Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Middleweight grapplers Derek Brunson and Dan Kelly will collide this Saturday (June 10, 2017) at UFC Fight Night 110 inside Spark Arena in Auckland, New Zealand.
It’s been a rough few months for Derek Brunson. His five-fight win streak came to an abrupt halt when his reckless offense came back to bite him, and he was very arguably robbed of a win in his most recent appearance opposite the legendary Anderson Silva. Meanwhile, Kelly continues to defy expectations. He’s won six of his seven total in UFC, is currently on a four-fight win streak, and recently defeated a former UFC champion. Can he become a true contender? I would not bet on it, but damn if Kelly hasn’t already made us look foolish in the past.
Let’s take a look at the keys to victory for both men:
Key Wins: Uriah Hall (UFC Fight Night 94), Lorenz Larkin (UFC 177), Sam Alvey (UFC Fight Night 73), Ed Herman (UFC 185)
Key Losses: Robert Whittaker (UFC Fight Night 101), Anderson Silva (UFC 208), Yoel Romero (UFC Fight Night 35), Ronaldo Souza (Strikeforce: "Rousey vs Kaufman")
Keys to Victory: Brunson is a physical and explosive athlete with a great wrestling background and big left hand. He occasionally can get a bit wild, but overall his combination of power takedowns and punches has proven the be quite successful.
On paper, Brunson seems to have just about every advantage heading into this contest. He’s younger, bigger and his skill set generally makes more sense for mixed martial arts (MMA). Of course, similar things have been said about Kelly’s previous opponents, but that didn’t stop the Aussie from winning.
It’s in Brunson’s best interest not to waste any time here. Kelly is a frustrating opponent because he’s consistent and tough — he keeps working his game even if facing adversity and simply does not stop. If Brunson shows his foe too much respect, there’s a chance he’ll fade and be out-pointed.
Instead, Brunson needs to take a note from — of all people -- Sam Alvey. Alvey may be a counter puncher notorious for doing nothing else, but he absolutely unloaded on Kelly at the very first opportunity and knocked him out quickly. Brunson has the power to do just that, and Kelly is not a dangerous counter puncher like Silva or Whittaker.
Key Wins: Rashad Evans (UFC 209), Chris Camozzi (UFC Fight Night 101), Antonio Carlos Junior (UFC Fight Night 85), Luke Zachrich (UFC Fight Night 55)
Key Losses: Sam Alvey (UFC Fight Night 65)
Keys to Victory: Kelly may be held together by duct tape and prayer, but he’s one of the toughest dudes in the sport. At 39 years old, the former Judo Olympian pushes a harder pace than many of his peers and is capable in all areas.
Even by usual standards, it really seems like Kelly has his back against the wall here. In all of his recent wins, Kelly has been able to find some success with takedowns in the clinch. Opposite an admittedly declining Rashad Evans — still a solid wrestler -- Kelly was able to off-balance his foe and land strikes from there.
Against Brunson, a physical beast in his prime with great wrestling, that’s unlikely to get him anywhere.
Realistically, Kelly has to tire his opponent out to win. Brunson is dangerous, but if Kelly can survive the early goings of the fight and force constant exchanges — wrestling or kickboxing — there’s a chance he can pull ahead in the second half of the bout.
Bottom Line: It’s an important bout for a pair of ranked Middleweights.
This is a must-win fight for Brunson. Unfair as the Silva loss may be, Brunson will not hold his No. 8 position if he comes up short opposite Dan Kelly in his third straight loss. That would send the wrestler plummeting down the rankings, which would be a really terrible turn of events considering how close he was to the title not all that long ago.
With a win, Brunson is back in the win column and ready for Top 10 fighters.
Alternatively, this is a huge and well-earned opportunity for the Aussie. If he can once again find a way to win, he’ll have scored a spot inside the Top 10. Off the strength of such a win streak, it would be very fair for him to receive a top five opponent next, which could actually put him in the title mix.
On the other hand, a loss will keep Kelly out of the Top 10 and halt his unlikely rise. It’s now-or-never for the veteran Judoka in terms of being a contender, but he has established himself as a very worthy UFC fighter despite his late start.
At UFC Fight Night 110, Derek Brunson and Dan Kelly will compete in the co-main event. Which man will stand as the victor?