Sometimes these fighters pounding on the door to become top contenders creep up on you. Such is the case with Robert Whittaker and Derek Brunson, who’ve notched up an impressive collection of wins in their time in the Octagon. And of course, for New Zealander Whittaker, that means he gets to headline a UFC Fight Night when the organization is in town, so now we have a main event that could mean good things for the man who comes out on top.
While Whittaker has honed his striking game to be one that is just slightly more accurate and slightly more dangerous than whoever he faces, Brunson has been overwhelming dudes like a crashing ocean wave. And holy crap, he is that crashing ocean wave, diving in willy-nilly for takedowns but then standing upright and throwing leather with ferocity. Whittaker is prepared – if not a little flustered at first – and once he starts shucking off these takedown attempts and embracing the fact that there will be no shifting of gears so Brunson can reset, he starts trying to take Brunson’s head off whenever there’s an opening.
It’s fast, it’s furious, at times it’s ridiculously sloppy, but it’s what we tuned in for. At one point, Brunson tags Whittaker and seems to have the Kiwi on the ropes. But Brunson gets tagged himself, and suddenly it’s Whittaker’s turn to ratchet up the heat. That heat comes in the form of a surgically-precise head-kick and a stream of punches that have the American crumbling to the canvas.
Congrats, Whittaker. You’ve likely earned yourself a fight against the elite of the division.
Results: Robert Whittaker def. Derek Brunson via TKO (Punches) at 4:07, R1