UFC fight night 130 saw the organisation head to the city of Liverpool for the first time in its 25-year existence. A host of scouse UFC fighters has campaigned alongside the fans for many years for the event, which took place this past Sunday. Liverpool’s own Darren Till headlined the card after emerging as a star in the making. He faced American contender Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson in an eagerly anticipated clash of striking styles. The hometown favourite Till eked out a unanimous decision victory in what turned out to be a fight of narrow margins, tentatively contested, with both fighters showing a great deal of respect for the one another.
With Tills rise continuing he has now placed himself in a position to replace the retiring Michael Bisping as the face of UK MMA. Within his expletive-laden post-fight speech Till expressed a desire to defeat everyone in the division and refused to call for a title shot despite beating the welterweight division’s number one contender. We look at the welterweights who could well be next for Till.
A fight against Welterweight champion Tyron Woodley, seems the obvious matchup to make on paper. Till has defeated the divisions’ number one contender in Thompson who gave Woodley all he can handle over two fights, even earning a draw in their first matchup. Till has however been very vocal in the aftermath of this past weekend, that he does not deserve a shot at the champion and the fight will likely not go down anytime soon for multiple reasons. Firstly Woodley is out injured after undergoing shoulder surgery, with no timeline on his return it would be unlikely the UFC would want to halt the momentum of Till. Secondly, Till failed weight pretty badly, despite any excuse he may have the company never looks to kindly on these type of situations and will not want to book a championship fight for someone who failed the weight at his last attempt. Lastly in order to sell Till in a championship, PPV fight to the American audience he will need some type of showcase fight to allow the UFC to financially capitalise on this fight.
Rafael Dos Anjos/Colby Covington
With the champion, Tyron Woodley sidelined the UFC has continued the trend of introducing an increasing amount of interim belts. Former lightweight king Rafael Dos Anjos has looked phenomenal since moving up to Welterweight, putting together a 3-fight win streak. He will contest for the interim strap against Colby Covington who had his career best win in his last outing against Damien Maia. The timing of this fight lines up great to match the winner of this bout with Till, UFC 225 just around the corner. The issues outlined above are also apparent in this case, Till not pushing for a title shot and with the weight issue still appears we probably won’t see the winner of this fight face Till. The winner most likely more than happy to sit out and wait for the shot at Woodley rather than risk their position against a heavy hitter like Till.
Kamaru Usman and Darren Till have been going back and forth in exchanges that have the hardcore MMA fans chomping at the bit for this fight. Two up and coming fighters with contrasting styles looking to establish their place at the top of the division. The fight is destined to happen if both fighters maintain their rise, but most likely not next. With Dana White keen on a Vegas, fight for Till, he will most likely be looking for a name which carries more traction in the American market.
A name, which carries significant weight in the American market, is Robbie Lawler. The long-time UFC veteran and former Welterweight champion would be the perfect name should the UFC be looking to promote Till to the American audience. He has been involved in some of the best fights of the past few years and would surely provide Till with a stern test with his come forward aggressive striking style that promises a very fun fight. Unfortunately, he was injured during his last bout, a decision loss to Rafael Dos Anjos, an ACL meniscus tear has so far ruled him out of fighting in 2018. Could his comeback fight be possible this year? Let’s hope so!
Masvidal although not carrying the star power of Lawler could provide the fan-friendly striking matchup the UFC would want when introducing Till to the American market. A come forward striker, known for his trash talk who originally was a contender to face Till at UFC Liverpool, only to turn it down due to scheduling issues. One drawback to this fight would be the fact Masvidal is coming off back to back defeats, despite coming against top-level completion in Damien Maia and Stephen Thompson it would still take the shine of the potential matchup and perhaps turn fans off the fight.
Could we see a rematch between Till and Thompson? Both men in the aftermath of this past weekend have talked up a rematch. Speaking to MMA fighting Till expressed a willingness to run it back, and even travel to Wonderboys hometown to return the favour. The fight in Liverpool didn’t live up to expectations. A high level striking chess match took place that saw both men, for the most part, refuse to pull the trigger. Despite both fighters seeming keen on the rematch, it seems very unlikely the UFC matchmakers would be looking to book this fight again anytime soon.