Derek Brunson knows his three-round battle against Elias Theodorou in early May wasn’t the most exciting fight in history, but he got the job done.
Dealing with an awkward counter fighter, Brunson had to make some adjustments to ensure the victory but ultimate he swept the scorecards to get back in the win column following a pair of consecutive losses.
Heading into the fight, Brunson acknowledged that Theodorou is a tough puzzle to figure out at times and he had to make his own adjustments after switching teams where he began working with the coaches and fighters out of Hard Knocks 365 in Florida.
“He’s a smart guy. He went out with his game plan and he fought the normal way that he always fought and he thought I was going to present the same attributes or come out the same way I did in my previous fights just really aggressive,” Brunson told MMAFighting when speaking about the fight with Theodorou. “He didn’t deviate from that game plan and I said to myself ‘you can’t keep doing the same dumb stuff over and over again’.
“I would have liked for him to stay in the middle a little bit and sit down in the pocket so I could unleash some of my new combos or some of the things that I’ve been working but he’s one of those guys who is not going to deviate from his game plan. He’s going to stick and move and try to out point you.”
Following the fight, Brunson was matched up against rising middleweight prospect Ian Heinisch at UFC 241 in August while Theodorou got the surprise of his life when he received his release papers from the promotion.
With a 16-3 record overall and an 8-3 resume in the UFC, Theodorou was a top 15 ranked fighter just recently so his release came as a surprise to just about everybody including Brunson.
While he can’t say for a fact, Brunson believes there had to be some kind of underlying cause that led to Theodorou’s UFC exit beyond a lackluster performance against a higher ranked opponent like himself.
“It was silly but I knew it was something else,” Brunson explained. “It wasn’t the way that he fought. You can’t cut a guy who’s 8-3 or whatever his record is in the UFC. He was 16-2 before he fought me and he only had two losses in the UFC and he won “The Ultimate Fighter” also. The guy he’s a good competitor.
“I think it was other stuff. I know it wasn’t just that fight. Guys have boring fights and do boring stuff all the time but it had to be some underlying issue with the UFC I’m guessing.”
UFC president Dana White justified Theodorou’s release ahead of UFC 238 in Chicago when speaking with TSN by pointing out that he’s looking for champions and top contenders and it didn’t appear the Canadian middleweight was ever going to be either of those things.
“There’s a ton of guys and girls that fight here. We have like 600 people under roster,” White said. “There’s always times when we release people and they question, ‘Well, why, why were these people released?’ I’m looking for people that can break into the top five or possibly become world champions.
“The real question is, ask me how many times I’ve been wrong? If you look at me when I’ve released people and who I’ve released, how many times have I actually been wrong about that?”