As current UFC middleweight David Branch climbed the ranks and built his record, he developed an uncanny penchant for having his hand raised.
Winning in the combat sports scene became second nature for Branch and soon he racked up a stellar record of 6-0 before the call to the big show came. Although a competition-winning jiu-jitsu ace under the tutelage of the legendary Renzo Gracie, Branch showed balance in his MMA career with three submission victories and three knockout victories and he was prime for the newest challenges that the UFC had to offer.
That first challenge came in the form of TUF 7 alumnus Gerald Harris and the stage was set for their dance at UFC 116: Lesnar vs. Carwin. But what resulted was a loss that exposed a hole Branch never talked about but that always loomed in the back of his mind.
“I think that I was waiting for Harris a little bit too much and I didn’t just open up my game,” said Branch. “I didn’t really have any set game plan to beat Harris, it was just me going in there and trying to put everything together - my strikes, my grappling, my wrestling - on the fly; I didn’t really have any type of serious game plan. I believe that I started warming up more towards the end of the second round. In the third round I kind of got a little personal, I was trying to go for the knockout and that’s not really how I fight. I had a sense of urgency and I think if I would have took my time and just started picking my shots off and came with the same intensity that I did in the third round in the first round I think that things would have been a little bit different. But Harris was really, really strong; he actually surprised me.”
Surprises are nothing new to Branch, after all, he realized just a few years ago that he had a multitude of brothers and sisters on his father’s side and that two of them, Sechew Powell and Jamelle Hamilton, were professional boxers. There was no game plan to handle the tide of emotions that brought Branch to tears when he found this out nor was there one for this additional epic event: the first defeat in his career.
The Slam Heard ‘Round The World
The deciding factor in the fight occurred in the third round when Harris performed a highlight reel worthy slam on Branch at the 2:35 mark. It was clean and it was dramatic; the only thing was, Branch actually thought he won the fight.
“I actually thought I won (laughs) when I woke up from the slam knockout; I know that’s weird. I thought I had gotten the victory I thought I had finished the fight with a triangle choke but something blurry had happened. Then when I saw him standing next to Bruce Buffer I said, ‘damn, he scooped the victory, man, I know what happened now.’ It took me about 30-40 seconds to realize what happened. I was coherent when I went to the back but it was a crash knockout and I definitely went out.”
The defeat underlined for Branch an obvious tactic he was missing: having a strategic game plan tailored for his fights. Although it might seem obvious to any laymen, those with talent know it is always easy to forget to create strategy when you are naturally good.
“My success in my earlier days was just because I was just so much more talented than the guys that I fought and I was just able to overwhelm them with pure talent,” said Branch. “I just kind of left the chips fall where they may and I always came out on top because I was so much more superior than everybody at everything that they did. It’s a big jump from the shows that I had fought in before to the UFC. I realize that a lot of the guys in the UFC, especially a guy like Gerald Harris, he had a lot of exposure during The Ultimate Fighter show so he’s actually seen high level coaching and preparation for fighting and I really wasn’t exposed to that and I think that was to his advantage. He was much more professional, he approached the situation more as a professional where I still had an amateur mindset and that was like my breaking point to becoming a professional.”
Up next for Branch is Tomasz Drwal at UFC Fight Night 22. Drwal is coming off a loss of his own, to main event competitor Rousimar Palharaes at UFC 111. To Branch, this next challenge is welcomed.
“I’m much more prepared physically and mentally; game plan-wise I’m feeling confident and I think I’m going to go in there and do a really good job and put on a good fight. From what I’ve seen from his other fights he has some pretty basic things that he does but other than that I’m not really worried about him too much. He’s pretty good but he’s not really good at one thing or any two things, he’s just pretty well rounded at everything. I think he’s a little weak on the ground and in the clinch he’s a little naïve. He telegraphs a little bit of his punches, comes forward a lot and I don’t think his wrestling is really up to par and his jiu-jitsu probably isn’t as well. He’s just a tough guy with a lot of fights.”
As the sophomore UFC run of David Branch draws near in the capital of Texas, Branch has geared up and is looking past his natural abilities and his former spotless record. His only want now is to entertain the fans.
“I really don’t want to let down the fans. I think I let them down a little bit with my performance last time. I think I have so much more to offer, so much more to put out, and there was so much that I wasn’t able to put out. I’m not going to be in any rush in this fight, I’m not going to make stupid mistakes but I’m definitely going to perform like a professional athlete just making stone cold calculated decisions.”
Branch Brings A Stone Cold Approach
“I’m much more prepared physically and mentally; game plan-wise I’m feeling confident and I think I’m going to go in there and do a really good job and put on a good fight."