Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Middleweight standouts Derek Brunson and Elias Theodorou will battle this Saturday (May 4, 2019) at UFC Fight Night 151 from Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.
Brunson entered 2018 with a fair bit of momentum behind him, but the wrestler’s all-offense approach ran him directly into the power punches of Ronaldo Souza and Israel Adesanya. Now with his back to the proverbial wall, Brunson is in dire need of a win if he’s to remain a relevant Middleweight. I’ll be the first to criticize Theodorou’s style from a fighting perspective, but you really cannot argue with the Canadian’s results. Three straight wins — and five of his previous six — have seen Theodorou climb into the rankings and earn this step up in competition.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
Key Wins: Lyoto Machida (UFC Fight Night 119), Uriah Hall (UFC Fight Night 94), Lorenz Larkin (UFC 177), Dan Kelly (UFC Fight Night 110), Ed Herman (UFC 185)
Key Losses: Robert Whittaker (UFC Fight Night 101), Israel Adesanya (UFC 230), Yoel Romero (UFC Fight Night 35), Ronaldo Souza (UFC on FOX 27, Strikeforce: “Rousey vs Kaufman”)
Keys to Victory: Brunson rarely does anything to hide his intentions. The powerful Middleweight is going to either swarm his opponent with a flurry of punches and/or drop down into a power double.
Historically, Brunson’s problems come against men who can defend his takedown attempts and land hard punches of their own. Theodorou may be able to stop the shot — we’ll find out for sure on Saturday — but he almost never actually commits weight to his punches. Most of his strikes are for points or for show, as Theodorou spends a ton of time “staying busy.”
Brunson has never actually been out-pointed (assuming we correctly ignore the Anderson Silva “loss”). His style does not allow it. Brunson is so madly aggressive that he either dominates or is finished, and it’s difficult to see Brunson being finished by smoke and mirrors.
Expect Brunson to attempt to overwhelm Theodorou immediately.
Key Wins: Eryk Anders (UFC 231), Cezar Ferreira (UFC Fight Night 105), Sam Alvey (UFC Fight Night 89)
Key Losses: Brad Tavares (TUF 25 Finale), Thiago Santos (UFC Fight Night 80)
Keys to Victory: Theodorou is a strange fighter. He has very clear athletic gifts — notably great conditioning and some considerable punching power from top position — but rarely uses them to actually hurt opponents. Instead, Theodorou looks to frustrate foes, throwing literally dozens of kicks that are not really intended to land. When his foe looks to close the distance through these kicks, Theodorou will either clinch and hold along the fence or actually tried to catch his foe off-guard with a counter punch.
Theodorou is not going to out-point Brunson with side kicks and nonsense, but those counter punches very well could end the bout. Theodorou is crafty, constantly trying to catch his opponent charging forward with punches as his feet reset off the kick or spinning back fists.
Usually, Theodorou must frustrate his foe to the point that they run into one of these hard shots. Brunson, however, needs no convincing to lunge forward, so it really would benefit Theodorou to double down on his counter punches that have actual weight behind them. Brunson is going to charge him, so Theodorou must be prepared.
Bottom Line: The fight might be good, could be bad, but will definitely be weird.
Despite the two knockout losses, Brunson remains the No. 8-ranked contender at 185 pounds, whereas Theodorou has climbed to No. 13. Given their respective rankings, the consequences of this bout are rather apparent. Brunson is in dire straits, at risk of losing three straight and dropping from title contention completely. On the bright side, a win may not completely fix his recent problems, it does give him a platform to build upon towards another run.
Conversely, it’s a major opportunity for Theodorou, who has been one of the more consistently successful Middleweights of the past few years. Like it or not, opponents have a very difficult time navigating through his awkward kicks, slick counters, and suffocating clinch work. If Theodorou can continue mastering his own style and make it work against a top 10-ranked foe like Brunson, it will go a long way in earning Theodorou a shot at the top.
At UFC Fight Night 151, Derek Brunson and Elias Theodorou will duel in the co-main event. Which man will have his hand raised?