The 12 months have been admittedly tough for Darren Till, inside and outside of the octagon. Having lost both of his last 2 fights in difficult circumstances, and his arrest in Tenerife after trashing a hotel room, it appears as if Till has fallen off track from his goal of capturing UFC gold.
What can explain his last two losses? Perhaps a lack of respect of both Woodley and Masvidal’s stand up skills. In his fight against Woodley, the big shot he took came in the form of a right hand counter as he attempted to throw an uppercut down the middle followed by his trademark left hand. Woodley’s boxing appeared to be severely underestimated by Till – very few people would have attempted that combination against a man known for lighting quick counter punching and ability to close distance so effectively.
In his fight against Jorge Masvidal, Till was again caught off guard, this time nailed with a beautiful one-two. In a sense, Till’s unwavering confidence in his own ability at times can be his biggest downfall. It feels as if sometimes his focus on his own striking prowess can allow unexpected openings for his opponents. The reason this point is made is because when Till respects the striking (as he did in the Wonderboy fight) he can clearly throw down with the best in the world. As for his grappling ability, he has shown his ability to defend the takedown, and his jiu-jitsu will continue to improve with more time on the mats.
If Till’s technical game is not the issue, then perhaps Darren’s personal life has played a factor in those past two losses. He admitted to the BBC earlier this year that he had felt as if he had ‘lost himself’ over the past year and had not been ‘fully focused to [his] craft’.
Till’s weight cut has also been questioned as a crucial factor into these losses. After he missed weight against Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson it was all anyone could talk about, which would have been incredibly frustrating. Since then, he has seemingly made weight comfortably on both occasions but he always looks incredibly drained, and a move up to middleweight would seem a smart choice.
He only needs to look in the direction of Rumble Johnson and Anthony Smith as examples of fighters whose careers took off as soon as they moved up to their more natural weight. In addition to this, the matchups at middleweight are far more favourable than at welterweight for Till. If he stays in his current division, he would have to defeat grapplers such as Askren, Covington, Usman, Woodley and Dos Anjos. In the middleweight division, besides Yoel Romero, you would assume the fights are far more likely to be striking encounters.
In addition to this, Till is already massive at 170- he certainly wouldn’t be a small middleweight since he said himself he walks around at 200 lbs if he’s not preparing for a fight. Irregardless of weight, however, his path to gold in that division appears far more manageable.
The UK needs an elite star, and Till is the man to undertake this responsibility. After the recent retirement of Jimi Manuwa, and Michael Bisping’s exit from the fight game in 2017, it is more important than ever that Till is able to represent his country and fight at the top level.