Derek Brunson was so close, yet so far away.
The 32-year-old headed into UFC Fight Night 101’s main event against Robert Whittaker riding a five-fight win streak with four first-round stoppages, and was clearly knocking on the door for a title shot.
In a cruel twist of fate, however, it was Brunson who was TKO’d in the first round by a resilient Whittaker.
Brunson, who made his professional MMA debut in 2010, attacked ‘The Reaper’ from the opening bell and looked to add another first-round stoppage to his resume. Unfortunately, though, Whittaker maintained his composure and eventually caught him with several hard counters, prompting referee Herb Dean to end the fight at the four-minute mark.
Speaking at the post-fight press conference in Melbourne, Australia, a dejected Brunson reflected on the loss and said he fought like a ‘chump’.
“It really sucks,” Brunson told MMAjunkie. “I put together a streak, and worked really hard. But I came out here and fought with no game plan, like a chump tonight. I’ll take it on the chin. I’m better than I showed.
“This sport is growing. It’s about patience, rather than getting caught up in five in a row, want a title shot, main event. The goal is to put on a great fight and be smart.”
The No. 8 ranked middleweight contender said he felt his opponent fading, but admitted that he rushed things and lost his patience in the heat of the moment.
“I had him against the cage, and I felt him breathing really hard,” Brunson told Australia’s Submission Radio. “I could have really slowed him down and gotten the takedown. But I didn’t make smart decisions. Instead of going to my wrestling, which I knew I had the upper hand, I was more intent on trying to knock him out.”
Brunson will look to spring into the winners column next year, and could potentially fight Chris Weidman or Vitor Belfort.