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“Blonde” Brunson’s Battle

Derek Brunson suffered his second consecutive loss at UFC 285 against Dricus Du Plessis.  The now 39 year old contender’s hopes at a title shot seem all but extinguished given the division’s competitive landscape.  Examining Brunson’s storied career shows that despite never winning the belt, he was a fixture in the modern UFC.  This article will focus particularly on Brunson’s run after losing to an up and coming Israel Adesanya.  

Image – Forbes

For much of his career, Brunson never trained at an established gym.  He always had explosive wrestling and devastating power.  However, these attributes alone were not enough to beat the division’s absolute best.  After the Stylebender loss, he joined Sanford MMA and enjoyed an impressive career resurgence.  He went on a five fight win streak, defeating the likes of Edmen Shahbazyan, Kevin Holland, and Darren Till.  This run was characterized by Brunson’s much improved fight IQ.  In the past, Brunson’s recklessness often got him into trouble.  He showed remarkable composure in these fights despite taking big shots, and used his strong wrestling to overcome these opponents.  

Image – ESPN

Brunson’s fight against Jared Cannonier may have set him up for a title shot with a win.  And in the first round, he looked ready to capture it.  He dropped Cannonier and nearly locked in a submission.  However, Cannonier’s devastating power turned the fight around in the second and led to a violent finish.  In this most recent fight with Du Plessis, the fight went eerily similarly.  Brunson started off fantastic, scoring takedowns and landing big strikes.  However, he again fatigued in the second round and Dricus’s pressure proved too much for Brunson.  

Brunson’s motivation for the fight was unquestionable.  Even when exhausted, he continued to goad and taunt Dricus.  However, by that point he was completely unable to take Dricus down and had no answer to the strikes.  The unfortunate tale of Brunson’s career is that by the time he finally improved his tactics, his physical gifts had waned.  His speed, explosiveness, and endurance have all decreased, and even his improved tactics are not enough to keep up anymore.  Brunson’s career accomplishments speak for themselves.  At the same time, fans can only wonder what he could have been with a different approach.  Regardless, viewers could always count on a scrap from “Blonde” Brunson.

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