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Going into this past weekend’s UFC Fight in Liverpool, Darren Till had everything to gain and nothing to lose as he faced off against number one contender Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson. Coming off of a TKO win over veteran Donald Cerrone, he found himself ranked at number 8. Till has yet to lose in his MMA career; the only blemish on his record was a majority draw with Nicolas Dalby back in 2015. A lot of  emphasis is placed on his victory over Cerrone, who is a blown up lightweight in the twilight of his career, who’s recent performances have given indication that retirement is most likely on the horizon.


I think that it’s an inevitability that Darren Till is going to be a title contender if not a champion. We will begin to see if there is a ceiling to his potential now that he has entered the top five on the division.


Thompson, on the other hand, had everything to lose. He faced champion Tyron Woodley twice and came up short both times. The consensus was that the pair of fights were boring and uneventful so it’s unlikely we will get the rubber match. Though he was still ranked number one, it was doubtful that he was going to get a title shot any time soon. He could have turned down the fight with Till; it made little sense for him to fight the number eight guy. What would have made more sense, if the UFC followed any logic was for Thompson to fight Rafael Dos Anjos for the Interim Title but that runs the risk of him setting himself up for another T. Woodley meeting.


After tearing his labrum during his fight against Demian Maia back in July 2017, Woodley required surgery and hasn’t been able to defend his title; at least that’s one perspective on it. There has been his well-publicized feud with Dana White over “money fights” and such so the belt-happy UFC took this opportunity to set up an interim title fight between Rafael Dos Anjos and Colby Covington. Covington basically talked himself into the fight by playing the heel and creating a storyline between himself and the people of Brazil. He hasn’t really defeated anyone in the division that would garner him the fight; it was basically booked to sell pay-per-views. Dos Anjos has been on fire since moving up to the welterweight division so the sensible thing to do would have been to face the number one ranked Stephen Thompson.  That would have been a great fight but there wouldn’t be the dramatic storyline that fans seem to want these days. With the new interim champ being determined by the Dos Anjos – Covington fight, Thompson would be relegated to the waiting room.


Facing Till offered no tactical value for Thompson. It’s a fan-fight; two great strikers going for it.  The young buck against the more seasoned, experienced fighter.  It was Till’s shot at a main line to title contention. It’s too bad that, as far as I could see, that we didn’t definitively win the fight.


It was the same old song and dance that the UFC runs on us from time to time. A rising star fighting in his hometown, in this case Liverpool, pitted against a tough, but beatable fighter. It was a test for Till, Thompson was the betting favorite, but he had more of a chance to beat him than a grappler or someone who isn’t known for kickboxing.


The fight was a technical, thinking man’s bout. Till, know for his aggression, attempted to push the action, but was uncharacteristically reserved and cautious. Thompson, known for his footwork and evasive karate-based style, was elusive and fought from the outside. It was a low-volume fight, a lot of the two just figuring out range and adjusting movement patterns. I was surprised to see that Till out struck Thompson 38 to 30. During the action of the fight, it seemed like Thompson was landing more.  Based solely on the number, Till had the most strikes in rounds 5, 3 and 2, with Thompsons scoring higher in round 1 and 4. No one really landed anything significant until Till dropped Thompson in round 5, which definitely earned him a 10-8 round. Thompson recovered but aside from a late round double-leg takedown.


I was a little shocked that Till got the decision. Without knowing the official numbers until much later, I had it scored the first four round 10-9 for Thompson. Till was planted in the center of the cage for a lot of the fight, but I don’t believe he actually controlled the pace and movement of Thompson.  I gave the 5th round to Till 10-8 due to the knock down. 


My unofficial score was 48 – 46 Thompson.  The official score cards told a different story:  48-47, 49-46, 49-46.


So Till is off the fame and fortune and a title fight. Look for him to figure prominently in the title picture over the next 12 months.  The winner of Dos Anjos vs Covington will face Tyron Woodley. I predict that Darren Till will face whoever is champ after that.


The welterweight division is on fire again.


Let’s not forget that Till was easily taken down by Stephen Thompson, a karate-based kickboxer. If that’s the case, he may have a long night against any of the three gentlemen that are in the title conversation.