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David Branch hopes KO win proves he's 'capable of more' than boring fights, close decisions


ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. – David Branch’s new caeer approach is to leave the past in the past and focus only on the future. His first fight with that mindset certainly went well.

Branch (22-4 MMA, 4-3 UFC) scored the biggest victory of his UFC career on Saturday when he scored a stunning first-round knockout of Thiago “Marreta” Santos (17-6 MMA, 9-5 UFC) at UFC Fight Night 128, which aired on FS1 from Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J.

After a forgettable first UFC stint years ago, Branch dominated outside the promotion while winning two titles under the WSOF banner. He returned to the UFC in 2017 but fell short when given a big main-event opportunity against Luke Rockhold at UFC Fight Night 116 in September. For Branch, that loss signified a turning point.

Although his achievements are what put Branch in position to get the Rockhold fight, they did nothing to help him win it, he said. He said he learned not to rest on his laurels, and that pushed him to perform as he did at UFC Fight Night 128.

“That stuff that I did in the past, that stuff is done,” Branch told MMAjunkie post-fight. “Now I’m taking it front a new standpoint. I’m fresh and brand new and have to do all these things over again. I can’t keep talking about stuff I did in the past. And yes, it feels like everything came full circle, but now I feel I have to make a new legacy in the UFC. This is a new place, and those things that I did back there are done. They were good, but now I want to do some new things here. One step at a time.”

Branch said the ending to his middleweight bout with Santos surprised even him. He wasn’t envisioning a knockout win for himself, but he said he realized once the bout began that his Brazilian foe was “tentative” with his typically dangerous striking.

With an opportunity available to pounce, Branch went after Santos with a heavy shot. It landed, and moments later he was awarded the win by knockout.

“We planned on taking him down obviously because that’s where his weakness is,” Branch said. “I have such a reputation for doing that; guys are going to be sticking their arms out, and it’s hard to just grapple guys. They push you off. You get hit. It can take down your energy meter a little bit. But I can strike. I let everybody know that I can do that.”

Winning consistently hasn’t been much of an issue for Branch throughout his career. Generating buzz with his performances has been, however, and he said it was a goal to begin to turn that narrative. Branch said he wants to be a factor in the UFC’s 185-pound division, and putting away Santos the way he did was an essential step.

“It was really important,” Branch said. “I just want to make an impression on the fans, the UFC – let them know I’m really here to stay and not just eek out decisions and have boring fights and stuff like that. I’m capable of more than that.”

For complete coverage of UFC Fight Night 128, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

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