MMA Ratings Podcast

October 31, 2019

UFC 244: Darren Till Hopes To Realize Potential With Middleweight Move

By Adam Martin

Darren Till has been hyped up as a future champion for quite some time. One of Europe's best mixed martial artists, he was expected to fill the shoes of former UFC Middleweight Champion Michael Bisping as England's biggest star. He was handed the torch by Bisping and the UFC, and was expected to be a champion in the welterweight division. But when he got the opportunity to do so, he failed miserably. This weekend, however, in the co-main event of UFC 244, Till has the opportunity to change the trajectory of his career by changing weight classes and facing another former welterweight, Kelvin Gastelum.

After a very controversial decision win over Stephen "Wonderboy" Thompson in May 2018, Till was fast-tracked to a title shot against then champion Tyron Woodley. Till was actually the betting favorite to win that UFC 228 fight, but he was thoroughly dominated by Woodley and lost the fight via second-round submission. The UFC then booked Till against Jorge Masvidal in a main event bout in his home country of England, a showcase fight designed to jump him back into title contention. But he was knocked out in that fight, and it made him rethink his MMA career.

With the UFC's blessing, Till decided to move back up to middleweight. One of Till's biggest issues at welterweight was the strenuous weight cut to 170 lbs. He missed weight on a couple of occasions, and even when he did make the weight he was depleting himself, and it showed in his fights. One problem with a massive weight cut is the fighter becomes more susceptible to a knockout. We saw that in Till's fight against Masvidal, and it made him realize that maybe 170 lbs wasn't the right weight class for him.

At just 26 years old, Till is still growing, and he outgrew the UFC welterweight division. At 185 pounds, he should be able to focus more on preparing for the fight itself, and not the fight with his weight cut. Till is so confident in himself up a weight class that he told the UFC he wanted the hardest opponent possible. UFC President Dana White pleaded with Till to take a tune-up fight, but he convinced the UFC to give him former title contender in Gastelum.

Gastelum is not an easy fight for Till, and with the young Englishman coming off of two straight losses, this is a very risky fight at this point of his career, as well as for the UFC, who have high hopes for Till to become Europe's biggest star. But if you ask Till, there's no risk. He's confident in his abilities and believes at 185 he should be sharper, faster, stronger, and healthier. With a win over Gastelum, Till would immediately become a title contender at middleweight. They say that with great risk comes great reward, and for Till the potential reward is worth the risky matchup.

We will have to wait and see how Darren Till performs at UFC 244, however, before we decide whether it was worth it, and before anointing him a title contender in the UFC middleweight division. But there's no doubt that a win over Kelvin Gastelum would put him in a great spot in his new weight class, with champion Israel Adesanya on the hunt for high-profile challengers. Till has always had plenty of potential in MMA, but he was never able to reach it at welterweight. At middleweight, though, he just might.

UFC 244
Kelvin Gastelum vs. Darren Till

UFC 244: Masvidal vs. Diaz takes place November 2, 2019 at Madison Square Garden in New York, New York.

Click HERE for more UFC 244 Pre-Fight Analysis

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