It’s the Battle of the Commonwealth!
Robert Whittaker and Darren Till are all set to headline Sunday’s UFC Fight Night 174 and if you enjoy watching the Poms get beat, strap yourself in.
Whittaker’s road back to becoming the Middleweight champ begins this Sunday as he goes toe to toe with one of the the most popular fighters on the UFC roster, Darren Till.
Whittaker enters this as a mere contender after losing his belt in a second round stoppage to Israel Adesanya at UFC 243, a fight that doesn’t factor in a great deal to this matchup since Adesanya is, in my opinion, a class above everyone else in the division.
The fights that must be taken into account are the back-to-back wars with Yoel Romero. Whittaker took almost a career’s worth of damage by spending 50 minutes playing a game of face tag with one of the most physically imposing fighters to ever set foot in the Octagon.
Whittaker’s chin didn’t hold up to an Adesanya’s counter, which could be an indicator of the lasting damage caused by those Romero fights, but he looked so outclassed in that battle that I’d go as far as suggesting there was a little ring rust at play.
Is Whittaker’s chin cracked? I wouldn’t go that far, but it certainly isn’t what it used to be.
Darren Till makes his second appearance at Middleweight after defeating Kelvin Gastelum via split decision at UFC 243. I’m not entirely sold on Till’s cardio over the full 5 rounds at Middleweight to be able to take on an experienced divisional campaigner like Whittaker who already has the cardio edge.
Going 5 rounds with Gastelum isn’t exactly definitive proof that he’s ready to roll through the 4th and 5th this time around. Till has an incredibly high ceiling at Middleweight, but this may be biting off more than he can chew.
From a style point of view, Till may have trouble controlling the distance. Whittaker’s quick hands and great footwork make backing him up to the fence a troublesome task. If Till can’t get into his rhythm, the opportunities to test Whittaker’s chin will be few and far between.
While I still give the advantage to Whittaker on the feet, he also has the wrestling advantage. If Till does manage to find his range early in the fight, I’d expect Whittaker to change course and try to take this one to the ground.
I’m a big Darren Till fan, but as stated earlier, I would have liked to see him find his feet a little bit more at Middleweight before taking on a seasoned vet like Whittaker.
While Till’s durability at this weight class should see this one go the distance, I can’t see him taking the points in championship rounds.