Derek Brunson has made it clear: he is no longer a gatekeeper but rather a legit contender in the middleweight division.
In the main event of UFC Vegas 22, Brunson had to face yet another up-and-comer in Kevin Holland who was looking to make a name off him. In his last four fights, Brunson has fought Holland, Edmen Shahbazyan, Ian Heinisch, and Elias Theodorou. The common denominator in all his recent opponents is they were all on a winning streak, ranked below him, and trying to break into the top-five, which Brunson denied them of.
“I was asking for guys like Costa, I was cool with a Robert Whittaker rematch,” Brunson said after his win. “I want one of these top guys that’s really going to elevate me. So this was a fight where I had to hold serve. I want a guy that will really elevate me that I can get really excited for and really feel like this is the fight for me.”
Brunson deserves the chance to make another run towards a title shot. In his UFC career, he has only lost to current or former champions in Israel Adesanya, Robert Whittaker, Anderson Silva, Yoel Romero, and Jacare Souza. However, many believe he beat Silva and he had his moments against Whittker and Romero.
A big difference between the Brunson of old where he would fight wild in his fight. That is evident by the Adesanya and Whittaker losses. He has also changed camps, which has been a difference-maker. Since moving to Sanford MMA and working under Henri Hooft, he is now 4-0. He’s much calmer in the Octagon and isn’t letting anyone get under his skin.
Not only is Brunson beating these four fighters ranked below him, but he is dominating them. That only proves he deserves a step up in competition and a chance to make a run towards a title shot. While he awaits a top-five opponent, it is also time to give Brunson more respect.
Throughout his career, Derek Brunson has been known as a top-10 middleweight who couldn’t win the big one. To be fair, that is true, but he still is one of the best middleweights ever.
Brunson is tied for the third-most wins in UFC middleweight history (13), behind only Michael Bisping and Silva. However, his 13 wins since 2012 is the most in that stretch. His four-fight winning streak is also tied with Marvin Vettori for the second-longest active winning streak at middleweight, only behind the champ.
Derek Brunson has the accolades, he has the winning streak, and he is an exciting fighter who has highlight-reel finishes over Lyoto Machida, Dan Kelly, and Roan Carneiro that can be shown in promos. His TKO wins over Uriah Hall, Edmen Shahbazyan, and Sam Alvey also prove how dangerous he is.
Brunson is also a big name that can headline cards. So it is time the UFC and fans start giving Brunson more respect. He is far more than a gatekeeper at 185-pounds. At 37-years-old, he likely only has a few years left. It’s time we appreciate Brunson and his skillset before it’s too late.