The main event of UFC Fight Night 130, which took place Sunday at Echo Arena in Liverpool, England, was not without its fair share of controversy. A day after missing weight on the scales, hometown fighter Darren Till took on Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson in an extremely important fight in the UFC welterweight division. Though highly-anticipated, the fight turned out to be a bit of a snoozer as not much happened inside the Octagon. After a tepid 25 minutes of intermittent striking to go along with a few bro hugs and high fives — plus a late knockdown to Thompson that provided the only truly memorable moment of the fight — the judges were left to decide a fight which the overwhelming majority of media and fans scored for Stephen Thompson. But despite most observers seeing the bout in Thompson’s favor, the judges ultimately sided with Till by unanimous decision via scores of 48-47, 49-46, 49-46 in what many are calling a robbery.
I personally felt like Thompson did enough to win the fight 48-47 (I gave Thompson rounds 1, 3 and 4 and Till rounds 2 and 5) and I could have seen four rounds his way as well. When UFC ring announce Bruce Buffer said 49-46, I assumed Thompson was getting the nod, so I like many was shocked when the decision was announced. I disagree with this decision as I believe Thompson was the more effective striker and deserved to edge out the win in this fight. Even current Bellator commentator and godfather of MMA rules and officiating Big “John” McCarthy blasted the judges on Twitter, saying that Thompson deserved to win the fight under the current scoring criteria. Though “robbery” may be a strong word, there’s no doubt this is one of the most controversial decisions of 2018 so far, and likely in some time. It’s a decision that smells of hometown cooking and it’s a double whammy for Thompson as he was a good soldier for the UFC in even accepting a fight against an overweight opponent only to lose a contentious decision. But I will say this: While I think this was a bad call on the judges’ part, I also believe that Till getting the win instead of Thompson is a good thing for the welterweight division.
As talented as Thompson is, he’s already had two fights against UFC welterweight champion Tyron Woodley, fighting to a draw first and then losing the rematch. He was kind of getting stale as the No. 1 contender to a lot of fans and many were hoping Till would win this fight to mix things up at the top of the division. I also believe the UFC wanted Till to get the win in this fight to shake things up for future matchmaking, and ultimately that’s what he did. Instead of Thompson knocking off a rising prospect in Till, now Till beat the ex-No.1 contender and has emerged as a legitimate title threat at 170lbs. The fact he missed weight should be a red flag against him, of course, but UFC president Dana White already said Till’s next fight will be at welterweight so presumably the UFC doesn’t care too much that he missed weight. The UFC is just happy Till won because now there’s a brand new contender at 170lbs. Instead of coming off of a loss, now Till is coming off of a win and could be given anyone in the top-five now. The UFC could easily match him up with Kamaru Usman or they might even let Till fight Woodley or the winner of the interim title fight between Rafael dos Anjos vs. Colby Covington at UFC 225. There are a lot of options now that Till won, and it makes welterweight a bit more interesting now with Thompson out of the picture, even though he really shouldn’t be.
I’m still not entirely convinced Till is the second coming of Conor McGregor but the UFC certainly hopes he is. With Michael Bisping retiring soon and heading off into the sunset, the UFC will need a new face of MMA in England and Till looks to be that guy, especially now that he has this win over Thompson under his belt. But despite beating Thompson and Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone in his last two fights I’m still not sold on Till yet. I think he has to go in there and win dominantly against a top-five guy for me to really start to believe in him. But I fully admit that him being part of the title mix now makes 170lbs more interesting. As bad as the judges were at UFC Liverpool by giving Till the nod over Thompson, ultimately it’s a good thing when it comes to future matchups in the welterweight division, so there is some good that’s come out of this. Just don’t tell that to Thompson.
Do you believe Stephen Thompson’s loss does the UFC’s welterweight division any good?