Streaking UFC middleweight contender Derek Brunson will need to dispose of Jared Cannonier in order to secure the next crack at the 185-pound title, which means surviving the thunderous knockout power of the “Killa Gorilla” in the UFC 271 co-main event on Feb. 12 in Houston.
“I know he’s like a good striker, a big powerful guy, but I’m a well-rounded guy,” Brunson told MMA Junkie. “You have to bring a lot more than that to the table. My whole thing in this training camp is to worry about myself and not let guys get lucky and be a complete mixed martial artist.”
The winner of Brunson vs. Cannonier is expected to fight the winner of Israel Adesanya vs. Robert Whittaker, who also compete on Feb. 12 in “The Lone Star State.” That said, a rubber match may take precedence if “The Reaper” is able to recapture the 185-pound crown.
Unless an injury (or COVID-19) expedites the process.
“The UFC, I think they just wanted a backup for the title fight in case somebody went down and got injured,” Brunson continued. “They have two guys, ‘85ers, three and four-ranked guys that can jump in for the title shot. I’ve been waiting for that title shot. So yeah, if the opportunity comes up, for sure.”
Brunson (23-7), ranked one spot below Cannonier at No. 4, has not tasted defeat since falling to Adesanya at UFC 230 back in Nov. 2018. In the time since they last fought, Brunson has captured five straight wins, while “The Last Stylebender” went on to beat Whittaker for the middleweight title.
Bookies have Brunson as the +150 underdog.
As for Cannonier (14-5), who like his fight night opponent is 37 years old, he’s won four of his last five with his only blemish during that span coming at the hands of Whittaker. “The Killa Gorilla” has already been named by Adesanya as the most dangerous fighter in the 185-pound weight class, a fact not lost on Brunson.
Expect the middleweight division to get a complete makeover on Feb. 12.