For all of you who wrote off Derek Brunson as nothing more than a gatekeeper to the top ten of the middleweight division, he just gave you all a big middle finger, dominating Darren Till with positioning and ground and pound over the first two rounds before finding a RNC finish in the third at UFC Vegas 36 today. Well... perhaps I should say Brunson gave us a big middle finger given I didn’t see this late career surge, but the bottom line is Brunson is a legit middleweight contender at 37.
Brunson appears convinced that he’s got next against Israel Adesanya, but I wouldn’t be so sure if I were him. Most would agree Robert Whittaker is the top contender and Adesanya already has a win over Brunson. Regardless, Brunson said he’s willing to wait for a title shot if that’s what it takes. Five consecutive wins is impressive and the quality of wins he has picked up has done the trick for others in the past, but there’s also plenty who’ve had a more impressive resume that had to do more work. The guess here: Brunson needs one more win to get the nod.
Some may say the Till hype train is off the rails at this point given he has lost four of his last five contests, but Brunson himself has had a similar stretch and did so when he was more advanced in his career than Till is. At 28, Till is still young enough in his career that he could make a few adjustments and be near the top again in no time. He clearly had the advantage on the feet, but couldn’t overcome the first opponent that was bigger than him. His issues aren’t impossible to overcome, particularly for someone of his talents.
As for the rest of the shortened card....
- It isn’t too hard to beat Tom Aspinall if you can make him tired. Too bad hanging around long enough to make him tired is a hell of a feat. Serghei Spivak ate a vicious elbow in close quarters with Aspinall, leading him to stumble backwards to the mat and Aspinall to finish him off with punches halfway through the first round. Depending on how quick Aspinall wants to climb the ladder, expect him to be talked about in title conversations in short order.
- It may have been sloppy from a technical standpoint, but Alex Morono got the job done once again. Not that David Zawada didn’t put forth a valiant effort, but Morono’s timing was superior, allowing him to outwork the German native and pick up another win, perhaps even booting Zawada from the promotion.
- Too often, Khalil Rountree has allowed his opponents to dictate the pace of a fight. Not this time around. Rountree came out on fire, breaking the nose of Modestas Bukauskas in the opening round before finishing him off with a brutal side kick to the knee that crumpled Bukauskas instantly. We’ve seen flashes from Rountree before. Here’s hoping it’s a permanent change.
- A lot can happen in a single round. Despite being hurt several times by a game Luigi Vendramini, Paddy Pimblett lived up to the hype and expectations by hanging in there before rocking and putting away the Brazilian before the round was out. Talking a big game is one thing. Backing up the talk is another. Pimblett backed it up, justifying the hype the promotion has put behind him so far.
- One of the most eminently likeable members of the roster, Molly McCann responded with her back up against a wall. Negating the 10-inch reach Ji Yeon Kim enjoyed on her, McCann attacked Kim from bell to bell, landing more hard shots than what she received. The performance gave her a hard-earned win and ensured she kept her spot on the roster.
- Heavily favored over Liudvik Sholinian, Jack Shore put on a workmanlike performance in outworking the newcomer over three rounds. There weren’t many wow moments – if any – but Shore was the one exploited holes in Sholinian’s approach, keeping Shore undefeated for his career.
- Either you put Julian Erosa way or you opt to play with fire since he he’ll never stop moving forward. Not that Charles Jourdain didn’t try, scoring a knockdown in the second. Unfortunately for him, Erosa stuck around, finding a d’arce choke in the final round. That’s three wins in four fights since Erosa returned to the UFC.
- Hard hitters Dalcha Lungiambula and Marc-Andre Barriault opened the evening with a fun scrap. Lungiambula had more oomph to his punches, but he could match the volume of Barriault over 15 minutes. The win for Barriault solidifies his roster spot while Lungiambula could be one his way out with one more loss.