Back at UFC 228 last September, England’s Darren Till was gifted a welterweight title shot at former champion Tyron Woodley. The oddsmakers listed Till as the favorite for the fight, and for good reason considering he was 17-0-1 including 5-0-1 in the UFC coming into the Woodley fight. Given his size advantage in the bout, not to mention the fact he was the much younger fighter with all the hype in the world behind him, many thought Till had a good chance to beat Woodley and become the new UFC welterweight champion.
Unfortunately for Till, things didn’t go his way that night. The English striker didn’t land a single significant strike in the Woodley bout as he was taken down immediately and grounded out by the champion. At 4:19 into the second round, Till finally succumbed to a D’arce choke in what was by far the worst performance of his career, and arguably one of the poorest performances by any fighter in a UFC title fight ever. Again, Till is noted for his striking and didn’t land even one significant strike in the fight. It was that much of a blowout.
After the Woodley fight, Till said he wanted to move up to middleweight and that the cut to welterweight really hurt him in that fight. Given that he’s one of the biggest welterweights in the sport, it seemed like a fair excuse that maybe his poor performance was weight-cut driven, and that a move to 185lbs would be good for him. Instead, Till and his team decided that “The Gorilla” will stick around welterweight for at least the time being. After being linked to a grudge match against Twitter nemesis Ben Askren, the UFC instead booked Till against Jorge Masvidal, and the two will lock horns in the main event of this Saturday’s UFC London card at The O2 Arena.
While a Till vs. Askren fight would have been amazing if only for the buildup for the fight, this matchup against Masvidal makes a lot of sense and is truly the perfect opportunity for Till to rebuild his value after his poor performance against Woodley. Unlike Askren, who would be looking to take Till down immediately and exploit him on the floor just like his buddy Woodley did, Masvidal is the kind of fighter who wants to stand and trade with his opponents. He’s also very beatable, coming into this fight off a long layoff preceded by a two-fight losing streak, making him the perfect opponent for Till in his return to the cage.
It won’t be an easy fight — Masvidal is aptly nicknamed “Gamebred” because you can never count him out of a fight — but on paper Till has a lot of advantages in this fight, and the UFC is giving him a favorable matchup in his home country. Just 26, Till is still England’s best hope to become a UFC champion after Michael Bisping retired. Though he lost badly to Woodley, and barely beat Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson the fight before that, UFC brass still loves him and the fans do too. The UFC is setting him up with a winnable fight against Masvidal, and the betting odds see him listed as nearly a 3-to-1 favorite to win.
With a victory, especially if he’s able to finish the notoriously-durable Masvidal, look for Till to call out Askren for a big fight later this summer. The two haven’t stopped jawing at each other on social media even despite the fact Askren just fought Lawler and Till is gearing up for Masvidal. This is the logical fight to make if the UFC doesn’t rematch Askren against Lawler, and if the betting odds are correct, this should be Till’s fight to lose. Though he may have gotten blown out by Woodley, the fact Kamaru Usman just won the belt gives Till more hope to get another title shot in the near future. The UFC loves him, and if he can beat Masvidal in impressive fashion, it should set Till up for bigger and better things. The UFC matchmakers are giving Till the perfect opportunity at UFC London to re-emerge as a player in the welterweight title picture, and now it’s up to him to go in the Octagon and get the job done.