David Branch came into Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) last year with high hopes and deservedly so. The accomplished mixed martial artist veteran made his Octagon return as a World Series of Fighting (WSOF) two-division champion riding a 10-fight win streak.
While Branch’s Octagon comeback was a successful split-decision win over middleweight staple Krzysztof Jotko, his second UFC return appearance did not end so well. Branch was outmatched by former UFC middleweight champion Luke Rockhold at UFC Fight Night 116 this past September and ultimately had to tap due to strikes in the second round, marking Branch’s first defeat since losing to Anthony Johnson via decision in 2012.
Seven months removed from his crushing loss to Rockhold and Branch finds himself on the doorstep of a huge 185-pound scrap with streaking knockout artist Thiago Santos later tonight (Sat., April 21, 2018) at UFC Fight Night 128 live on FOX Sports 1 from inside Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey. It’s a matchup that Branch must win in order to stay relevant in his hunt for a UFC title, but one he is entering confidently after looking back on the Rockhold fight and understanding that he may have needed to lose.
“I was unraveling a little bit,” Branch told MMAjunkie earlier this week. “Sometimes it’s a little toxic to not lose in that long. That’s a long time. Having that champion mentality, it just let me know that I need to start over again like I did when I was over there (at WSOF). It’s a process. I was just trying to replace something that was more ego-driven and me being a champion, I was just coming over here and wanted to be a champion again, just like I was the champ. I just forgot about the process.”
Branch, 36, had an uneventful first stint in UFC from 2010-2011, producing a pedestrian record of 2-2 and eventually getting the boot after a submission loss to Rousimar Palhares. The veteran middleweight understands how to rebound and regroup from disappointment, which is exactly what Branch is looking to do against Santos in Atlantic City after putting his UFC career in perspective.
“Totally wasn’t in the right place,” Branch said. “It was mostly ego-driven, it was definitely financial driven, but mostly ego. I just wanted to be champion again. I had my old toys taken away from me and I wanted new toys again. Now I’m just focused, and I’m done with the Hollywood stuff. I just want to do my job and take care of business or Saturday.”
Many fighters have tasted defeat at the hands of Rockhold only to come back and make a successful return to the Octagon. Branch is looking to do just that this weekend at UFC Fight Night 128 and put a stop to a harrowing Brazilian striker like Santos, who has finished his last four bouts all via knockout.
“He’s up there with the rest of them,” Branch said of Santos. “Everyone in the UFC is tough. You wouldn’t get here if you weren’t tough. He’s a big, strong dude. Coming to throw big kicks, big punches. He’s probably worked on a lot of things. He’s probably going to be worried about going down to the ground, but I’m a well faceted MMA fighter. I’m going to use my intelligence in there and I’ll get the job done.”
MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 128 fight card, starting with the UFC Fight Pass “Prelims” matches online at 7:30 p.m. ET, followed by the FOX Sports 1 "Prelims" bouts at 8 p.m. ET, before the main card start time at 10 p.m. ET, also on FOX Sports 1.