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The UFC welterweight belt is up for grabs as defending champion, Tyron Woodley, takes on brazen British striker, Darren Till. Both fighters would tell you that they’re the best welterweight in the world right now, but only one of them can be correct.
Only a year ago, Darren Till was fighting on the prelim card for UFC Fight Night 115 in Rotterdam, Holland. Decisively defeating the hard-nosed Bojan Veličković on that night, as well as two elite opponents in Donald Cerrone and Stephen Thompson subsequently, the outspoken Till has been handed a title shot.
With a huge personality and a fan-friendly Muay Thai style, it’s easy to see why the UFC want Till to claim the spotlight - especially given that Tyron Woodley hasn’t set the world alight in his championship performances.
Fighting out of the southpaw stance, Till’s left hand is like a homing missile. However, he’s not merely a headhunter. The Liverpool native has excellent footwork, throws feints to confuse his opponents and has an array of kicks in his arsenal. The left hand is usually the money maker, but his other offensive weapons help him to set it up. While Till possesses a 74-inch reach, the same as Tyron Woodley, he will enjoy 3 inches of height over his opponent and is the vastly superior striker.
I anticipate Till to start aggressively, back Woodley against the fence and keep him at the end of his punches - much like he did against Donald Cerrone.
In a technical striking battle, this fight is a mismatch, but Till can’t get over-aggressive, or he’ll fall victim to a huge overhand or takedown from the explosive Woodley.
A decorated NCAA Division 1 wrestler, Tyron Woodley has the highest takedown defense in the entire UFC. However, he’ll need to land, rather than defend, takedowns if he wants to get the best of the brash British challenger.
While Woodley is usually able to ground his opponents, nothing drains cardio more than grappling exchanges. After taking Stephen Thompson down in round three of the rematch, you could see Woodley look visibly exhausted after his opponent managed to climb back to his feet. Thompson didn’t punish Woodley as much as he could have, but Darren Till is infinitely more aggressive.
Woodley is known for his fast twitch, explosive movements. Given his burst-based energy system, it’s critical for Woodley to be opportunistic with his takedowns. If he wrestles and doesn’t get the reward of top control, he could find himself in deep trouble against the younger, fresher striker.
While not as refined on the feet as his opponent, Woodley has a gigantic right hand that can knock out anyone. If Till starts showboating, he could receive a devastating reality check.
Woodley has two paths to victory: either he lands a huge overhand to finish the fight or scores enough takedowns to secure rounds with positional control. Both scenarios are possible, but not probable (in my humble opinion).
Woodley covers distance terrifyingly fast, but Till is as technical as they come on the feet. I can’t see the challenger walking into an overhand the way Robbie Lawler did.
Likewise, Woodley is a good wrestler, but I don’t think he has the cardio to ground Till in every round. Till is bound to get up and make him pay.
Ultimately, I think Till is going to apply pressure and throw feints to keep Woodley working when he doesn’t want to. This will also draw out Woodley’s overhand which will give Till opportunities to counter. Woodley did not fight well with his back against the fence in his fights with Rory Macdonald and Stephen Thompson. On the other hand, Darren Till looked like a killer when he was able to back Donald Cerrone against the fence.
My money is on the younger, more technical striker with the superior gas tank. I just hope Till can make weight because he looked enormous in the media day faceoffs.
Pick: Darren Till +100
Check out my other UFC 228 betting predictions.
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