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UFC Vegas 36 preview, ‘Brunson vs Till’ predictions

UFC Fight Night: Brunson v Shahbazyan Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Longtime Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) middleweight contender Derek Brunson will look to win his fifth straight and add his name to a very short list of qualified title contenders at the expense of former welterweight “Gorilla,” Darren Till, in the upcoming UFC Vegas 36 main event, taking place this Sat. night (Sept. 4) on ESPN+ from inside the promotion’s APEX facility in Las Vegas, Nevada.

LIVE! Stream UFC Vegas 79 On ESPN+

HIGH STAKES LIGHTWEIGHT MATCHUP! Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returns to UFC APEX on Sat., Sept. 23, 2023, with a high stakes 155-pound showdown as No. 6-ranked contender, Rafael Fiziev, takes on No. 7-seeded Mateusz Gamrot. In UFC Vegas 79’s co-main event, No. 12-ranked Featherweight contender, Bryce Mitchell, steps back into the Octagon against No. 13-seeded Dan Ige.

Don’t miss a single second of face-punching action!

Before we dive into the main and co-main events, head over to the UFC Vegas 36 preliminary card breakdown expertly deconstructed by effervescent analyst Patrick Stumberg here and here. Resident MMA champ Andrew Richardson did most of the heavy lifting for the rest of the UFC Vegas 36 main card right here.

For the latest “Brunson vs. Till” odds and betting lines be sure to check out the updated numbers right here.

Let’s break it down ...

185 lbs.: Derek Brunson vs. Darren Till

Derek Brunson

Record: 22-7 | Age: 37 | Betting line: +150
Wins: 12 KO/TKO, 3 SUB, 7 DEC | Losses: 5 KO/TKO, 0 SUB, 2 DEC
Height: 6’1“ | Reach: 77” | Stance: Southpaw
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 3.46 | Striking accuracy: 47%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 2.72 | Striking Defense: 53%
Takedown Average: 3.11 (33% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 94%
Current Ranking: No. 5 | Last fight: Unanimous decision victory over Kevin Holland

Darren Till

Record: 18-3-1 | Age: 28 | Betting line: -175
Wins: 10 KO/TKO, 2 SUB, 6 DEC | Losses: 1 KO/TKO, 1 SUB, 1 DEC
Height: 6’0“ | Reach: 74” | Stance: Southpaw
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 2.27 | Striking accuracy: 46%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 2.99 | Striking Defense: 58%
Takedown Average: 0.54 (41% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 82%
Current Ranking: No. 7 | Last fight: Unanimous decision loss to Robert Whittaker

It’s been a long and somewhat bumpy road for Derek Brunson, who migrated to UFC after the fall of Strikeforce back in late 2012. The three-time Division II All-American wrestler looked electric right out of the gate, racking up seven wins in his first eight fights, but knockout losses to the cream of the crop — like Robert Whittaker and Israel Adesanya — left him keeping the gate for the second half of his MMA career. His resurgence came in the wake of his “Stylebender” defeat, to the tune of four straight victories over younger and in many ways more dynamic competition. Probably because Brunson went back to his wrestling roots and compiled 16 takedowns during that winning streak. Prior to that? Only two takedowns across a span of 10 fights, so it’s pretty clear what Brunson needs to do in order to be successful.

Darren Till has quickly become one of the most celebrated fighters at 185 pounds, thanks to his zany personality and world-class meme game. He’s also a gifted fighter with some pop in his left hand, though I’m not sure we’ve seen much growth from him inside the cage. Robert Whittaker shut him down across five rounds of action and “The Gorilla” barely squeaked past the free-falling Kelvin Gastelum at UFC 244. Prior to that, the Liverpool native was finished in his final two fights at welterweight. If you want to make a case for Till as a legitimate title contender, I’m gonna need to see more than a 25-minute snoozer over the 38 year-old Stephen Thompson. And I’m not getting excited about a first-round finish over Donald Cerrone, who’s absorbed more shots than Michael Bisping’s liver.

