Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Middleweight wrestlers Derek Brunson and Ian Heinisch will duel this Saturday (Aug. 17, 2019) at UFC 241 from inside Honda Center in Anaheim, California.
Back in 2016, Brunson was riding a five-fight tear of knockout victories, seemingly set to break into the title mix at any point. Since then, however, his issues with defensive striking has risen up, resulting in a trio of knockout losses spread across seven bouts. Luckily, Brunson is still ranked within the Top 10 and did win his last bout. Heinisch joined the roster in Nov. 2018, immediately impressing by outlasting Cezar Ferreira. He won in similar fashion just a few months ago opposite Antonio Carlos Junior, but this will be a very different task for “The Hurricane.”
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), Elias Theodorou (UFC Fight Night 151), 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 is a powerhouse at 185 pounds. A decorated Division II collegiate wrestler, Brunson does not always turn to his wrestling in the Octagon. Often, he chooses to rush at his opponent with winging punches, hoping to score the early finish.
That would be a dangerous game to play opposite Heinisch.
Heinisch’s last two victories have come opposite opponents who failed to pace themselves. Both “Mutante” and “Shoeface” found early success but gassed in the process, allowing Heinisch to take over and dominate the second half of the fight. If Brunson chases the early knockout, he may score it, but he risks the same fate.
Instead, Brunson would be best-advised to show some patience. Given their respective wrestling backgrounds, there’s a high likelihood that this bout will end up a kickboxing match. As the much more proven knockout artist with more kickboxing experience, that should favor Brunson — assuming he can relax and manage that gas tank carefully.
Key Wins: Antonio Carlos Junior (UFC Fight Night 152), Cezar Ferreira (UFC Fight Night 140), Gabriel Checco (LFA 39)
Key Losses: Markus Perez (LFA 22)
Keys to Victory: Thus far, Heinisch has done well to live up to his “Hurricane” moniker. Inside the cage, Heinisch pushes a hard pace and relies heavily on his wrestling background, which has allowed him to survive dangerous positions against skilled grapplers and later dominate from top control.
As with many of Heinisch’s bouts, the keys here are pace and cardio. Still in just his fourth year as a professional fighter, Heinisch is still a bit technically raw, but he’s been able to make the most of his skill by doubling down on his wrestling experience and simply grinding harder than his opponents.
Brunson is an explosive athlete who likes to do lots of work with dramatic movements. Ideally, he finishes the fight with his explosions, but if not, Brunson takes plenty of time to rest and recover before exploding again — this was all very visible in his three round bout with Theodorou.
Heinisch’s goal should be to close distance and never allow Brunson those rest periods. Brunson may hit him hard or score a takedown as a result of Heinisch’s consistent pressure, but he’s proven that he can survive bad spots before. So long as Heinisch keeps his foe working, the tide will eventually turn.
Bottom Line: This is a great fight between an established contender and fast-rising prospect.
For the second time in two fights, Brunson is being forced to defend his position inside the Top 10 — a result of his consecutive losses in 2018. Brunson successfully turned away Theodorou last time out, but he faces a more considerable offensive threat this time around. Should Brunson be victorious once again, perhaps he’ll receive a match up against someone ranked above him next.
Meanwhile, Heinisch has been granted a major opportunity here. Not only has he been fast-tracked to a top 10 opponent after two strong wins, but he’s receiving this shot on one of the biggest events of the year. Getting the win here would skyrocket him up the rankings, setting him up for another major fight that could push him into title contention.
At UFC 241, Derek Brunson and Ian Heinisch will open the main card. Which man will have his hand raised?