Chaos did not suit Derek Brunson, at least not against Robert Whittaker.
Brunson charged at “The Ultimate Fighter: The Smashes” winner and all but impaled himself in the UFC Fight Night 101 “Whittaker vs. Brunson” main event on Saturday, as he yielded to a first-round head kick and follow-up punches at Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne, Australia. The end came 4:07 into Round 1, Brunson’s five-fight winning streak having run its course.
Paying little attention to anything resembling sound defense or strategy, Brunson threw himself at the Australia-based New Zealand native from the start, hands flying and chin extended. For a brief time, there seemed to be a method to his madness, as he had Whittaker on his heels. Prosperity did not last. Whittaker threw out his anchor, waited for the storm to pass and capitalized. He stopped Brunson in his tracks with a clean left hook, uncorked a series of vicious uppercuts and then reset himself. A head kick further compromised Brunson and left him unable to shield himself from the attack that followed, as Whittaker buried the North Carolinian with unanswered punches at the base of the cage.
According to preliminary FightMetric data, Whittaker connected on nearly 60 percent of the strikes he threw -- further evidence of Brunson ill-conceived kamikaze tactics.
In wake of UFC Fight Night “Whittaker vs. Brunson,” here are five matches that ought to be made (online betting):
Robert Whittaker vs. Gegard Mousasi: Whittaker can no longer be ignored as a viable contender at 185 pounds. The 25-year-old has rattled off six consecutive victories since bowing to punches from Stephen Thompson at UFC 170 in 2014. During his current winning streak, Whittaker has bested Brunson, Rafael Natal, Uriah Hall, Brad Tavares, Clint Hester and Mike Rhodes. He now owns an 8-2 mark in the Ultimate Fighting Championship and seems to be gaining strength with each appearance. Mousasi, 31, last competed at a UFC Fight Night event on Nov. 19, when he brought down the aforementioned Hall with punches and avenged a September 2015 defeat to the two-time Ring of Combat champion.
Andrew Holbrook vs. Drew Dober-Olivier Aubin-Mercier winner: The odds do not appear to mean much to Holbrook, as the once-beaten Chris Lytle protégé rebounded from his 34-second knockout loss to Joaquim Silva and upset Jake Matthews by split decision in the lightweight co-main event. Holbrook frustrated the Australian prospect with a relentless submission game and drew favorable marks from two of the three cageside judges in hostile territory, improving his career record to 12-1. Dober will face Aubin-Mercier at UFC 206 on Dec. 10 in Toronto.
Daniel Kelly vs. Tim Boetsch: Kelly has become something of a cult hero since arriving in the UFC a little more than two years ago, as fans have fallen in love with his blood-and-guts style. The four-time Olympian put his third straight win in the books on the undercard, where he sustained two gashes near his hairline and painted the canvas red but nevertheless earned a unanimous decision over Chris Camozzi. The ceiling remains limited for Kelly at age 39. However, it figures to remain fun for as long as it lasts. Boetsch last fought at UFC 205 on Nov. 12, when he blew away Rafael Natal with second-round punches at Madison Square Garden in New York.
Ben Nguyen vs. Zach Makovsky-Dustin Ortiz winner: While everyone in the flyweight division lines up behind champion Demetrious Johnson, Nguyen quietly goes about his business. The Australia-based South Dakota native won for the 10th time in 11 fights -- Louis Smolka is the only man to beat him in that stretch -- by taking a lopsided unanimous decision from Geane Herrera in one of the featured prelims. Nguyen picked apart the Resurrection Fighting Alliance veteran, out-landing him by an eye-popping 112-22 margin across three rounds. Makovsky and Ortiz have been booked opposite one another at UFC 206 in December.
Derek Brunson vs. Thales Leites: Brunson will need to adjust his approach if he wants to make real noise in the UFC’s middleweight division. The 32-year-old Wilmington, North Carolina, native ran himself into punches and kicks from Whittaker in the main event before being stopped 4:07 into the first round. It was Brunson’s first setback since he lost to Yoel Romero at a UFC Fight Night event in January 2014. Leites, 34, has gone 1-3 over his last four outings, but his three losses -- all by decision -- have come against Mousasi, Krzysztof Jotko and reigning middleweight champion Michael Bisping.