Derek Brunson (23-8) is not ready to walk away from MMA. The 39-year-old middleweight contender flirted with the idea after Jared Cannonier sparked him out in one of the year’s best stoppages, but he wants to come back in a big way in 2023.
Brunson made his intentions known through social media that he hopes to have four fights next year. Even though Brunson’s last fight was a clear loss, the middleweight division is wide open, and he wants to take advantage of the upcoming scramble.
Before the Cannonier loss, Brunson earned the reputation of a truthmaker at middleweight. He spoiled the anticipated runs of fighters like Kevin Holland, Edmen Shahbazyan, and Darren Till before the Cannonier loss. At one point, hetried goading ex-champ Israel Adesanya into a title shot, but Adesanya was apathetic to his past callouts.
Derek Brunson maintains a high ranking at middleweight
Brunson won five straight ahead of the Cannonier loss. If he manages to fight and win four times this year, it would be hard for anyone to deny him an opportunity. However, questions linger about Brunson’s conditioning as he has failed to fight more than twice since 2011.
Following Adesanya’s defeat to Alex Pereira at UFC 281, the middleweight division is in a transitory state. While many see Adesanya facing Pereira once more, Brunson might have a path to land the title shot that has eluded his career thus far.
Brunson had to pull out of a December fight with Jack Hermansson, who would lose to replacement opponent Roman Dolidze. If he wants a quick return, Brunson could face Hermansson or potentially rematch Shahbazyan. The latter is coming off an impressive win on the UFC 282 preliminary card.
The #5 ranked middleweight could also boost his rankings at the skidding Sean Strickland’s expense. Strickland is also coming off a loss to Cannonier and might be willing to test his luck against the burley Brunson. Though that fight may end up being an awful clash of styles, it would show what Brunson still has left in the tank.