If you are a fan of striking, be sure to tune into UFC Fight Night this Saturday night. Stephen Thompson is a karate master with a sixth degree black belt in Kempo and an endless highlight reel of electric knockouts. Darren Till is undefeated in MMA and rising fast through the welterweight division while holding the rank of Master in Muay Thai. Some fans fear that the UFC is pushing Darren Till too quickly but he will likely prove fans he belongs in the cage with the best fighters in the world this Saturday night in his hometown of Liverpool.
Stephen Thompson: Climbing back toward the title
Stephen Thompson came as close to the UFC Welterweight Title as possible without claiming it. He earned a draw in a war with Tyron Woodley in 2016 and lost a unanimous decision the following year in a fight that was just as close as the first. After his second title shot, it became unlikely that he will get another shot at the title as long as Woodley is the champion unless he runs through the entire division. He got off to a good start by defeating Jorge Masvidal at the end of 2017. Masvidal is considered one of the best boxers in the welterweight division but he could not solve the puzzle that is “Wonderboy.” Despite breaking his thumbs early in the fight, Thompson outclassed Masvidal on the feet to prove what an elite striker he truly is.
The movement and kicks of Stephen Thompson will be huge in this fight. The side kicks and push kicks of Thompson will be used to keep Till at a distance to neutralize his dangerous striking. The first few rounds will probably be uneventful as Thompson analyzes his opponent, but his strategy will be to pull Till into deep water and hope for a mistake if Till becomes tired. “Wonderboy” is the last person that any fighter should make a technical error against. If a fighter rushes in hastily on Thompson, they will find a counterpunch from his piston-like left hand on their chin and if they stay still for too long, their head will get kicked into orbit. Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson is a dangerous man and can stop any fight in a split second.
Darren Till: A superstar in the making
Darren Till is on his way to becoming a star. We last saw the Muay Thai master plowing through Donald Cerrone in the first round of his first ever main event. Despite that dominant performance, there is some question regarding if Till is ready for the challenge that is Stephen Thompson. That fight was Cerrone’s third straight loss and Till has not fought any other ranked competition. With that being said, Till is a huge welterweight that has excellent power and speed in his punches. He is also deadly in the clinch and can tire opponents out quickly when he forces them to support his large frame. 10 of his 16 wins have come by knockout but he has an underrated ground game to back it up. Till moved to Brazil early in his career and there are rumors of him submitting black belts in his early days of jiu-jitsu training.
The key to victory for Darren Till on Saturday will be closing the distance safely against Thompson. “Wonderboy” is so good a gauging distance making him difficult to touch but we have seen Till blitz his opponents and land knockout blows. Till would love to get Thompson in the clinch early and often to both tire him out and take away the danger of his kicks. Darren Till has great elbows and Muay Thai boxing skills that will overwhelm the counter-striking “Wonderboy” if they engage. Till could also look to land leg kicks to limit the mobility of Thompson. Because it is so dangerous to get close to him, the low leg kick is a good option to limit Thompson’s mobility from a safe distance.
If this fight turns into a kickboxing match, it is hard to bet against Stephen Thompson who was 57-0 as a professional kickboxer. He has a case for the title of best striker in the UFC and holds an impressive resume with wins over Robert Whittaker, Johny Hendricks, and Rory MacDonald. As long as he can keep his distance and frustrate Till with his kicks from the lead leg, Thompson should have an advantage. If he can drag Till into deep waters after winning a few rounds, he could land a knockout on a mistake from a tired and desperate Darren Till.
While Stephen Thompson seems like the more logical pick based on past evidence, do not be surprised at all if Darren Till wins this fight. We do not know exactly what he can do because he has not yet faced top competition but we know that his potential has no ceiling. Till’s best bet in this match is to work on the clinch and throw elbows while tiring Thompson out with his weight. If he can achieve this early, he could go in for the kill later in the fight. There is also the option to take the fight to the mat. We have seen little of Darren Till’s ground game but he insists that it is nearly as good as his striking.
One huge concern is that Till predicted a second-round knockout of Thompson which could imply that he will rush and go for the kill early. That is a death sentence against “Wonderboy.” Anyone counting Till out due to a lack of experience is underestimating him but Thompson should still be considered the favorite due to his movement and striking mastery.
Thompson via KO
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