With Luke Rockhold pulling out, UFC Fight Night Melbourne got a new main event. And good for the fans, one of their own will be fighting in the headliner of this November 26th event.

7th ranked Robert Whitaker faces #8 Derek Brunson in a battle of middleweight dark horses. With the likes of Rockhold, Yoel Romero and Jacare Souza getting more attention, these two fighters are probably the sleepers in Michael Bisping’s weight class. While not much attention given to them, these two have slowly built serious reputation in one of the UFC’s most talent laden division. The winner of this bout is definitely headed for bigger fights while the loser goes back to scratch.

Too Close To Call?

Derek Brunson is the favorite at -150. Robert Whitaker is pegged at +125, so this is basically a pick’em bout. Both fighters are riding high on a five-fight winning streak, but Brunson has been more impressive with four consecutive first round knockout victories.

After being known as a grinding wrestler early in his career, Derek Brunson has developed his striking skills. In fact, he’s evolved into a serious knockout artist and his current winning run is proof of that. Whitaker also possesses heavy hands, but in terms of genuine, one-punch knockout ability, it’s Brunson who has the edge.

Brunson’s Advantages

Whitaker is the busier striker with a 4.95 significant strikes landed per minute average as compared to Brunson’s 2.94. But he also absorbs more strikes per minute at 4.07 versus Brunson’s 2.24. Both are nearly as accurate with their striking with Brunson having a 44% to 40% advantage. But the key in this fight should be Brunson’s length. The American has a significant 4-inch reach advantage over his opponent.

Derek Brunson’s Division II NCAA wrestling background gives him another edge over Whitaker. He averages 3.58 takedowns landed per 15 minutes while Whitaker only lands 0.61 over the same period. Whitaker though has significantly improved his takedown defense in recent years. He’s given up only one takedown in his last five bouts. But if this fight goes to the ground, it’s definitely the more experienced Brunson who has the edge.

Whitaker vs. Brunson Prediction

What’s going for Whitaker though is the fact that this fight is in Australia. Fighting in front of his home crowd has brought out the best of Whitaker. In his UFC career, Whitaker is 4-0 in Australia and that includes his The Ultimate Fighter Smashes victory in 2012. Both fighters have significantly improved from the first time we saw them compete inside the Octagon. But at this stage of their careers, Derek Brunson is the more complete fighter. Whitaker is going to make this a good fight. But Brunson’s power is going to win this for him.

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