MMA Ratings Podcast

July 23, 2020

UFC Fight Island: Darren Till Could Get the Next Middleweight Title Shot With A Win Over Robert Whittaker

By Adam Martin

The UFC will hold its fourth and final event on Fight Island in Abu Dhabi this Saturday night, and the promotion is going out with a bang. With 15 fights set to go down, this UFC on ESPN 14 event has more fights on it than any UFC event dating all the way back to UFC 2 in 1994. There are some really intriguing fights on this card, but the one that everyone is talking about is the main event between top-five middleweights Darren Till and Robert Whittaker. With a win in the headliner, Till could get the next title shot at 185 pounds.

The UFC has always been extremely high on Till and it's easy to see why. After all, he's a great fighter, and he's had success now in two different weight classes. After starting his MMA career with an unbeaten 17-0-1 record, including a 5-0-1 mark in the UFC, he fought Tyron Woodley for the UFC welterweight title back in September 2018. Till lost that fight via second-round submission, and then lost another second-round finish to Jorge Masvidal in 2019, but those losses finally convinced him to jump up a weight class. He finally moved up to middleweight at the end of last year, defeating stalwart Kelvin Gastelum in his divisional debut.
By beating Gastelum, who was coming off the 2019 "Fight of the Year" against Israel Adesanya in his previous fight, Till jumped right into the Top 5 of the division, and he immediately set his eyes on Adesanya's belt. Till would have taken a title shot right away, but with so many other contenders at 185, Adesanya fought Yoel Romero at UFC 248, and is now scheduled to face Paulo Costa. In order for Till to get to the top of the division, he needs to go through the guy Adesanya beat last October to take the belt. That's Whittaker, the former longtime UFC Middleweight Champion.

This is a huge opportunity for Till. If he can beat Whittaker, especially if he can get a stoppage, it would immediately announce him as the top contender at 185 lbs after Adesanya and Costa settle their differences in the UFC 253 main event this September. Jared Cannonier is another fighter who deserves a title shot, arguably even more than Till, but the difference lies in how popular Till is. He's one of the biggest stars in the UFC right now, and if he does beat Whittaker, the fans are going to want the UFC to give him a title shot. And the UFC is very likely to give him one.
On top of being a successful fighter, Till is extremely charismatic. The UFC has wanted a superstar fighter from Britain ever since Michael Bisping retired, and Till has filled those shoes to the best of his abilities. He's great on social media and in interviews, so it's easy to see why the UFC loves him. He's the kind of guy who can sell out an arena in England, and he's potentially a guy who can do big things in other domestic and international markets if given the opportunity. At just 27, Till already has the experience of headlining a PPV. He may have failed in his bid to become the welterweight champion, but he has a fresh start now at middleweight and is already starting to make the most of it.

The main event of Saturday's card is an important fight for the future of the UFC middleweight division. It's an important fight for Robert Whittaker, who needs to prove that he's still a top dog at 185 lbs despite getting knocked out by Israel Adesanya, but the stakes seem higher for Darren Till. He made the move up to middleweight in order to become a champion, and he can help himself out and fast-track his way to a title shot with a win over Whittaker on the heels of the Gastelum win. Till is already a big star for the UFC and can become even bigger if he can beat Whittaker on Fight Island. If he can score a win in impressive fashion, my money is on Till to be fighting for the title very soon.

UFC on ESPN 14
Darren Till vs. Robert Whittaker

UFC Fight Night on ESPN 14: Whittaker vs. Till takes place July 25, 2020 at Flash Forum in Yas Island, Abu Dhabi.

Click HERE for more UFC on ESPN 14 Pre-Fight Analysis

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