Brunson does not have a reliable chin and even with his reach advantage, he’s probably going to get knocked out if he spends too much time dicking around on his feet. And why bother? Till has been taken down in his last three fights. Even Cerrone and Nicholas Dalby have been able to drag “The Gorilla” to the floor and Brunson is a far superior wrestler. I know it would be a lot more fun to have Till make a statement and ramp up his trash talk with Adesanya, but Brunson looks to have embraced his role as spoiler — by embracing his role as wrestler — and will probably mug-and-slug his way to a decision. Remember, winning ugly is still winning.

Prediction: Brunson def. Till by unanimous decision

265 lbs.: Tom Aspinall vs. Serghei Spivac

Tom Aspinall

Record: 10-2 | Age: 28 | Betting line: -250
Wins: 8 KO/TKO, 2 SUB, 0 DEC | Losses: 0 KO/TKO, 1 SUB, 0 DEC, 1 DQ
Height: 6’5“ | Reach: 78” | Stance: Orthodox
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 7.43 | Striking accuracy: 66%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 3.06 | Striking Defense: 65%
Takedown Average: 3.54 (100% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 0%
Current Ranking: No. 13 | Last fight: Submission win over Andrei Arlovski

Serghei “The Polar Bear” Spivac

Record: 13-2 | Age: 26 | Betting line: +200
Wins: 5 KO/TKO, 6 SUB, 2 DEC | Losses: 1 KO/TKO, 0 SUB, 1 DEC
Height: 6’3“ | Reach: 78” | Stance: Orthodox
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 3.85 | Striking accuracy: 50%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 3.10 | Striking Defense: 56%
Takedown Average: 2.83 (63% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 70%
Current Ranking: No. 14 | Last fight: Unanimous decision win over Alexey Oleynik

I didn’t pay much attention to Tom Aspinall when he migrated from the overseas circuit, where the English brute racked up a bunch of wins for BAMMA and Cage Warriors. Probably because the UFC heavyweight division has been something of an afterthought for the last couple of years and once you get outside the Top 5 the competition is kinda “meh.” Anyone breaking out the party hats for Shamil Abdurakhimov? But it’s time to give Aspinall a closer look after his submission victory over Andrei Arlovski, just the second time “The Pitbull” has been submitted in over 50 professional fights. In fact, the Manchester native has scored finishes in all 10 of his wins and hasn’t lost since a Jones-esque elbow DQ back in early 2016. I also like that Aspinall is a true heavyweight at 6’5” and not another fat light heavyweight too lazy to choose the right lane.

In Serghei Spivac, Aspinall faces another young, dynamic heavyweight with a bright future. “The Polar Bear” iced Alexey Oleynik his last time out, which probably isn’t anything to brag about when you consider the rapid decline of the Russian “Boa Constrictor,” but it takes nothing away from the Moldovan’s three-fight winning streak. Working against him is the fact that he’s been popped and dropped by the likes of Walt Harris, and also came up empty in a decision loss to the suddenly-relevant Marcin Tybura. The good news is that Spivac, still just 26, has not yet reached his fighting prime and already found a place in the heavyweight rankings, sitting one spot below Aspinall at No. 14. I know the current trend is to shit on the official rankings committee, but both Aspinall and Spivac are where they should be, at least in terms of 265-pound competition.

To date, Aspinall has performed better inside the cage, though you can argue that Spivac has faced much tougher competition. Prior to subbing Arlovski, Aspinall defeated Alan Badou and Jake Collier. Badou is 0-2 for UFC while Collier is 4-5. Spivac, meanwhile, is the last fighter to beat the streaking Tai Tuivasa. I don’t know if that’s enough to pick Spivac when you compare their respective skill sets, I just think this fight may be closer than the 2-to-1 odds suggest. Aspinall is a top-shelf grappler with brutal ground-and-pound, leaving Spivac with little room for error. With that in mind, my memory of “The Polar Bear” getting taken down by Tybura does not leave me feeling optimistic about his chances against Aspinall.

Prediction: Aspinall def. Spivac by technical knockout

Remember, the rest of the UFC Vegas 36 main card predictions are RIGHT HERE. will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 36 fight card RIGHT HERE, starting with the ESPN+ preliminary card bouts at 1:30 p.m. ET, followed by the ESPN+ main card start time at 4 p.m. ET.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC Vegas 36 news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archives here. For the updated and finalized “Brunson vs. Till” fight card and ESPN+ lineup click here.

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