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UFC Liverpool preview, predictions for ‘Thompson vs Till’ main card

MMA: UFC Fight Night-Gdansk-Cerrone vs Till Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is back on television this Sunday afternoon (May 27, 2018) with the UFC Fight Night 130 mixed martial arts (MMA) event on FOX Sports 1, which features a welterweight main event between Stephen Thompson and Darren Till, who battle for a spot in the 170-pound title chase.

Elsewhere on the card, held inside Echo Arena in Liverpool, England, welterweight veteran Neil Magny looks to win his second straight by taking on local product (and late replacement) Craig White, while Arnold Allen and Mads Burnell hook ‘em up in featherweight action.

Before we break down the UFC Liverpool main card, take a look at the “Prelims” preview and predictions — spread across FOX Sports 1 and UFC Fight Pass — here and here. Odds and betting lines for all the “Thompson vs. Till” action can be located here.

Let’s get to work.

170 lbs.: Stephen Thompson (14-2-1) vs. Darren Till (16-0-1)

Darren Till is a huge Welterweight, an excellent striker, and might actually explode should he become any fuller of confidence. What he isn’t is proven against elite Welterweights; Donald Cerrone is the only current member of the UFC roster he’s fought.

Compare that to Thompson, who arguably deserved a win over the current Welterweight champion, knocked out the current Middleweight champion, and dominated Bellator’s Welterweight champion. I’m not saying this won’t be competitive, just that Thompson is a whole different animal from the likes of Jessin Ayari and Bojan Velickovic.

Though Thompson doesn’t have quite the power or physical presence Till does, he’s every bit the sharpshooter, and I favor his lead leg over Till’s jab when it comes to setting the distance. Should Till try to crowd Thompson the way he did Cerrone, he’s got nasty counters waiting for him that even a “Light Heavyweight fighting at Welterweight” can’t safely absorb.

Till is a special talent, but he’s not ready for “Wonderboy.” Thompson frustrates and wears Till down with kicks, taking ever-greater control of the fight as it progresses and his experience in five-rounders comes into play.

Prediction: Thompson by unanimous decision

170 lbs.: Neil Magny (20-6) vs. Craig White (14-7)

Quick crash course on White: 6’2” Cage Warriors veteran on a four-fight winning streak. Never gone the distance in 21 fights. Nerd literally nicknamed “The Thundercat” whose Dragon Ball Z shorts probably aren’t up to Reebok standards. He’s here on short notice after Gunnar Nelson tore his meniscus.

Spoiler warning: he’s not going to do as well as Gunni would have.

White is as entertaining as his record would suggest, but Magny is infinitely more proven and, critically, a far better wrestler. His ground-and-pound is scarier than White’s submissions off of his back and his superior height and length make White’s decent punching power a non-factor.

White’s aggression may be his undoing, actually. Watching his most recent fight with Alex Montagnani, White failed to finish a deep triangle and gave up back control in favor of going for an arm triangle from guard. Overeagerness without the skill to consistently finish will just make it easier for Magny to move to a dominant position and pound away for the finish. “The Thundercat” may have Sight Beyond Sight, but not Fight Beyond Fight.

God, I’m sorry.

Prediction: Magny by second-round TKO

145 lbs.: Arnold Allen (12-1) vs. Mads Burnell (9-2)

First off, mad props to Mads Burnell for taking a short-notice fight against Michel Prazeres in his debut. It was pretty much the most nightmarish matchup available, and I’m glad he managed to get in the win column against Mike Santiago his next time out.

Kinda sucks that he’s about to get knocked right back out of it.

Allen has come a long, long way since pulling off a Hail Mary guillotine against Alan Omer in a fight he was losing. His wrestling looked excellent against both Yaotzin Meza and Makwan Amirkhani, and though his striking is still a work-in-progress, he’s at least savvy enough on the feet to handle a grappler like Burnell.

