Derek Brunson already knocked out a ‘slightly better’ version of Lyoto Machida
When he first arrived in the UFC, Lyoto Machida was a puzzle no one could seem to figure out.
With an awkward karate based system including the use of odd stances and angles to set up his punches and kicks as well as a counter striking attack that lured opponents into his trap again and again, Machida was one of the toughest matchups to face inside the Octagon.
Fast forward to a decade later and Machida still gets a lot of credit for the unique style he brings into all of his fights, but he’s no longer quite the mystery he once was. In fact, Machida has suffered losses in three out of his past four fights at middleweight as he approaches his 40th birthday early next year.
Derek Brunson, who welcomes Machida back to the Octagon on Saturday night following an 18-month suspension for admitting use of a banned substance, respects everything the former light heavyweight champion has done in his career.
Brunson is well aware of Machida’s unorthodox stances and how he tries to bait his opponents into attacking so he can set up his counter strikes with precision and power. In fact, Brunson feels like he’s seen Machida’s style very recently via a former “Ultimate Fighter” finalist named Uriah Hall.
Brunson faced Hall in a grudge match just last year and he earned a knockout inside two minutes into the first round. He feels he could do the same thing to Machida on Saturday night at UFC Fight Night in Sao Paolo, Brazil.
“I think he has a lot of tendencies like Uriah Hall,” Brunson said. “In my opinion, if Uriah Hall and Lyoto fought, I don’t know, maybe I’d slightly favor Uriah Hall. I believe Uriah Hall’s a slightly better striker, a little more creative, but I see a lot of the same tendencies in their fighting styles.
“So I definitely see a lot of things I can expose and feel like I can get the finish in this fight.”
As far as the counter striking style that Machida likes to employ, Brunson faced arguably the best to ever do it when he took on Anderson Silva earlier this year.
On that night, Brunson came up short in a very close, controversial decision but it was a valuable lesson learned and that’s why he’s so confident going into the fight with Machida on Saturday night.
“I’m going to just pick my spots,” Brunson said. “We’re definitely two lefties, two counter punchers. I’ll be looking for the finish.”
Brunson has long lingered near the top five rankings in the middleweight division but he hasn’t quite been able to make the leap from top prospect to legitimate contender for the title.
With a new multi-fight UFC contract in hand after re-signing with the promotion just recently, Brunson hopes a win over Machida will catapult him into that conversation so he can move up the contender’s list in 2018.
“We’ve got a fight right after my fight, the middleweight title is gonna be up for grabs. Then you have an interim title holder [in Robert Whittaker]. You never know what’s going to happen or what the division is going to look like,” Brunson said. “Machida is no slouch. He’s not ranked but I think everybody knows him. He beat [Gegard] Mousasi and Mousasi was No. 4 when he left. You have to put him in that No. 3 or 4 ballpark. He’s a former title holder. He’s still got the same skills.
“I think it’s a fight that can definitely propel me to the next level and put me in that conversation to be a contender for the title.”