Last November, Derek Brunson and Robert Whittaker met up at UFC Fight Night 101 in a middleweight bout.
Whittaker earned a hard-fought victory with a first-round TKO of his opponent, and has since gone on to claim the interim middleweight title.
As Brunson prepares for another UFC Fight Night bout on Saturday - this time against Lyoto Machida - he's already eyeing a rematch against Whittaker somewhere down the road.
Brunson told MMAFighting.com that he was too aggressive in his first bout with Whittaker, but he's learned from his mistakes and is excited about a chance to face him again at some point:
"I like to be aggressive, I like to finish fights,” Brunson told MMA Fighting. "But I’ve been doing a better job of finding that balance. I’m a very smart guy also, when it comes to learning how to be more strategic and not pretty much destroy your hand in one fight.
"I think the one fight that cost me the most was the Whittaker (fight) when I was super aggressive, but you look at that fight, I had him rocked the whole time. I’m sure he knows I could put him away also, but you don’t want to put yourself in those 50-50 positions. Let your skills be on show. I still wanna keep my aggressive ways and let my skills be on display.”
Whittaker holds the interim middleweight title belt for now (until Michael Bisping and Georges St-Pierre fight next weekend), but Brunson said he doesn't get angry about his missed opportunity when he sees Whittaker with the belt:
"It doesn’t piss me off” to see Whittaker with a UFC belt after being so close to beating him, Brunson says, but, “no disrespect to Whittaker, I know I can beat him. I was putting it on him, you know? I had him against the cage and I hurt him. He was very exhausted. He was just able to find the spot. He actually turned and ran a couple of times to get away. He was smart.
"He was able to catch me with a combo right in the eye with a jab and I blinked, and that’s when the kick came,” Brunson continued. "It’s funny because I’ve never been in a situation when somebody was able to just … you know, I’ve never got hit in the eye, flush, I blinked, and then boom.
"He jabbed me in the eye, it was like an eye poke, when someone gets poked in the eye and, ‘oh, I can’t see.’ I’m learning. Now I know to move back and regroup instead of trying to stay in, but I’ve never been in that position before in a fight."
If Brunson can take down Machida on Saturday night, he'll get one step closer to a rematch against Whittaker, and that would be something that would be fun to see.