What mattered most at UFC on ESPN+ 31 in Las Vegas? Here are a few post-fight musings …
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1. Derek Brunson fights back
The storylines leading up to Derek Brunson vs. Edmen Shahbazyan were all too familiar: The veteran who has fought all the best middleweights over the past decade against the beloved undefeated prospect who was perfectly placed to break through.
However, unlike a similar situation he found himself in against Israel Adesanya at UFC 230 in November 2018, Brunson did not succumb to the touted prospect in their main event showdown.
Brunson managed to avoid any serious danger against Shahbazyan and break the 22-year-old down en route to a third-round TKO. The difference in composure and fight tactics backed by experience were obvious in Brunson’s favor as the fight wore on, and that set up his third consecutive win.
At 36, it’s hard to know what Brunson can do in a 185-pound division that’s quickly becoming one of the hottest in the UFC. He’s done a lot of great things in the octagon, but has never reached a title shot. He deserves a chance to move in that direction with his current success, and that means a fight where he has more to gain than lose both in terms of ranking and name value.