Derek Brunson has fought almost anyone in the UFC’s middleweight division. The only thing he’s been looking for is that signature win to push him into the title image.
On Saturday, he finally got it.
Brunson stopped Darren Till by submission (rear choke) at 2 minutes 13 seconds of the third round on Saturday at the UFC Fight Night main event in Las Vegas. Brunson used his fight to score takedowns in every round, landing hard and hitting early on and then ending up with a choke on the mat after Till staggered him in the third.
It was Brunson’s first submission win since 2013. Brunson has nine UFC middleweight finishes, the second-most behind the great Anderson Silva of all time.
“I watched a performance the whole time,” Brunson said in his post-fight interview. “I’m Renzo Gracie’s black belt. I wanted to put it into practice … I’m very good on the field and I want to show it.”
Going in, ESPN had Brunson ranked No. 7 and Till No. 8 in the world at middleweight. Brunson will now join Jared Cannonier as one of the top contenders in the division. Champion Israel Adesanya is likely to next fight back against former champion Robert Whittaker.
Brunson called Adesanya afterward, saying he wants to “rewrite that fight” in a rematch after suffering a first-round knockout loss in 2018. Brunson said he would be willing to wait for the winner of Adesanya vs. Whittaker before fighting again, as he prepares “for this last long push for the title that I’m trying to pull off.”
“I can wait until next March,” Brunson said on the UFC post-fight show. “I am not the youngest guy in this division and I have been working very hard for this moment.”
Brunson said his preparation for Saturday’s fight was especially difficult after his parents were hospitalized with COVID-19 during their camp.
“He was about to die,” Brunson said of his mother. “This camp had a lot of adversity.”
Until he came out strong with good boxing, landing one-two combinations. But Brunson knocked Till down and hit him some hard and elbows on the ground, causing severe swelling around Till’s right eye and bleeding from his nose. Brunson dropped Till again in the second round, but he didn’t do much there.
In the third round, Till began to get off again with his one-two combos, briefly staggering Brunson with one. But Brunson went back to his fight, knocked Till down again, bounced back, and ended the fight.
Brunson (23-7) is in the midst of the best streak of his career. He has won five fights in a row, all as the underdog in betting, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Going in, he defeated Kevin Holland by unanimous decision in March.
Brunson, a 37-year-old North Carolina native who fights at Sanford MMA in Florida, has won seven of nine overall and has fought the who’s who of the division in the past nine years, including Adesanya, Whittaker, Silva and Yoel. Rosemary.
Till (18-4-1) has lost four of his last five fights. In his previous fight, he lost a very close unanimous decision to Whittaker in July 2020. He was recovering from a broken collarbone.
A Liverpool native, Till, 28, won his UFC middleweight debut against Kelvin Gastelum at UFC 244 in November 2019. “The Gorilla” is a former welterweight title challenger, falling to Tyron Woodley in 2018.