ROBERT Whittaker has put the middleweight division “on notice” after his stunning TKO victory over Derek Brunson.
Whittaker catapulted himself into title contention with his Round 1 stoppage of the dangerous American at UFC Melbourne at Rod Laver Arena.
“I’ve made the whole middleweight (division) notice me,” Whittaker said on Sunday night after securing performance of the night and fight of the night bonuses.
“The whole division understands that I’m for real and I’m here to stay. And I’m hunting. This is my run.”
With champion Michael Bisping set to take on No.1 contender Yoel Romero, Whittaker declared he was eager to take on the winner.
“I thought I could’ve taken it last year as well,” Whittaker said, having missed an opportunity to fight Bisping at UFC 193 last November when the Brit withdrew because of injury.
“It’s a fight that I would like to have. When we were set to fight (in Melbourne) I got pumped t fight him and things happen.
“He’s not going to miss me forever. It is what it is. I’ll fight whoever they put in front of me and this is my run and I’m going forward.
“I want to fight these top-five dudes … eventually for the belt.”
“It definitely sucks. I put together a streak and worked really hard,” Brunson said.
“I’ll take it on the chin, I’m better than I showed.”
Brunson conceded he went away from his game plan, stalking Whittaker in pursuit of an early stoppage.
“It was a main event, it was supposed to be only three rounds and we didn’t really prepare for five rounds. I wasn’t looking past Whittaker, because I knew what was at stake,” he said.
“His punches weren’t really hard, they were just consistent. I had him hurt a couple of times and I could’ve slowed it down but I didn’t make smart decisions.
“I’ll take a step back, for sure. I’ll just keep getting better.”
Having secured five successive first-round finishes, Brunson admitted he was a little careless and “chased the fight”.
“It was stupid. I just wasn’t smart tonight but hat’s off to Whittaker,” Brunson said.
“I’ve never been in a main event slot and I just wanted to go out there and impress.”
Whittaker plans to take a short break from fighting to welcome his second child in three week’s but said he will remain “fight ready”.
“If I’m healthy, I’m ready,” he said.
“I’ll fight anywhere, anytime.”
Jake Matthews’ hopes of climbing the lightweight ladder were derailed, suffering a shock split-points decision defeat to American Andrew Holbrook.
Epping-based Matthews was dealt just his second UFC defeat, unable to counter the ground game of a rangy Holbrook, who revealed post-fight he heard a “pop” as he tried to submit Matthews with a heel hook.
Russian Omari Akhmedov inflicted Kyle Noke’s third-straight loss and condemned the New South Wales local to an uncertain future.
Noke later announced on Twitter that he had retired.
Shellharbour’s Alex Volkanovski made a statement in his UFC debut, finishing Japan’s Yusuke Kasuya. It came after a late stoppage from the referee, with Kasuya unable to
stop an avalanche of strikes from Volkanovski.
Western Sydney’s Tyson Pedro announced himself on the world stage with a stunning stoppage victory over highly fancied American Khalil Rountree. After weathering an early storm, Pedro completed a rapid-fire take-down and eventually submitted Rountree by rear naked choke in the first round.
In the first fight of the main card, Danielle Taylor defeated Seohee Ham via split decision.
A bloodied Dan Kelly overcame a nasty cut to his forehead to snag the biggest win of his UFC career.
Improving his record to 5-1, Kelly all-but stopped American Chris Camozzi in the final round, with referee Herb Dean waving it off, before claiming a unanimous points decision.
“He was harder to take down than I thought he would be but I am happy with my performance,” Kelly said, dedicating the win to ill son Erik.
“I think I beat him in the stand up and he is a very accomplished stand up fighter, so I am really
happy with that result. I do need to learn how to defend elbows better.”
In the first shock of the night, Brisbane’s Damien Brown snatched a split-decision victory over Jon Tuck.
Richard Walsh was left to lament a second-straight defeat, unable to match the versatility of Canada’s Jonathan Meunier.
Brisbane-based American Ben Nguyen put on a clinic against Florida’s Geane Herrera, surviving a devastating push kick in the opening seconds to claim a three-round decision.
New Zealand native Daniel Hooker was no match for American Jason Knight.
Earlier in the day, Ecuador’s Marlon Vera won an entertaining featherweight bout over China’s Ning Guangyou, while Jenel Lausa claimed a unanimous decision victory over Yao Zhikui in the opening bout.