Derek Brunson angling for Yoel Romero rematch, especially once Cuban defeats Michael Bisping

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MELBOURNE, Australia – Derek Brunson knows his name isn’t currently mentioned among the absolute top talent of the UFC’s middleweight division, but he believes that could change after UFC Fight Night 101.

“I don’t think that anyone would disagree that me and Robert Whittaker are some of the top middleweights in the world,” Brunson told MMAjunkie. “You’ve got two guys hungry, young, looking to take that next step, both on a five-fight winning streak. There’s a lot of intrigue in this matchup.”

Brunson (16-3 MMA, 7-1 UFC) and Whittaker (16-4 MMA, 7-2 UFC) meet in the headlining matchup of UFC Fight Night 101, which takes place Saturday (Sunday in Australia) at Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. The event airs on FS1 following early prelims on UFC Fight Pass.

Brunson currently sits at No. 6 in the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA middleweight rankings, with Whittaker checking in at No. 11.

Both men carry five-fight winning streaks into the contest, but Brunson’s run features an impressive four first-round knockout wins. The 32-year-old says the current streak has bolstered his confidence, and he believes he can compete with anyone in the weight class.

“I’m right there with everybody in the division,” Brunson said. “I’ve just got to keep getting better, keep improving, keep upping everything, every part of my game – even my strong point, which is my wrestling. I’ve got to keep upping that. But yeah, I’m right there with the rest of the guys, and just more fights out there is just going to give me more confidence. I keep finishing these guys in the first round, I know I can do it against the rest of the guys.”

Should he do that to Whittaker, Brunson would certainly be in line for one of the division’s biggest names. But for Brunson, there really is only one that matters: Yoel Romero.

You see, Brunson is 7-1 in the UFC, with the lone loss coming to Romero (12-1 MMA, 8-0 UFC) in January 2014. But with the Cuban wrestler recently serving a suspension for an anti-doping violation – one Romero contends was due to tainted supplements – Brunson wants a chance to revisit that matchup.

Yoel Romero and Derek Brunson

Yoel Romero and Derek Brunson

“I have unfinished business with Romero,” Brunson said. “That’s a guy who had some stuff come up that I didn’t like. I was pretty much dominating this guy. I asked myself after the fight – everybody said, ‘Oh, you need to work on the cardio a little bit.’ I’m like, ‘Uh, I don’t know if that’s the cardio.’

“This guy popped for some PEDs. … It’s monitored now. Whether he says he knowingly took it or not, it doesn’t really matter.”

Romero is expected to face current UFC champ Michael Bisping in early 2017. It’s a fight Brunson said he expects Romero to win.

And while former champ Luke Rockhold and Brazilian submission ace Ronaldo ‘Jacare’ Souza, who were originally supposed to headline UFC Fight Night 101, each believe they should be next in line for a title, Brunson believes the winning streak he soon hopes to boast – not to mention his history with the man he thinks will soon be champ – should be enough to warrant a fight with Romero.

“I’m looking forward to my rematch – I’ve been very adamant about it,” Brunson said. “If he has the title, then he – I’m looking for my rematch. When you have guys riding huge winning streaks, you need to be rewarded. When you have guys who lose fights, they need to win a fight or two before they get back to the title shot, even if they’re right there. I don’t think you can get it off one fight.

“I’ve got to handle my business this weekend. But after that, let the games begin.”

To hear more from Brunson, check out the video above. Or for the full interview, click on the video below.

For more on UFC Fight Night 101, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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