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Although Lyoto Machida was unranked coming into Saturday’s fight with Derek Brunson, that’s only because he has spent the last two years on the sidelines, much of that time because of an anti-doping policy violation. In most people’s minds, he is still considered a Top 10 fighter.
With Brunson currently sitting at No. 7, it’s a huge accomplishment to have finished the former light heavyweight champion midway through the opening round of the fight. The only other fighter to have finished Machida in the first round is Mauricio “Shogun” Rua.
But Brunson realizes he needs more than that to vault into a shot at the UFC middleweight championship currently wrapped around Michael Bisping’s waste. That’s why he called out former middleweight titleholder Luke Rockhold after beating Machida.
“(Rockhold is) a top guy. Nothing against Luke, he’s ranked high in the division, maybe 1 or 2; a fight like that would get me a title shot. So, I’m aiming for the stars right now,” said Brunson.
Aiming for Rockhold might not be a bad strategy for Brunson to position himself in the optimal position in the division.
Bisping is slated to defend his title against Georges St-Pierre next week at UFC 217 at Madison Square Garden. After that, the winner is expected to then unify the belt with the interim title held by Robert Whittaker. Brunson fighting Rockhold next could easily position the winner of that fight to challenge the winner of the Whittaker bout.
That is going to take several months to play out, and a lot could happen in that amount of time. For now, we’ll have to wait and see how the scenario unfolds.