Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Welterweight contenders Stephen Thompson and Darren Till faced off last night (May 27, 2018) at UFC Fight Night 130 from inside Echo Arena in Liverpool, England.
Thompson entered the bout last night looking to build a win streak and continue to hold his position as the top-ranked contender in the world. The Welterweight division has been shaking up with Kamaru Usman’s recent win and the upcoming interim title fight, but “Wonderboy” had to remain in the win column to ensure he was ahead of the pack. Alternatively, Till was the young, dangerous upstart looking to jump the line and immediately move into title contention. In front of his home crowd, Till looked to turn in a second consecutive star-making performance.
The bout opened with lots of feints from both men and pressure from Till. Thompson stayed light on his feet, changing directions frequently and avoiding the fence. Much of the round featured more feints than exchanges, as both high-level strikers felt the other out. Both men mostly landed with low kicks, and “Wonderboy” was able to score with a couple of sudden punches forward.
The opening five minutes were fairly uneventful.
Till turned up the pressure in the second. Marching forward, Till chopped at his opponents legs with round kicks and stomps. He also adjusted to Thompson’s bursts, attempting to catch his opponent in the double-collar tie. Till was still unable to fully cut off the cage, but his jab did connect on the circling Karateka more often. Meanwhile, Thompson landed some side kicks, but he wasn’t able to do all that much to his advancing foe.
The scorecards were likely tied after two rounds.
Despite his slower second round, Thompson seemed to have found his range in the second. Previously, neither man connected on many clean power punches, but “Wonderboy” began to find a home for his counter cross repeatedly. Till’s response to getting punched in the face was to throw more punches, which generally created more counter striking opportunities for Thompson.
Till scored a big left hand near the bell, but otherwise found little success in the third.
Till opened the fourth with heavier pressure, kicking Thompson towards the fence and trying to find a home for his left hand. Instead, Thompson scored with counters. Still, Till’s left hand was scoring occasionally and generally getting closer to landing flush. After the initial fast start of the round, sadly, the pace slowed back down and reverted to something of a stalemate.
Till scored some nice jabs and a cross to end the round, but it was a very difficult round to score.
Neither fighter diverted from the game plan in the fifth. Just as the fight seemed to be destined to walk its way to a decision, Till scored with a couple sharp jabs and cracked Thompson with a follow up left. Thompson hit the mat briefly and jumped back up, returning to his own offense in an attempt to back Till off. It somewhat worked, as the two slowed back down until the end of the round.
Till clearly won the fifth round, seemingly leaving the decision riding on the uneventful fourth. Despite the apparent closeness of the fight, Till was awarded a wide decision win.
Personally, I scored the bout 3-2 in favor of the Liverpool-native, although I also feel that 3-2 Thompson is certainly reasonable. The 49-46 for either man strikes me as bizarre, but luckily I don’t have to try to analyze judges.
Instead, let’s talk about the most effective weapon from either man: Darren Till’s jab. It may not have been the most powerful shot of the fight, but Till’s jab found Thompson’s chin more than any other punch. Early on, Till was too focused simply on landing the left, and he frequently came up short as a result. Once Till adjusted and began popping Thompson with the jab whenever in range, he found more success.
“Wonderboy” had to circle away from the left, so the jab was very effective.
In Thompson’s case, his counter crosses are usually his best weapon, and that held true last night. Whenever he did convince Till to over-commit, he stung him with a hard cross on the jaw. Till has some weight on Thompson and a big ol’ head, and both helped him a lot, as those counter crosses would’ve dropped a lot of fighters.
This being a controversial decision makes the consequences interesting for both men. A rematch in the future is possible, but the slower pace as a result of matching up counter strikers is not ideal. Instead, Till will likely receive a title eliminator next — Kamaru Usman? — and “Wonderboy” will remain a Top 5 staple still in range for a shot whenever Woodley loses the crown.
Last night, Darren Till scored a narrow victory in his home town. Who will the knockout artist face next?
For complete UFC Fight Night 130: “Thompson Vs. Till” results and play-by-play, click HERE!