Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Welterweight strikers Stephen Thompson and Darren Till will clash TODAY (Sun, May 27, 2018) at UFC Fight Night 130 inside Echo Arena in Liverpool, England.
A pair of absurdly close contests with Tyron Woodley left Thompson without a title while still being perhaps the best in the world. He’ll have a rough time earning a trilogy match with Woodley, but a new champion could emerge at any point, which means “Wonderboy” better stay winning and stay ready. Meanwhile, Till rose from undercard scrapper to main event knockout artist last October, announcing himself to the world with an unceremonious massacre of Donald Cerrone. One big win does not make a title contender, but a main event victory opposite the division’s best striker? Now we’re talking.
Let’s take a look at the keys to victory for each athlete:
Key Wins: Rory MacDonald (UFC Fight Night 89), Johny Hendricks (UFC Fight Night 82), Jorge Masvidal (UFC 217), Robert Whittaker (UFC 178)
Key Losses: Tyron Woodley (UFC 211), Matt Brown (UFC 145)
Keys to Victory: Thompson is one of karate’s best representatives in the sport. He moves extremely well, confounding opponents by leaping into strong angles to counter or burst from. He also has some of the trickiest kicks in the business, which have helped him score his seven knockout wins.
Opposite Till, Thompson faces an excellent striker, but this is hardly the first time. Thompson confounded legitimately-skilled mixed martial arts (MMA) kickboxers like MacDonald, Masvidal, Whittaker without issue, showing that his style is a cut above the usual karate-guy-turned-MMA-fighter.
In this match, Thompson wants to avoid the pocket unless he enters it to counter. To keep Till at bay, his favored side kick will be great weapon. Plus, Till tends to carry his hands low, meaning a tricky spin or hook hook has a fair chance of catching the chin.
As Till attempts to pressure, Thompson will have moments to counter. To avoid a boring fight and continue his push towards the title, Thompson must take advantage of such moments, but it’s important that he finishes his counters on a safe escape route.
Key Wins: Donald Cerrone (UFC Fight Night 118), Bojan Velickovic (UFC Fight Night 115), Jessin Ayari (UFC Fight Night 109), Wendell de Oliveira (UFC Fight Night 67)
Key Losses: None
Keys to Victory: Till is a violent man. He has a ton of kickboxing and Muay Thai experience, but in the cage, Till stands in more of a karate stance and looks to pressure his foe with crisp punches hidden behind great feints. The Englishman has 10 knockout wins on his record.
Till wants this bout to take place in the pocket, ideally with Thompson’s back on the fence. Of the two men, Thompson is certainly trickier, but Till has better fundamental boxing and tighter, heavier punches.
Cutting off the cage will be important for Till, and his left kick will be a valuable weapon in doing so. However, Till also needs to walk into the cage with a plan for when Thompson circles toward his lead hand — Till has a decent jab but little else. Whether he commits more often to the right hook or switch kick, Till needs to stop “Wonderboy” from freely circling away from his power.
Lastly, Till should be chopping at the lead leg whenever possible. Neither man is great at checking kicks, but Till’s stance is better for actually throwing low kicks, and that could be just the tool Till requires to slow Thompson down.
Bottom Line: The winner is close to a title shot.
As mentioned, Thompson really needs Woodley to lose. Whoever wins the upcoming interim title match between Rafael dos Anjos vs. Colby Covington is a definite test for “T-Wood,” so Thompson simply has to keep winning until another contender knocks Woodley off the top.
“Wonderboy” is in a difficult position with little to gain and everything to lose.
Meanwhile, Till’s star-making performance opposite Cerrone was a huge step in the right direction, and UFC has given him a great platform to try and leapfrog other contenders. Liverpool will go absolutely insane for its native son if he’s able to knockout Thompson, and an arena full of people demanding Till a title shot would be hard to deny. The current UFC higher ups have made it clear they don’t give a damn about divisional state of affairs if the money is right, and this is Till’s moment to prove he’s part of that special group deserving of special circumstances.
Of course, for any of that to even have a chance at happening, Till has to win big this afternoon.
Today at UFC Fight Night 130, Stephen Thompson and Darren Till will duel in the main event. Which fighter will remain standing when the dust settles?