Regardless of who you wanted to win tonight (Sat., Sept. 8, 2018) at UFC 228, there’s always a bit of spiteful joy to be found when the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) master plan falls apart.
Dana White and Co. clearly wanted Darren Till — the charismatic and violent Scouser — to become Welterweight champion. Audibly annoyed with champion Tyron Woodley’s tepid fights against Stephen Thompson and Demian Maia, it saw in Till an opportunity for a fresh young champion with a growing highlight reel and fan-friendly style.
My evidence? They made an interim title for Colby Covington vs. Rafael Dos Anjos, then immediately stripped Covington and shoved Till to the front of the line. UFC usually at least pretends that interim titles mean something. Instead, Woodley cracked Till with a counter right, carpet-bombed him with punches and elbows, and then locked up his first submission in nearly a decade.
What’s most interesting about this win is that in Woodley’s early prospect days in Strikeforce, he was actually known for his submissions, being considered a similar breed of wrestler/Brazilian jiu-jitsu specialist as Phil Davis. It was only when he got to UFC that he realized he had a tactical nuke in his right hand.
Even more interesting is how UFC is going to deal with the ongoing logjam at the top of the Welterweight ranks. Kamaru Usman and the aforementioned Covington seem tied for the top spot, while Santiago Ponzinibbio could make a strong claim with a win over Neil Magny later this year.
Look, it’s impossible to overstate how much UFC has done for this sport. It’s synonymous with mixed martial arts (MMA). But, after all the promotional shenanigans we’ve seen in what’s presented as a meritocratic organization, all the favoritism and hypocrisy, it’s a vicious sort of fun when all the schemes blow up in its face.
For complete UFC 228: “Woodley vs. Till” results, including play-by-play updates, click here.