Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Middleweight veterans Derek Brunson and Darren Till will collide TONIGHT (Sat., Sept. 4, 2021) at UFC Vegas 36 inside UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Has Brunson turned over a new leaf? He’s been fighting the top-tier of Middleweight competition for the better part of ten years now, and his strengths of physical takedowns and a huge left hand remain the same. However, he seems to be applying his skills with a bit more Fight IQ, which has resulted in a four-fight win streak. Here’s a somewhat shocking fact: Till only holds six wins inside the Octagon after six years on the roster. Of course, at least a couple of those victories came opposite elite contenders, but that detail goes a long way in illustrating how the Englishman could really use a big victory here to keep him in the mix.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
Key Wins: Kevin Holland (UFC Vegas 22), Edmen Shahbazyen (UFC Vegas 5), Lyoto Machida (UFC Fight Night 119), Uriah Hall (UFC Fight Night 94), Ian Heinisch (UFC 241), Lorenz Larkin (UFC 177)
Key Losses: Robert Whittaker (UFC Fight Night 101), Israel Adesanya (UFC 230), Yoel Romero (UFC Fight Night 35), Ronaldo Souza (UFC on FOX 27, Strikeforce: “Rousey vs Kaufman”)
Keys to Victory: Brunson keeps it pretty simply in the cage. On the feet, Brunson works at distance with his long kicks before suddenly crashing forward with the left, usually using that strike to enter into wrestling exchanges. Once he’s locked horns with his foe, Brunson’s strength and size often become a major factor.
I’d really like to see Brunson test Till’s clinch game and wrestling right out of the gate. At 170 pounds, Till was largely impossible to drag to the mat — that’s the benefit of killing one’s self to make weight! At Middleweight, he hasn’t spent much time on his back, but still, a pair of mostly strikers in Robert Whittaker and Kelvin Gastelum were able to ground him. Brunson may find the takedown easier than expected, and his top game is a different level of heavy.
If the takedown doesn’t come easily, Brunson has to be really aware of his body position. Till excels at intercepting opponents as they crash forward, and Brunson is notorious for his face-first assaults. It’s absolutely essential for the wrestler that he attacks without overcommitting, lest he run into a devastating shot that ends things early.
Over time, consistent kickboxing and attempts at the takedown can drag momentum to Brunson’s corner even if he has trouble finishing the shot early ... so long as he doesn’t get knocked out.
Key Wins: Kelvin Gastelum (UFC 244), Stephen Thompson (UFC Fight Night 130), Donald Cerrone (UFC Fight Night 118), Bojan Velickovic (UFC Fight Night 115)
Key Losses: Tyron Woodley (UFC 228), Robert Whittaker (UFC on ESPN 14), Jorge Masvidal (UFC Fight Night 147)
Keys to Victory: Till is very much a sniper. Whether attacking from the front foot or countering his opponent’s barrage, Till is not often looking to overwhelm his foe with volume. Instead, he places his left hand with great accuracy, and it’s all the more effective as a result.
It is essential that Till wins the range battle definitively. Brunson actually does a fairly nice job at distance with his long left kicks and poking punches, drawing opponents into slow-paced exchanges before suddenly turning up the intensity. Given Till’s low volume style, there is a distinct risk that Brunson keeps it close enough on the feet that even brief periods of control can cost the English athlete rounds on the scorecards.
That’s no good.
As this is a match up of Southpaw vs. Southpaw, the striking game changes a bit. The range battle will be decided by the jab and low kick — Till must win both. If he’s pecking at Brunson and kicking his lead leg out of position, it increases the odds of Brunson diving for crappy takedowns or running straight into the counter left hand with his chin high.
One man enters the title mix, one is left on the outside looking in.
Brunson has a chance to make it five victories in a row, which is pretty significant given the relative lack of win streaks among his fellow 185-pound contenders. Till has name value, and a third straight main event victory would be hard to deny. It doesn’t necessarily guarantee a title shot, but at the very least, a title eliminator would be secured.
At 37 years of age, however, this may be his final chance at a title run.
Till is in an odd situation, not dissimilar to Kelvin Gastelum a couple weeks ago. If he wins, he’s close a to a title shot — Israel Adesanya wants to fight him! A No. 1 contender eliminator match up next vs. someone like Jared Cannonier would make sense.
If he loses, though? All of a sudden, it becomes very noticeable that Till’s only win in three years and five fights would be the aforementioned struggling Gastelum. Marketability and talent aside, that’s not enough to keep Till atop fight cards in important match ups.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 36 fight card right here, starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance on ESPN+ at 4 p.m. ET.
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At UFC Vegas 36, Derek Brunson and Darren Till will go to war in the main event. Which man takes a step closer to the title?