February 24, 2016

UFC Fight Night 83: Derek Brunson Reminded Us He's In The Hunt

By Raphael Garcia

Mixed martial arts is a sport in which the newest faces and names seem to quickly take the fans and media by storm. In doing so, some fighters with “tenure” are forgotten about. Derek Brunson is one such individual, but his win on Sunday night immediately reminded everyone that he’s not a fighter to be overlooked.

At UFC Fight Night 83, Brunson needed less than three minutes to finish Roan Carneiro in their middleweight affair. He smashed the Brazilian against the cage and snapped his six-fight win streak with a violent finish. Brunson has finished his last three opponents in less than three minutes en route to four straight wins. Although his 6-1 UFC resume doesn’t leap off the page, it has helped him reach the 13th spot in the middleweight rankings.

Brunson is now in an interesting place within the division. Even though he was defeated by Yoel Romero two years ago at UFC Fight Night 35, the division is wide open right now. With two more wins he can place himself on the short list of potential title challengers, mostly due to the lack of contenders for Luke Rockhold beyond Chris Weidman.

In the coming months, Rockhold and Weidman are expected to face each other in a rematch of their UFC 194 bout. Even though that fight wasn’t close, Weidman is being tapped as the next challenger due to Romero’s failed drug test, which leaves the division without anyone capable of jumping into the fray. It’s that opening that could allow Brunson to leapfrog a lot of the names ahead of him in the rankings.

However, the easiest path to a title shot would be for Brunson to defeat one or two fighters ranked ahead of him. The winner of the Robert Whittaker vs. Rafael Natal fight at UFC 197 is a great place to start. Both of these men are on runs of their own, and defeating either of them would be the biggest win of Brunson’s career to this point. And with that win in tow, Brunson should have the personality to talk himself into contendership, as that practice is becoming rage within UFC matchmaking. He pushed viewers to his Instagram page during his post-fight interview to find out who he wants to fight next, though he hasn’t made any declarations as of yet. However, this strategy to garner more views and engagement through social media should pay off for him somewhere down the line..

When Weidman emerged as the middleweight champion after supplanting Anderson Silva, there was an excitement within the division. But that excitement for new challenges and matchups was stifled by Weidman’s battle with injuries. Rockhold winning the title created similar excitement; unfortunately, he is held back by an immediate rematch that stagnates the entire division. But Derek Brunson is waiting in the wings. At UFC Fight Night 83 he reminded everyone watching that he’s a name worth remembering within the 185-pound weight class. And he is just one big win away from putting himself at the forefront of fans’ minds.

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