Derek Brunson ready to face UFC legend Anderson Silva

Wilmington middleweight looks to take a step up against the Tom Brady of MMA

Matt Roberts—X02835
Nov 27

Derek Brunson was on the fast track to a title shot before getting knocked out in his last fight. Now that path has become significantly tougher.The mixed martial artist from Wilmington, N.C. had won five straight, four by first-round knockout, to vault into the top five in the UFC Middleweight rankings.The win streak earned Brunson a fight with fellow top-five middleweight Robert Whittaker, on Thanksgiving weekend, in Whittaker’s home country of Australia.Brunson appeared on his way to another first-round stoppage, stunning Whittaker early. He got overly aggressive, however, and ran into a Whittaker combination that stopped the fight in the first round.”I would call it reckless,” Brunson said. “I would say I just pretty much fell in love with knocking people out really quickly, instead of letting the fight develop.”The loss was a setback for Brunson, who hadn’t lost since January 2014, but he still has a road to a title shot, albeit a rocky one.Now eighth in the division, Brunson will need a win in his next fight, Saturday, at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center. His opponent? Only the greatest middleweight in MMA history, Anderson Silva.Silva reigned as the middleweight champion for six years and nine months, the longest title reign in UFC history by nearly 400 days. He won 16 straight fights and defended the title successfully 10 times. He also has 13 post-fight bonuses — for Fight of the Night, Knockout of the Night or Submission of the Night — which is the second most in UFC history.Last week, UFC president Dana White called Silva “the Tom Brady of MMA” and has also called him the best MMA fighter in history.”When I was getting started, Anderson was in his prime,” Brunson said. “He was putting on great shows, just putting guys out. I definitely looked up to him and watched all his fights.”When Brunson made his pro debut—a 52 second submission win in his home town of Wilmington in May 2010, Silva had already defended his title six times. “It’s like, ‘Note to self: Be like that guy,” Brunson said.Silva has a highlight film of spectacular finishes, but not many of them have come recently. In the four and a half years since his reign as middleweight champion ended, Silva has had his arm raised in victory just once in five fights, and that win was turned to a no contest when his drug test came back positive for PEDs.Brunson realizes that the 41-year-old Silva’s luster has faded somewhat, but he thinks the legend has plenty left in the tank.”I think that what other people don’t really look into is this,” Brunson said. “Anderson lost to [current middleweight champion] Michael Bisping in a close fight. He actually knocked [Bisping] out with a knee—it was kind of a controversy.” While Silva appeared to knock Bisping unconscious briefly, another strike from Silva revived the champion before the referee was able to step in and stop the bout. Silva went on to lose a five-round decision.”He broke his leg in one fight [a loss to Chris Weidman in a rematch],” Brunson continued. “In the first fight against Weidman, he dropped his hands [and got knocked out]. He was kind of toying with him. I guess he wasn’t really intimidated by Chris Weidman’s speed, and Weidman caught him with a crazy combination.”That’s three losses that could be described as flukes during Silva’s latest run of bad luck.”Me looking at the situation, I throw all those losses out. I’m looking at fighting a guy who — he’s not as fast as he used to be, but this guy has all the skills in the world and is considered the best fighter of all time,” Brunson said. “Everybody else is looking at it like losses, but how did he lose those? The losses were close. It was unfortunate events in those fights. I think I’m getting a very game and ready fighter.”In other words, the co-main event of UFC 208 in Brooklyn on Saturday will match two quality fighters. That’s nothing new in Brunson’s weight class.”Middleweight is the best division in the UFC,” Brunson said. “There are so many stacked and game guys. To a man, everybody competes at the top level. Everybody’s ready to fight. It’s a coin flip.”