YAS ISLAND – The UFC returns with their final event on Yas Island this Saturday in a giant 15 fight card. In the main event former Middleweight Champion Robert “The Reaper” Whittaker takes on the rising Middleweight contender in Darren “the gorilla” Till.
This is a big step up in competition for Till as his second fight in the Middleweight division since moving up from Welterweight. But most importantly, a terrible matchup for him stylistically.
The former champion in Whittaker is an aggressive striker who has very good takedown defense and wrestling offense as well. He is able to stalk opponents and land big shots on them as they back towards the cage.
As Joe Rogan always says, “styles make matchups” and for this reason, it might be a long night for Till.
What We Have Seen Before
We have seen Till against an aggressive striker with good wrestling in Jorge Masvidal just two fights ago. Masvidal was able to set up Till with the overhand right almost any time he changed levels feinting a takedown.
We have also seen Robert Whittaker against a counter-striker in his fight with Uriah Hall. Whittaker was able to stalk Hall down and piece him up or take him down whenever he needed to do so.
The factors to watch out for in this fight, however, are Whittaker’s return after some time off from not only fighting but taking a hiatus from training as well, Whittaker’s chin after being knocked out by current Middleweight Champion Israel Adesanya, and how much Darren Till has improved coming into his second fight at 185.
Paths to Victory
The path to victory for Till is to land the leg kicks keeping Whittaker at distance and capitalizing on his openings, he leads with his head forward in an aggressive style. Footwork is going to be key in this fight for Till to avoid the cage. The threat of a takedown has proven to be “the Gorilla’s” biggest weakness in the octagon thus far as his constant awareness and overreaction to seeming takedown attempts, leaves him wide open for big shots over the top. Till needs to stay defensive and punish Whittaker for any attempt at getting inside. If he does all of this well, he can win this fight by the decision as I don’t see him knocking out the former champion.
Whittaker’s path to victory is exactly what he did to Hall and exactly what Masvidal did to Till. He needs to walk down the contender and force reactions. Till being the defensive counter-striker that he is, makes him react heavily to good feints. Whittaker needs to establish the takedown threat early by getting Till on his back, using his feints to set up his opponent, and coming over the top with big strikes. If Whittaker is able to do all of this, he can easily win this fight by finish in the later rounds.
If you ask me who to take, I would lean towards Whittaker because of all the reasons above and despite all of the factors. “The Reaper” took the time off to find his love for training again and he seems like he truly has done that. His chin has taken bombs from Romero and finally caved against Adesanya, but I don’t think that will mean his chin is suspect coming into this fight. He has had enough time to recover from those wars with Romero and the KO loss to the champion to not be chinny in this upcoming fight.