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Derek Brunson on Luke Rockhold: ‘I can put him down also’

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It took Derek Brunson a moment to come up with a name to fight next, but now that it’s out there he’s starting to see the path to a title shot.

Brunson picked up arguably the biggest win of his career on Saturday when he knocked out Lyoto Machida in the first round of the UFC Sao Paulo main event, shocking the Brazilian crowd at the Ibirapuera Gymnasium. The outcome left even Brunson himself without much to say in his post-fight interview, but after some prompting from in-cage interviewer (and UFC light heavyweight champion) Daniel Cormier, Brunson decided to set his sights on one of the middleweight division’s top stars: Cormier’s American Kickboxing Academy teammate and former UFC champion Luke Rockhold.

“He’s a top-level guy,” Brunson said at the evening’s post-show presser. “He’s one or two in the division. I think it would be a great matchup. I think I could put hands on him, touch that chin one time, I can put him down also.”

Aside from how entertaining a duel between himself and Rockhold could be, Brunson also sees it as an opportunity to prove that he is a legitimate world title contender. The 33-year-old has won seven of his last nine fights, with all but one of those victories going past the 2:38 mark of Round 1. Brunson has the highlight-reel finishes and he believes that Rockhold could be the signature win he needs for his résumé after near-misses against Yoel Romero, the legendary Anderson Silva, and current interim champion Robert Whittaker.

“For sure, a win over Rockhold would definitely get me next to the title shot,” Brunson said. “The media sleeps on me a lot, but what I’ve done in the UFC, what I’ve done over my career - I had a controversial decision over Anderson, let’s say I get that win, that takes away a loss. Romero, I was beating him two rounds to zero, I was dominating the whole fight. He was able to catch me with a punch with about a minute left. If I would have just danced around for a minute, I would have got that win. Whittaker, I touched him a lot, he touched me a lot, I rocked him, he rocked me, he was able to get the win.

“So I’ve definitely had a crazy career, but I’m starting to put it together and starting to take my time and know that I can really do some damage if I just slow down just a little bit.”

Rockhold recently got back in the win column after dropping his UFC championship to Michael Bisping last June. He returned from a 13-month layoff to finish David Branch in Round 2 of their main event clash at UFC Pittsburgh in September.

Now he could be crossing paths with Brunson in the near future and if so, he has his good buddy “DC” to thank.

“I wasn’t planning on calling Rockhold out, I didn’t have anybody in mind, it just kind of came to me at the last minute,” Brunson said. “And was like OK, that would be a good guy to fight next.”