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After battling 'trickier' Anderson Silva, Derek Brunson unfazed by Lyoto Machida's striking


Derek Brunson has in UFC Fight Night 119 opponent Lyoto Machida a skilled, elusive striker. But, after dealing with the “trickier” Anderson Silva, Brunson isn’t too worried.

Brunson (17-5 MMA, 8-3 UFC) and Machida (22-7 MMA, 14-7 UFC) meet in a UFC Fight Night 119-headlining affair on Oct. 28, at Ibirapuera Gymnasium in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Brunson comes into the bout riding a first-round knockout win over Daniel Kelly – which snapped a two-fight losing skid, capped off by an unanimous-decision loss to Silva in February.

Machida and Silva have a few things in common. Other than being talented counter-strikers who have previously held UFC belts, the Brazilians have shared training sessions and a management team. And, as it appears, they’ve also shared insight on Brunson.

Brunson, however, isn’t concerned about whatever intel Machida might be gathering. If anything, Brunson walks into the FS1-televised bout made all the more confident by his encounter with Silva.

“Anderson doesn’t really have any valid advice,” Brunson told MMAjunkie. “The only valid advice is he can say, ‘Derek is going to shoot for a takedown. Derek is going to do this, or do that.’ But everything he’s telling him, he can see it in the film. But he might want to take into consideration that fight was on three weeks, a month’s notice – very short notice. So I wasn’t the best that I was in.

“In my opinion, Anderson is harder to deal with than Machida. He has more length and he has more deception in his strikes. Whereas Machida, you pretty much know what he’s doing, and you know the blitz is coming. I think Anderson is trickier, and I was able to deal with that, so I’m feeling very comfortable to go out and fight with a good striker, but less tricky.”

There are a few variables around Machida for this one. At 39, the former 205-pound champ hasn’t fought in over two years. The time away wasn’t voluntary – at least not the 18 months determined by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), after Machida admitted to taking a prohibited substance prior to his last scheduled bout.

Machida, himself, has been putting a positive spin on the suspension. But not everyone was on board with the harshness of the penalty, considering the facts that the ex-champ was upfront about the intake of 7-keto-DHEA before even failing a test and that some of his peers received more lenience in light of seemingly worse offenses.

In the polarizing discussion about ring rust, Brunson sides with those who don’t really see it as that big of a factor. But, when it comes to the USADA situation, it’s safe to say we can’t expect Brunson to advocate for the ex-champ’s innocence.

“I’m not really a believer in inactivity being an advantage,” Brunson said. “I know he’s been out because of some supplement, or some PED, I’m not really sure what it was. I also know that guys often come up with excuses for what they did so it wouldn’t reflect as PEDs, also.

“So I think maybe he might come out looking like a different fighter as far as, you know, the cardio, the strength and stuff like that. But I think that he will still have his skillset.”

Other than the layoff, Machida has another thing going against him: He enters the fight riding back-to-back losses to former middleweight champion Luke Rockhold and contender Yoel Romero. It’s Machida’s first skid of consecutive losses since 2010 – when he followed a title-costing loss to Mauricio Rua with a decision setback to Quinton Jackson.

While “The Dragon” has never ceased being a menacing presence in the UFC’s roster, the mystique that surrounded his karate-based movement has certainly grown weaker over the years, as more and more opponents were able to crack his code in the octagon.

On his end, Brunson sees Machida as a “very patient” and “accurate” striker –but, also, a predictable one.

“I think he’s the same type of fighter since he entered the UFC,” Brunson said. “But there’s more material on him. More video. More film. You can kind of see what he does.”

Meanwhile, the 33-year-old Brunson has been working to fill some of the holes in his own game. While his power is undeniable – as consecutive knockout victims Sam Alvey, Roan Carneiro and Uriah Hall would probably agree – the flip side of Brunson’s aggression showed last November, when interim champ Robert Whittaker knocked him out after a wild start to a UFC Fight Night 101 affair.

Don’t get him wrong: Brunson is still as finish-driven as ever. But he believes he’s become better at navigating the fine line between being aggressive and downright reckless.

“I think I’ll get the finish,” Brunson said. “I definitely think I’ll get my hand raised. But yeah – I’m going to fight looking for the finish. And I’m finding better ways to do it without putting myself in so much risk. I know that guys are expecting this fireball to come at them, and waiting for the counter or whatever. I understand.

“In the Anderson fight, I understood Anderson is a great counter-striker. With Lyoto, I understand he’s a good counter-striker. With that being said, there are some things I have to adjust and I think I’ll be able to find the finish.”

Adding a second win to his streak with an incisive display over an ex-champ who’s currently ranked No. 11 in the USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA middleweight rankings would certainly be a good statement for the No. 10-ranked Brunson, especially considering he was on a four-fight winning streak prior to his brief skid.

In fact, Brunson ponders, it could very well mean he’s one fight away from a title shot. But, at the same time, it could mean nothing in a “crazy weight class” that could become even crazier after titleholder Michael Bisping puts his belt on the line against former 170-pound kingpin Georges St-Pierre at UFC 217.

Considering that, while well-known, Machida’s standing in the division after the time away is hard to even calculate, Brunson won’t dwell too much on what may follow. So, given all the variables, why the dangerous Machida, in his home country?

“I like good fights, you know,” Brunson said. “Machida definitely has a name value, so I’m definitely interested in that aspect.”

For more on UFC Fight Night 119, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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