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SAO PAULO – Credit UFC light heavyweight champion and commentator Daniel Cormier for bringing middleweight Derek Brunson out of his shell.

Brunson (18-5 MMA, 9-3 UFC), the No. 10 fighter in the USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA middleweight rankings, admitted he didn’t have any post-fight callout planned after a first-round knockout of ex-champ Lyoto Machida (22-8 MMA, 14-8 UFC)at UFC Fight Night 119. But Cormier asked, so he thought quick.

“It just kind of came to me at the last minute,” Brunson said after he called out ex-champ Luke Rockhold (16-3 MMA, 6-2 UFC) in the wake of his FS1-televised headliner at Ibirapuera Gymnasium in Sao Paulo.

The reasons for the matchup aren’t hard to name, either. Rockhold is an ex-champion, and wins over ex-champions get you title opportunities.

Certainly Brunson’s perforance against Machida, a once-dominant force in the octagon, advanced his interests. So why not go for the type of foe that cuts to the chase?

“He’s a top-level guy,” Brunson said of Rockhold, who just so happens to be unbooked following a win over ex-WSOF champ David Branch this past month. “I think it would be a great matchup. I think I can put hands on him, touch that chin, and I could put him down also.

“A win over Rockhold would definitely get me next for a title shot.”

First up, it’s a detour for the UFC’s 185-pound class as ex-welterweight kingpin Georges St-Pierre takes on champ Michael Bisping at UFC 217. Then as soon as he’s healthy, interim champ Robert Whittaker will unify the belt against the winner. After that, the options get more diverse.

Brunson said the MMA media regularly disregards his accomplishments in the UFC. That’s because he’s zigged where he should have zagged at some pretty important points in his career – losses to ex-champ Anderson Silva and champ Whittaker being the best examples.

Right now, he’s trying to prove to himself as much as the rest of the world that his success isn’t fleeting. And if he stays patient, big opportunities will arise sooner than later.

“I’ve definitely had a crazy career, but I’m starting to put it together and take my time,” Brunson said. “I can really do some damage if I just take my time.”

For complete coverage of UFC Fight Night 119, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

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