Undefeated Muay Thai fighter, Darren Till, will square off opposite longtime veteran, Donald Cerrone, this Saturday (Oct. 21, 2017) at UFC Fight Night 118 inside Ergo Arena in Gdansk, Poland.
Don’t know who Darren Till is? Apparently, neither does Donald Cerrone. Luckily for both you and “Cowboy,” this article should provide a bit of info on the upcoming main event athlete. Undefeated as a professional and 3-0-1 inside the Octagon — the draw came from Till injuring his shoulder and losing a third round badly — Till has been asking for a step up. The UFC has granted the 24 year old Englishman’s wish, and now we’ll see if he’s up for the task.
Let’s take a closer look at his skill set:
Prior this MMA career, Till was an amateur and professional Muay Thai fighter in England as a teenager. At one point, he was also a K-1 European champion in kickboxing. In short, Till is a lanky Southpaw and Muay Thai specialist, and he pretty much fights like one would expect.
The most obvious thing about Till’s fights are his excellent distance management. Early on, Till will advance with his hands high, mostly focused on getting a read. He’ll feint, shoot out some kicks, and even punch a bit, but he’ll commonly back away from exchanges until he has a solid grasp on his opponent’s approach and style.
Once Till is comfortable, he’ll begin playing with that distance. For example, Till commonly leans his head forward, which gives his opponents the impression that Till is within punching distance. When they find out he isn’t, a quick pull back and left cross down the middle is often there to great his advancing foe. Between long kicks and that step back cross, Till routinely traps his opponent on the outside and leaves him hesitant to push forward.
It’s Till’s best strategy, and the one that has knocked down most of his UFC foes.
Additionally, Till does a great job of using feints to close the distance. The best example builds from his use of the classic Southpaw double threat: the left hand and left kick. Till’s cross is crisp and his kicks heavy, so both strikes must be respected.
While the two strikes play off each other brilliantly, Till takes it further than that. Aside from simply feinting one to set up the other, Till will feint his left hand or kick in order to take a small step towards his opponent. Suddenly, that extra few inches that caused his opponent to miss is now erased, while Till has a clear path to punch a foe potentially frozen from a feint.
The most unique part of Till’s offense recently has been an extra focus on elbows. Till doesn’t just attack with elbows in the clinch, he throws them with great effect from the boxing range. His setups are pretty interesting, and worthy of this week’s technique highlight.
Finally, Till largely dominated his last bout opposite Bojan Velickovic, but “Serbian Steel” did find a bit of success with low kicks. By getting Till to pull back from the threat of punches, Velickovic was able to punt his lead leg while Till leaned away and was unable to defend. It wasn’t all that notable in that fight, but it could be an issue opposite Cerrone.
A striker is only as good as his takedown defense, and thankfully Till has found complete success in remaining upright in the Octagon. Dalby did manage to take him down twice in the third round of their fight, but considering he was rocked and with a dislocated shoulder, that’s more of an outlier than anything else.
For the most part, Till’s range control, footwork, and sound defensive wrestling have been more than enough.
Offensively, Till has looked for his own takedowns a couple of times. Opposite Wendell Oliveira, for example, Till showed how great striking defense and wrestling tie in together. Oliveira was swinging wildly and trying to catch the taller man with a looping shot, so Till adjusted by remaining planted and looking to slip. He repeatedly caught Oliveira with underhooks and ultimately took top position when Oliveira attempted desperate throws.
In a more proactive example, Till used an overhook and hand control opposite Jessin Ayari to show his Muay Thai experience. He waited for Ayari to throw a knee and then easily swept the remaining foot, taking top position without expending a bit of energy (GIF).
Lastly, Till’s violent elbows opposite Oliveira deserve a mention. His debut is also his only knockout win inside UFC, but it came with style. From half guard, Till allowed his opponent to control his wrist and used that opportunity to fold over an elbow directly into the chin. It landed perfectly, and a follow up elbow or two sealed the deal (GIF).
It’s hard to get a full read on Till’s game. In UFC, he’s only been put on his back by Dalby in the aforementioned third round when he was more focused on surviving than anything else. On the regional scene, he showed a willingness to hunt for submissions from his back, but he was also fighting pretty mediocre competition at the time. Toe hold and inverted triangle submission wins are certainly cool, but it’s hard to tell much from them until he actually grapples with top competition.
Till has a lot of great signs for a prospect. He’s a dangerous and skilled kickboxer, large for the division, and clearly a natural athlete. A lot of up-and-coming Welterweights are currently looking for opportunities like the one Till has received, and it’s up to him to make the most of it or fall to the back of that line.
Andrew Richardson, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu purple belt, is an amateur champion who trains at Team Alpha Male in Sacramento, California. In addition to learning alongside world-class talent, Andrew has scouted opponents and developed winning strategies for several of the sport's most elite fighters.