first time as a professional.
Dominant Akhmedov Vanquishes Noke
Takedowns and skin-splitting ground-and-pound carried American Top Team’s Omari Akhmedov to a unanimous decision over Kyle Noke in a three-round main card clash at 170 pounds. All three cageside judges scored it for Akhmedov (16-4, 4-3 UFC): 29-28, 29-28 and 30-27.
Noke (22-10-1, 6-6 UFC) was forced to play defense from start to finish. No matter where the fight went, Akhmedov was the aggressor. He buzzed the tower on more than one occasion while standing but did the majority of his damage on the ground from top position. Akhmedov secured takedowns in all three rounds, opened multiple cuts on the Australian and maintained control throughout.
The victory snapped a two-fight losing streak for Akhmedov, who rebounded from ill-fated encounters with Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos and Sergio Moraes.
Debuting Volkanovski Smashes Kasuya
Former Pacific Xtreme Combat champion Alex Volkanovski disposed of Yusuke Kasuya with second-round punches in a lightweight showcase. Kasuya (9-3-2, 0-2 UFC) yielded to blows 2:06 into Round 2, as he suffered his second straight defeat.
Volkanovski (14-1, 1-0 UFC) weathered some adversity in the first round and dragged the Shooto veteran into the abyss. The 28-year-old executed a takedown, set up shop in top position and cut loose with measured but maniacal ground-and-pound. Elbows, punches and forearm strikes all fell with devastating ferocity. Kasuya latched onto a leg in a final desperate bid for a submission but left his head exposed in the process. Volkanovski pounded away until referee Greg Kleynjans had seen enough.
Volkanovski has won 11 fights in a row.
Pedro Choke Submits Rountree
Undefeated prospect Tyson Pedro submitted “The Ultimate Fighter 23” finalist Khalil Rountree with a first-round rear-naked choke in a featured pairing at 205 pounds. Pedro (5-0, 1-0 UFC) brought it to close 4:07 into Round 1.
Rountree (4-2, 0-2 UFC) sat down the Australian with a crushing left hand during the first minute but succumbed to a takedown soon after and never again returned to an upright position. Pedro climbed to mount before settling on the Syndicate MMA rep’s back and flattening him out, securing the fight-ending choke along the way. Rountree had no choice but to tap.
Pedro has finished all five of his opponents inside one round, four of them with chokes.
Split Verdict Sends Taylor Past Ham
Former King of the Cage champion Danielle Taylor won for the third time in four appearances, as she took a split decision from Seo Hee Ham in a three-round women’s strawweight showcase. Judges Anthony Dimitriou and Evan Field scored it 30-27 for Taylor, while Christopher Shen cast a dissenting 29-28 nod in Ham’s favor.
Taylor (8-2, 1-1 UFC) kept her cool under enormous pressure, as the South Korean marched forward behind stabbing straight left hands. Ham never adjusted her approach once the 5-foot powerhouse started to find her rhythm. Taylor caught her coming forward with one thudding right hand after another and also benefitted from a third-round eye poke that went unseen by referee John Sharp. The stricken Ham (16-8, 1-3 UFC) signaled for a timeout following the accidental foul but was instead by a multi-pinch volley from her American counterpart.