Derek Brunson snaps losing streak with first-round KO

Wilmington Middleweight gets quick stoppage in New Zealand

Ed Mulholland—X02835
Feb 11

Wilmington’s Derek Brunson snapped a two-fight losing streak at UFC Fight Night in Auckland, New Zealand on Saturday night.Brunson made short work of Dan Kelly, who was previously 13-1, recording a first-round knockout and announcing loud and clear that he’s still a factor in the UFC Middleweight division.Brunson’s eight UFC wins since 2012 are tied for the most in the Middleweight division. He moved to the verge of a title shot with a five-fight winning streak, including four straight first-round knockouts from 2014 to 2016.The streak was snapped in a TKO loss in Australia last November. That was followed by a controversial judges’ decision loss to MMA legend Anderson Silva in February.”I was cheated my last fight as I’m sure you saw,” Brunson said after Saturday’s win. “I have to make sure I come out here and finish guys so it won’t happen again.”Rated eighth in the latest Middleweight rankings, Brunson was facing the No. 15-ranked Kelly, who had won four straight fights and was fighting close to his home in Australia, the second time in three fights that Brunson has fought someone with a decided home-area advantage.A former judo Olympian, Kelly presented an interesting challenge to Brunson, who often charges in swinging, searching for an early stoppage. Brunson blamed the aggressive strategy for his knockout loss to Robert Whittaker in November.The Wilmington native prepared for the Kelly fight by moving his training camp to Atlanta and working against several Muay Thai champions.”I’ve been working in Georgia,” he explained, “putting in a lot of work to keep getting better every fight. I’m just working on my striking. I worked really hard.”Brunson came out uncharacteristically patient and cautious, spending the first minute faking punches and high kicks, while settling for leg kicks to keep Kelly at bay.In the second minute of the fight, Brunson saw his opening. The southpaw threw a double jab with his right hand, then landed a huge overhand left that caught Kelly flush on the jaw. Kelly went down and Brunson landed a barrage of hammerfists to the downed Kelly before the referee stopped the fight.”I just wanted to go out there and be the old Brunson,” he said.The official time of the win was 1:16 of the first round, Brunson’s fastest win since a 36-second TKO of Ed Herman in January, 2015.Brunson recorded his ninth career knockout, fifth in the UFC, and improved to 17-5, 8-3 in the UFC.”I’m working on winning my way toward that title shot,” Brunson said after the fight. He announced that he’d like a rematch with Silva, and also mentioned a possible fight against Antonio Carlos Jr., an up-and-coming middleweight that Brunson said “called me out” after a June 3 win in Brazil.”Let’s do it, baby,” he said.While waiting to see what his next UFC date will be, Brunson plans to return to Wilmington.”I’m going to come home and kiss my kids,” he said. “It’s been a hard couple months, getting over that Anderson fight.”