Jared Cannonier may have cemented his spot as the next UFC middleweight title challenger after decimating Derek Brunson at UFC 271 in Houston, Texas. Cannonier recovered from a difficult first round, repeatedly hurting Brunson en route to a brutal stoppage.
Brunson seized control of Round 1 thanks to heavy investment in grappling and takedowns. Cannonier displayed impressive balance and flexibility, but Brunson's pressure scored him top control and opened up the blonde bomber's striking. Brunson scored an unexpected late knockdown and followed up with a significant rear-naked choke attempt. The round ended, however, saving Cannonier from a potentially difficult escape.
The middle frame opened with an immediate takedown from Brunson -- his last display of meaningful offense. Cannonier landed a cracking strike off the break that changed Brunson's body language. Brunson was plodding and wide-eyed as Cannonier opened up more and more. Aggressive offense, particularly elbows, had Brunson badly staggered. Cannonier dropped his opponent and stamped him out with wince-inducing ground-and-pound elbows. Brunson's corner threw in the towel, but the damage was done and the referee had already stepped in to stop the fight.
"Hey, Dana! I want that shot next!" Cannonier said in the post-fight interview, demanding UFC president Dana White's attention. "I want that shot next! Nobody else. It's me."
Cannonier (15-5) is now 5-1 since moving down to middleweight and rides a two-fight winning streak since losing to Saturday's headliner Robert Whittaker. Brunson (23-8) saw his five-fight winning streak come to an end as his career winds down.
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