I don’t want to write an article dissing Darren Till.
I like “The Gorilla.” He’s an entertaining follow on social media, and it’s not like Till is without talent. Mediocre fighters don’t knock down Stephen Thompson. They don’t earn title shots or take Robert Whittaker to a split decision. They certainly do not begin their professional fight careers with 18-fight unbeaten streaks.
It’s just hard not to be demoralized by Till’s last two performances. Again, I hold losing a close one to Whittaker in high regard — Till did better than top-ranked contenders like Jared Cannonier and Marvin Vettori. These last two fights, however, have really revealed weakness in Till’s game that were only theorized.
First and foremost, Till’s technical wrestling defense is just ... bad. I was hesitant to admit it after the Derek Brunson loss. Till was injured and in poor physical form, and Brunson is a darn good wrestler. Excuses, sure, but excuses are legitimate in mixed martial arts (MMA). Bad performances happen, and Till’s takedown defense at 170 pounds was consistently very good.
Unfortunately, it really seems like size can be credited. Dricus du Plessis is not Brunson. Most of his shots were pretty awful last night. Nevertheless, every single one managed to topple Till, who just routinely made bad decisions. Till continuously tried to score reversals, attempting switches and butterfly elevations rather than just f—king sprawl and jam du Plessis’ head toward the canvas.
What’s the point of the Khamzat camaraderie if this is the outcome?
Secondly, Till has long been accused of being a one-note striker. I don’t know if it’s quite that dramatic: Till does have more than just his left cross. However, almost all of his offense comes from that left side. Left cross, left hook, left elbow — that’s mostly it. Till feints with his lead side, but it hasn’t actually done anything that interesting since he side kicked Thompson’s knee and tore some ligaments.
Du Plessis gave Till so many opportunities. He blew his wad punching the bejeezus out of Till’s gloves (and occasionally face) in the first round, impressing the referee more than doing fight-ending damage. When Till finally fought hands — why did it take Till four minutes to address wrist control, a fundamental aspect of wrestling control? — and broke away, du Plessis was exhausted.
Till landed some good shots. He scored a couple cool trips, a trademark technique of the English striker. Then, in the second and third round, Till seemed to run out of ideas. He managed to land some decent shots, but many times, du Plessis would just raise his right elbow high and trust that whatever left cross/elbow/hook that came his way would at least be partially blocked.
It frustrated Till to no end. He would feint wildly, draw a reaction out of du Plessis, and then ... not know what to do when du Plessis raised the guard on his right side. Till didn’t even have to divert away from the left side, he could’ve just punched the mid-section instead!
I want to say Till is more talented than he showed last night, but perhaps it’s more accurate to say that he was. He cannot make Welterweight in healthy fashion, nor can Till handle the physicality of men like du Plessis. As Till walks away from another fight potentially with another knee injury, it’s really hard to see how “The Gorilla” rebounds from this in a meaningful way.
For complete UFC 282: “Ankalaev vs. Blachowicz” results and play-by-play, click HERE.