Derek Brunson has included himself on his list of the top-five middleweights over the past decade, and revealed which four names sit above him.
Brunson, who has fought in the UFC since 2012, was last in action at UFC Vegas 22 earlier this year. In the main event, the 37-year-old faced Kevin Holland, who rode a remarkable five-fight winning streak into the event. With a controlling and comfortable performance, Brunson de-railed the “Trail Blazer” hype train, and in doing so, shot himself into title contention.
With prior victories over Elias Theodorou, Ian Heinisch, and Edmen Shahbazyan, the North Carolina native now boasts a four-fight winning streak, and hasn’t tasted defeat since falling to current UFC Middleweight Champion Israel Adesanya back in 2018.
Despite many previously branding him as a ‘gatekeeper’ in the middleweight division, Brunson has only lost to the best in the UFC. The five blemishes on his 13-5 promotional record came against Adesanya, former champion Robert Whittaker, legends Anderson Silva and Ronaldo “Jacaré” Souza, and 185-pound behemoth Yoel Romero.
During a recent interview with ESPN MMA’s Marc Raimondi, Brunson emphasized his belief that he’s been criminally underrated in the division by including himself in his list of the five best middleweights across the last 10 years.
“Top-five middleweights for the last ten years. I don’t know, I’d maybe have to go…yeah, maybe Anderson (Silva) one, maybe Izzy (Adesanya) two, (Robert) Whittaker three…Romero maybe at four, and then at five…I dunno, I may have to put myself in there.”
When asked why he placed Anderson Silva at the mountaintop ahead of the current middleweight kingpin, Brunson suggested the Brazilian’s accomplishments during his prime years make him the best. He did, however, suggest “The Last Stylebender” has time to surpass “The Spider.”
“The dominant reign that Anderson had, you know. He fought forever, which a lot of guys, let’s say Khabib, let’s say if Khabib would have fought till he was, like, 46, you think he’s gonna be undefeated? Probably not. He’s probably gonna lose four or five towards the end of his career. That’s what every great does,” added Brunson. “These young guys, they come in and it’s just different. So, let’s say Muhammad Ali, same thing. He ran his sport. Towards the end of his career, 33, 34, he started taking losses and more losses…
“If Anderson would have retired back whenever he was saying he wanted to retire, then he probably would have had, what, three or four losses? But he just kept fighting. What he’d done in his prime, I’d probably put at one… Izzy still has time to be number one.”
On the topic of his own inclusion at five, Brunson suggested a lot of fighters in other divisions have earned UFC gold by doing a less than he’s done at 185 pounds.
“I’ve done a lot in the middleweight division, the only thing I haven’t done was being champion. But some people had easier roads to being the champion, you know, there’s been times at 55 (lightweight) where guys win the title and they had an easier path than say, someone else. It happens like that sometimes. It’s all about timing,” concluded Brunson.
Brunson will look to continue his surge towards the middleweight throne in this weekend’s UFC Vegas 36 main event. He’ll be facing a tough test in the form of England’s Darren Till, whom Michael Bisping has tipped to win a UFC belt.
When asked what he has to do to climb above the four names he listed, Brunson laid out his plan for the coming months and years, starting with a victory over “The Gorilla.”
“My vision is to win this fight, get a title shot, win the title, defend it a couple times, and just be done, you know.”
Do you agree with Derek Brunson? If not, who do you think makes up the middleweight top-five over the past decade?