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UFC News: Derek Brunson targets Luke Rockhold after Machida KO

UFC middleweight Derek Brunson announced himself as a genuine contender after first-round KO of Lyoto Machida at UFC Fight Night 119.


UFC 208: Silva v Brunson

What's the story?

American middleweight contender Derek Brunson starched former UFC light-heavyweight world champion Lyoto Machida and set his sights on former UFC middleweight champion Luke Rockhold, saying victory would put him in line for a shot at the middleweight title.

In case you didn't know...

Brunson took on Brazilian MMA legend Machida in the main event of UFC Fight Night 119 in Sao Paulo, Brazil on Saturday night, and stunned the watching crowd with a brutal first-round knockout that left Machida down and out on the canvas.

Brunson had previously shown flashes of brilliance in his bouts but fell short when pitched against high-level competition, losing to Yoel Romero, Anderson Silva and Robert Whittaker.

But on Saturday night in Brazil Brunson showed great improvements to his game as he ran through the returning Machida, who was making his UFC comeback after a one-year USADA anti-doping suspension.

The heart of the matter

Following the victory, Brunson set his sights on the top of the UFC's middleweight division, telling UFC light-heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier in his post-fight interview that he fancied a scrap with Cormier's own American Kickboxing Academy teammate Rockhold, who is looking to bounce back to the title after his shock knockout loss to Britain's Michael Bisping at UFC 199 last year.

"I'm ready for some big fights," he declared, before being pressed by Cormier to give a name of who he'd like to face next.

"You've got a pretty good teammate over there," said Brunson.

"Luke Rockhold! What's up, baby! Let's run this!"

And Brunson doubled down on that callout in his post-fight press conference, saying he'd relish the opportunity to face the former champion in his next outing.

"He’s a top-level guy,” he explained. 

"He's (ranked) one or two in the division. I think it would be a great matchup. 

"I think I can put hands on him, touch that chin one time, and I could put him down, also.

“A win over Rockhold would definitely get me next for a title shot."

What's next?

The KO win over Machida puts Brunson in the conversation with the top middleweights in the UFC and, with the rest of 2017 looking pretty packed, it's likely we won't see him back in action until early 2018.

But the fight against Rockhold, who currently isn't officially matched with an opponent, certainly makes a lot of sense, unless the former champ is handed a shot at interim champion Robert Whittaker. 

Much could depend on what happens with undisputed champion Michael Bisping, who faces Georges St-Pierre at Madison Square Garden at UFC 217 next weekend.

UFC Fight Night: Rockhold v Bisping
Defending champ: Michael 'The Count' Bisping

If Bisping opts to retire after the bout, as he has hinted in the past, we could see interim champ Whittaker matched with the next top contender, who would most likely be either Rockhold or Yoel Romero, who already holds a knockout win over Brunson.

But Brunson is confident that he's refining his game with every bout, and says he's ready to make a real impact at the top of the middleweight division.

"The media sleeps on me a lot," he said.

"I've definitely had a crazy career, but I'm starting to put it together and starting to take my time and know I can really do some damage if I slow down just a little bit."

Author's take

The biggest knock on Brunson was he was too gung-ho in his approach, but on Saturday night against Machida, he looked much more patient.

But, despite his more controlled approach, his power was still on show for all to see as he demolished 'The Dragon' with his power.

Make no mistake, he's a dangerous obstacle for any top-level middleweight to overcome. I think Romero may be more athletic, and Rockhold may be more skilled, but if either man takes Brunson lightly the former cheerleader has the skills, and the power, to cause a big upset and put himself right into the title conversation.


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