Burnell has some sick jiu-jitsu, but he’ll struggle to bring it to bear against “Almighty,” who’ll be the one dictating where the fight goes. A strong sprawl, solid punches, and enough top control to do damage without endangering himself carry Allen to a wide decision victory.

Prediction: Allen by unanimous decision

145 lbs.: Makwan Amirkhani (13-3) vs. Jason Knight (20-4)

This would have been a way more exciting matchup had it happened at the start of last year. Knight looked flat-out ineffective last December against Gabriel Benitez, who seemed like an easy out for him, and while Amirkhani turned in a decent performance in defeat against Arnold Allen, he’s been out for 14 months.

And there’s also Knight’s beating from Ricardo Lamas to consider.

Despite having the greater recent struggles, I’m still leaning towards Knight. Amirkhanis’ wrestle-heavy style and aggressive pursuit of submissions play right into “Hick Diaz’s” hands. We’ve seen Knight shut down quality wrestlers in Jim Alers and Chas Skelly, and unlike Benitez, Amirkhani doesn’t have the footwork and range management to frustrate Knight on fhte feet.

This is a winnable fight for Amirkhani if he fights more conservatively than ever before, but I’m just not sure he has it in him, especially when Knight’s going to be marching forward and throwing punches all night. Amirkhani overcommits to something and gets caught in a choke midway through the fight.

Prediction: Knight by second-round submission

170 lbs.: Claudio Silva (11-1) vs. Nordine Taleb (14-4)

After suffering a disqualification loss in his professional mixed martial arts (MMA) debut, Claudio Silva (11-1) worked his way to UFC with eight stoppages in his next nine fights, six of them in the first round. His UFC career has seen him out-grapple Brad Scott and take a contentious decision over Leon Edwards.

Thanks to multiple injuries, this will be the first fight for “Hannibal” since Nov. 2014.

Two unsuccessful runs on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) weren’t enough to dissuade Nordine Taleb (14-4), who has won three of his last four and fought Santiago Ponzinibbio to an extremely competitive decision in that lone loss. His latest win was arguably his biggest yet, a 59-second demolition of Danny Roberts that earned him “Performance of the Night.”

He stands two inches taller than Silva and will have three inches of reach.

One would think that UFC would give Taleb at least a fringe contender at this point, but instead he gets a gimme that will do nothing for his stock. Silva is one of the most one-dimensional grapplers in UFC, absolutely hopeless on the feet and not terribly adept with his takedowns. He barely beat an extremely green Edwards and was getting eaten up by Scott in their stand up exchanges.

Oh, and he’s been out for 2.5 years.

Taleb’s exponentially better than Silva on the feet and is more than capable of stuffing his takedowns all night long. He sprawls-and-brawls his way to a decisive victory, possibly securing a late stoppage.

Prediction: Taleb via unanimous decision

185 lbs.: Eric Spicely (10-3) vs. Darren Stewart (7-3)

Spicely’s had five UFC fights and hasn’t gone past the second round in any one of them. His longest fight in the Octagon, against Antônio “Shoeface,” lasted 8:49.

Even in defeat, he’s efficient.

This one probably isn’t going to last much longer than the others. While Stewart is tough as nails and packs a good punch, as demonstrated in his insane war with Julian Marquez, he’s just not quite UFC caliber. His wrestling isn’t good enough for him to utilize his strong top control and he’s not enough of a technician to survive off of his back.

The puncher’s chance is there, as always, but I’d wager the “get taken down and choked out” chance is a little bit more likely. Spicely exploits Stewart’s shoddy takedown defense, moves to the back, and locks up a rear naked choke for an early finish.

Prediction: Spicely by first-round submission

There you have it. will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 130 fight card on Sunday (click here), starting with the Fight Pass “Prelims” undercard bouts at 10:30 a.m. ET, followed by the FOX Sports 1 “Prelims” undercard bouts at 11 a.m. ET, before the main card start time at 1 p.m. ET, also on FOX Sports 1.

For much more on UFC Liverpool click here.

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