MMA Ratings Podcast

August 4, 2020

UFC Vegas 5: Derek Brunson Demands Respect At 185 Pounds

By Raphael Garcia

Saturday night’s UFC Vegas 5 main event was expected to be a coming out party for Edmen Shahbazyan, but what occurred was Derek Brunson reminding the fight world that he is not to be overlooked. He stopped the 22-year-old prospect in dominant fashion., picking up his third straight victory. What is next for him at middleweight is up in the air, but his performance this past weekend proves that he should not be thought of as anyone’s steppingstone.

Brunson went into the event as the underdog to Shahbazyan, a fighter that had burst his way onto the Octagon scene with 5 straight wins. At 3-0 in 2019 with three first-round finishes, he was running through his opponents in such a manner that many believed he could be an title contender at middleweight in short order. And although that still remains a possibility for Shahbazyan, it was not going to come at the expense of Brunson.
It's easy to forget how solid Brunson’s resume is at this point in his career. He joined the UFC back in 2012 as a relatively unknown name at the time. And since stepping into the Octagon, Brunson has become a fighter that is used to test someone’s standing in the division. Of the five men to defeat him in the UFC, three of them are former UFC champions, the fourth is a former Strikeforce champion, and the fifth, Yoel Romero, has challenged for the belt on multiple occasions. No one else has found a way to get past the Wilmington, North Carolina native, and it is time everyone put some respect on his name.

Brunson said as much during the post-fight press conference:

“I’m not given enough respect in this division. Everybody had me getting smoked until I go out there and get a victory. Man, everybody is got to earn their stripes. He earned the fight, and I went out there and earned the victory.”
But now the question is, what's next for Brunson? He cannot jump into the queue for a potential title shot against Israel Adesanya because the champion served him a highlight reel knockout back in 2018 at UFC 230. He is currently ranked in the middleweight Top 10, but it's unclear whether this win will push him very far up the divisional ladder. It is going to be a tough climb up the 185-pound mountain, the landscape of which seems filled with popular fighters that the fans seem more ready to get behind.

But regardless of that, Derek Brunson deserves more respect from fans and media at this point in his career. His 21-7 record is proof enough that he belongs in the Top 10, and as the middleweight division undergoes a resurgence of sorts with a champion in Israel Adesanya who looks to empty the division of contenders beneath him, Brunson has a long way to go before he is granted that rematch. But even if he isn't considered a top contender,  at this point in his run he shouldn't be overlooked, because what he did to Edmen Shahbazyan this past weekend demonstrates the danger of doing so.

UFC Fight Night
Derek Brunson vs. Edmen Shahbazyan: Derek Brunson def. Edmen Shahbazyan via TKO (punches) at 0:26 of Round 3.

UFC Fight Night: Brunson vs. Shahbazyan (formerly UFC Fight Night: Holm vs. Aldana) took place August 1, 2020 at UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Click HERE for more UFC Fight Night Post-Fight Analysis

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