COMBAT expert Ross Francis (@Ross11Ross) marks our card for Sunday morning's much-anticipated tussle between Tyron Woodley and Darren Till from UFC 228 in Dallas.
Tyron Woodley v Darren Till | Sunday 9th September 2018, 03:00 | BT Sport
This weekend, the welterweight champion of the world, Tyrone Woodley, puts his belt on the line against Liverpool’s Darren Till.
This is only of the most heavily-anticipated, and arguably hard to call, fights in the UFC this year, and if you look at the Match Odds market, the bookies cannot split them (at the time of writing, both are available at 19/20).
The term ‘changing of the guard’ has been thrown around the UFC a lot lately with this fight fitting the bill of potentially a young up-and-coming fighter taking on an established champ.
This is a fair plotline for this fight, however we have seen these scenarios work out extremely differently in the octagon; think Cody Garbrandt’s dominant display over Dominick Cruz, compared with Stipe Miocic comfortably beating the much-feared Francis N’Gannou, so there is a lot to consider when someone steps up in class of opponent, like this.
Till’s lack of elite exposure
Till brings to the fight an unbeaten 17-0-1 record in the UFC, having been impressive in his demolitions of Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone and Wendall Oliveira, particularly. However, his only bout against a truly elite opponent to date was his last win against Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson in May.
The contest with Thompson was a very close fight where, if truth be told, not a lot happened. The fight was razor close and there wouldn’t have been too much of an outcry if ‘Wonderboy’ was given the nod.
When you compare the names on the 18-3-1 record of Woodley, Till’s respective inexperience against elite fighters is clear, with a who’s who of MMA on Tyrone’s hit-list: the aforementioned ‘Wonderboy’, Maia, Lawler, Gastelum, MacDonald, Conduit.
The negative over Woodley’s chances are whether his recent inactivity (he’s not fought since July 2017 and that gap included intensive shoulder surgery), alongside his commitments to acting, music and UFC Tonight will take a toll and allow a fresher, potentially hungrier fighter to catch him cold.
Till, aptly named ‘the Gorilla’ is a huge welterweight, having had difficulties making welterweight throughout his career. This includes missing weight by 3.5 pounds in his Liverpool headliner and the biggest fight of his career against Thompson earlier this year.
This is a concern. Yes, the clearly bigger man will retain attributes in the fight but if Woodley can do what he has done of late – make those first couple of rounds cagey, working out Till’s fighting code, if/when the fight nears the later championship rounds, Till’s weight cut will take its toll.
The betting angles
As with a fight of this sort, where there are somewhat unknowns with both fighters, finding value in the market is a challenge with not a lot of bookmakers pricing up anything outwith the standard win and round markets.
As alluded to above, I feel that Woodley is too good a defensive fighter to be caught early, which I think is Till’s best chance of victory.
The big problem I have with that for Till is, you have to look all the way back to 2012 for a knockout loss against Woodley’s name (courtesy of Nate Marquardt) – that is a long time ago!
Woodley has adapted since then and is a far more defensive, although still an explosive fighter. On that defensive basis, the fight to go past three rounds at 5/6 (SkyBet) appeals.
Skybet have some interesting bets priced up, and I particularly like the 2/1 on Woodley to land a takedown in the first round.
Remember this is the first time Till is headlining a main card of this magnitude. There is every chance he may get overly excited, try to rush Woodley and arguably the greatest grappler/wrestler in welterweight history could easily capitalise on this (on this, the short priced 4/7 available for Woodley to land the most takedowns is actually bigger than I expected in that market).
I like Till and I think he eventually becomes the welterweight champion, I just feel this is not his time.
A future move up the weight classes I think will see the best from ‘The Gorilla’ and I just can’t help but keep thinking this is too early for him against someone who has been able to nullify every fighter he has fought, and those fighters best assets for the past four years.
I’ll be backing Woodley to do just that but like the bigger price on a Win By Decision at 5/2, in what may be a fight for the purists as Woodley does whatever he can to retain his belt.