Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Welterweights Stephen Thompson and Darren Till meet at TODAY (Sun, May 27, 2018) at the UFC Fight Night 130 at the Echo Arena in Liverpool, England.
A few absurdly close competitions with Tyron Woodley left Thompson without a title, while he was still perhaps the best in the world. He will have a hard time winning a trilogy match with Woodley, but at any point in time, a new champion could emerge, meaning that "Wonderboy" can stay and stay better. In the meantime, Till rose from Undercard Scrapper to Main Event Knockout Artist in October and announced himself to the world with an uncensored massacre of Donald Cerrone. A big win does not make a title contender, but a main event victory against the best striker in the division? Now we talk.
Let's take a look at the keys to victory for each athlete:
Record : 14-2
Key Winning : Rory MacDonald (UFC Fight Night 89), Johnny Hendricks (UFC Fight Night 82), Jorge Masvidal (UFC 217), Robert Whittaker (UFC 178)
Key Losses: Tyron Woodley (UFC 211), Matt Brown (UFC 145)
Key to victory : Thompson is one of the best representatives of karate in sport. He moves very well and confuses the opponents by jumping into strong angles to counter or break out. He also has some of the toughest kicks in the business that have helped him make his seven knockout wins.
Compared to Till, Thompson faces an excellent striker, but this is not the first time. Thompson legitimately confused mixed martial arts (MMA) kickboxers like MacDonald, Masvidal, and Whittaker, showing that his style was a cut above the usual karate-type MMA fighter.
In this match, Thompson wants to avoid the bag unless he gives it to counter. To keep Till at bay, his favored side thrust will be a great weapon. In addition, Till tends to keep his hands down, which means that a tricky rotary or hooked hook has a fair chance of catching the chin.
While Till tries to exert pressure, Thompson will have moments he can fight against. In order to avoid a boring fight and continue his pressure on the title, Thompson must exploit such moments, but it is important that he completes his pieces on a safe escape route.
Key Wins: Donald Cerrone (UFC Fight Night 118), Bojan Velickovic (UFC Fight Night 115), Jessin Ayari (UFC Fight Night 109) , Wendell de Oliveira (UFC Fight Night 67)
Key Losses: None
Key to Victory: Till is a violent man. He has a lot of kickboxing and Muay Thai experience, but in the cage, Till is more in a karate stance and looks like he's hitting his opponent with hefty punches hidden behind big feint. The Englishman has 10 KO gains on his record.
Till wants this fight to take place in his pocket, ideally with Thompson's back at the fence. Of the two men Thompson is certainly a bit trickier, but Till has a better basic boxing and harder punches.
Slicing the cage will be important to Till, and his left kick will be a valuable weapon. Till also has to go into the cage with a plan when Thompson circles around his main hand – Till has a decent jab, but little else. Whether he kicks to the right hook or kick more often, Till has to keep Wonderboy from straying away from his power.
After all, if possible, Till should hack the leading leg. Neither man is good at checking kicks, but Till's attitude is better when you take deep kicks, and that could only be the tool Till needs to slow down Thompson.
Bottom Line: The winner is close to a title shot
As I said, Thompson really needs Woodley to lose. Whoever wins the interim title match between Rafael dos Anjos and Colby Covington is a clear test for "T-Wood," so Thompson just has to keep winning until another challenger bumps Woodley off the top.
"Wonderboy" is in a difficult position with little to gain and everything to lose.
In the meantime, Tills star performance against Cerrone was a big step in the right direction, and UFC has given him a great platform to outperform other rivals. Liverpool is going crazy for his son when he can knock Thompson off, and an arena full of people who ask Till for a title fight would be hard to deny. The current UFC supervisors have made it clear that they do not care about the division of things when the money is right, and that's Till's moment to prove he's part of that particular group that deserves special circumstances.
Of course, to have any chance, Till must win big this afternoon.
The day at the UFC Fight Night 130 will feature Stephen Thompson and Darren Till at the Main Event. Which fighter will stop when the dust settles?