Darren Till has an opportunity to make a major statement in the middleweight division on July 25, but can the Liverpudlian beat former champion Robert Whittaker in the main event of UFC Fight Island 3 and put himself firmly in the mix for a crack at the 185lb crown this year?
Road To UFC Fight Island 3: Robert Whittaker v Darren Till
Till enjoyed a rapid rise up the welterweight ladder in 2017 as he reeled of three straight wins to surge into title contention, after besting former title contender over five rounds in the first half of 2018 he was granted a crack at the belt. That ended in failure as he was dominated and submitted inside two rounds by Tyron Woodley in the second half of the year, and when he tried to bounce back at the expense of Jorge Masvidal he found himself flat on his back looking up at the lights.
At this point a move up to a bigger weight class appeared almost inevitable, with many feeling Till was taking too much out of himself trying to make 170lbs, and ‘The Gorilla’ finally made the jump to 185lbs in the second half of the year of 2019 when he signed on to face Kelvin Gastelum, who was ranked in the top five at the time. Till admitted after the fight that he had considered faking an injury in order to withdraw from the bout, revealing he was terrified at the possibility of a third straight defeat, but he did make the walk to the Octagon and was rewarded with a return to winning ways.
The final decision was split as two judges sided with Till and one went with Gastelum, but that 30-27 scorecard in favour of the American suggested that judge may have been watching a different fight to the rest of the world. Till had controlled the contest throughout, showcasing his elite level striking skills and excellent takedown defence to earn the decision, and with the victory he had immediately established himself as a major player in the middleweight ranks. If he can beat Robert Whittaker on Fight Island then he go from major player to perhaps the number one contender to Israel Adesanya, but can he record the biggest victory of his career so far?
While Till was fighting to become one of the sports big guns, Whittaker was establishing himself as the cream of the crop in the middleweight division despite being plagued by injuries and illness. The 29-year-old New Zealander had surged to the top of the division with a nine-fight win streak across five years, beating the likes of Yoel Romero and Ronaldo ‘Jacare’ Souza along the way, but his reign was brought to a shuddering halt last October when he made his first official defence of the belt and was stopped in the second round by Israel Adesanya.
Whittaker was soon pencilled in to face Jared Cannonier as he looked to earn himself a rematch with the man that dethroned him, but that bout was scrapped when Whittaker pulled out in order to donate bone marrow to his sick daughter and when it was rescheduled a few months later, he withdraw again citing burnout as the reason he would not share the Octagon with Cannonier.
Rested and refreshed Whittaker will now make his eagerly-awaited return to action on July 25, but can he come back with a bang or will Till inflict a second straight defeat on the former champion and confirm his status as a legitimate contender to Adesanya’s crown? Read on for our free predictions and tips for the UFC Fight Island 3 main event between Robert Whittaker and Darren Till…
Robert Whittaker v Darren Till UFC Fight Island 3 Predictions & Tips
This is an incredibly intriguing fight between two talented strikers that pack a punch. Whittaker is an excellent boxer who boasts fast hand speed and quick footwork that allows him to get in and out of the pocket quickly, landing his shots and then getting out of the danger zone. He’s not the most creative of strikers, but he is efficient with what he does and he does have the striking power that can rock an opponent if he lands the right punch at the right time.
Till, meanwhile, is more of a tactical counter-puncher who uses his excellent timing to catch opponents on their way in or out of the pocket. And if they get in too close, Till has a good Muay Thai clinch game that can tie up his opponent and force them to take some punishment. He also likes to fire kicks into an opponent’s body and that will be crucial here as he tries to slow down Whittaker. Just like Whittaker, Till also boasts stopping power but I have a feeling that this is something that will be cancelled out here.
In fact, I think both men will cancel out each other’s finishing power. This will be a tactical chess match that goes the distance and we have seen already in Till’s career that he is more than capable of winning this type of contest. However, he may bite off a little more than he can chew with that approach here. Whittaker’s boxing skills and his vast experience in high-level fights will give him the edge here as he fights smart, out-duels Till in the stand-up game, and gets the nod from the judges after a nip-and-tuck five-around affair. If there is a stoppage, it will come in the ‘championship rounds’.