MELBOURNE, Australia — A flurry of punches with power and precision guided New Zealand native Robert Whittaker to a first-round knockout of Wilmington’s Derek Brunson on Saturday night during the main event at UFC Fight Night 101.
The setback snapped Brunson’s five-match winning streak and boosted Whittaker’s profile as one of the top middleweight contenders in Ultimate Fighting Championship. Whittaker improved his mixed martial arts (MMA) record to 18-4 overall. Brunson dropped his first fight since a loss to Yoel Romero in January 2014. He is now 16-4 in MMA.
Brunson came out on the attack in the opening minutes between the pair to top-10 ranked fighters, but Whittaker was able to weather the initial onslaught to get his sixth win in a row.
Brunson, 32, looked set on a continuing his first-round knockout streak, but his attacks seemed off balanced and frantic, which allowed Whittaker to compose himself moving through the first round.
Despite Brunson’s fury, the 25-year old Whittaker countered his recklessness in the scheduled five-round fight with quick reaction and buckled his knees by landing a stinging right-hand.
With his opponent shocked, Whittaker kept up the pressure by connecting on combination punches, which forced Brunson to cover up and wait for referee Herb Dean to stop the match. The fight ended at 4:07 in the first round.
“It really sucks,” Brunson told MMAjunkie.com after the fight. “I put together a streak, and worked really hard. But I came out here and fought with no game plan, like a chump tonight. I’ll take it on the chin. I’m better than I showed.
“This sport is growing. It’s about patience, rather than getting caught up in five in a row, want a title shot, main event. The goal is to put on a great fight and be smart.”
Whittaker and Brunson combined for an incredible 108 strikes thrown. Whittaker ultimately out-landed Brunson 33-19 in significant strikes with nearly 57-percent accuracy on the feet, according to Fox Sports 1.
“I’m stoked to come out with the win, it was pretty important,” Whittaker said after the victory. “I train hard, I have the best coaching staff in the world, win or lose, they are always going to be there. We always do the right things, I stick to the plan and we get things done.
“I’ve been in the top 10 for a while now. I’ve tried to demonstrate my ability every time I step in here and make an example. I’m ready for those top-five contenders. I’m ready for my shot.”