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Derek Brunson: Finish over Luke Rockhold would definitely be ‘title shot worthy’

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Derek Brunson believes an impressive win over a top contender in the UFC middleweight division would earn him a title shot.

Derek Brunson thinks he is just one win away from a UFC middleweight title shot if he is paired up against a top contender.

Brunson, who defeated Lyoto Machida by first-round knockout in the UFC Fight Night 119 main event in late October, called out Luke Rockhold in his post-fight speech. That’s the first name that came to his mind when asked by light heavyweight champ and commentator Daniel Cormier. He continued asking for the former 185-pound champion in a series of tweets, but Rockhold eventually responded, saying he was not interested in fighting someone not on his level.

So Brunson called out others, too, including Chris Weidman, and most recently, Michael Bisping, who just lost the middleweight title to Georges St-Pierre at UFC 217 in New York City.

Bisping and Rockhold sit in the division’s top five, while Weidman and Brunson himself are ranked just outside at No. 6 and No. 7, respectively.

Brunson said that he deserves a title shot with a win over a top contender, using Rockhold as a prime example, since he is who Brunson called out in Sao Paulo. Brunson thinks Rockhold makes the most sense, but he’ll take another top fighter, too.

“Let’s say I fight Rockhold (and) I beat Rockhold. Then I’m next in line for a title shot,” Brunson told BloodyElbow.com. “If you look out of my last eight fights, I’m 6-2. And that’s including the Anderson (Silva) fight (at UFC 208 in February). So really, if it goes the way that it should’ve went, 7-1 in my last eight fights. And seven first-round finishes. If I beat Rockhold, 8-1, eight first-round finishes — say I knocked him out in the first round. That’s definitely title shot worthy. It doesn’t get better than that.”

Brunson’s win over Machida ended just half a round into the headliner. He rocked “The Dragon,” a former UFC champ, on the feet, and followed up with vicious ground-and-pound that put the legend out cold.

Brunson was very satisfied with the victory and doesn’t entirely agree with everyone who said Machida was far past his prime entering his return from a two-and-a-half-year layoff.

“It doesn’t get any bigger than that,” Brunson said of the win. “I mean, he had a lot of people talking about the age, him being out for a while. But when you’re one of those guys like Machida or Anderson, they’ve been in the big fights, they know how to get up, they know how to pace themselves, they know how to take off two minutes and go crazy for three. These guys are really smart. ... I’m very happy with the win, and that was a big deal for sure.”

Machida is currently riding a three-fight skid — all stoppage losses — and is 1-4 in his last five bouts. His last win was a TKO over C.B. Dollaway in December 2014. Three and a half years ago the Brazilian was at the top of the spot, preparing to challenge Weidman for the middleweight title. But now, his run in the sport is nearing its end.

Still, Brunson looks at a knockout over Machida as a meaningful — and important — win for his career.

“It’s gonna do a lot,” he said. “It’s definitely a name on my record. I think guys need to pay a little more attention: I wouldn’t say that wasn’t the best Machida.”

Brunson argued that Demian Maia’s lengthy winning streak (which ended in July when he met welterweight champion Tyron Woodley, and Colby Covington recently added onto his skid) and former opponent Daniel Kelly’s impressive record are proof that Machida’s age was not necessarily a factor. Machida and Maia are both 39, while Kelly, whom Brunson knocked out this past summer, is 40.

“Lyoto had been out for awhile. He wasn’t in the gym taking all these big shots, wasn’t in fights taking all these big shots. He was resting his mind, redefining himself, finding new things, new ways to train. ... I think the time off was great for him.”