UFC Fight Night: Whittaker vs. Till (TV: ESPN/ESPN+)
Saturday, July 25th, Prelims 5:00 PM ET (ESPN/ESPN+), Main Card 8:00 PM ET (ESPN/ESPN+), Yas Island, Abu Dhabi (United Arab Emirates)
Light Heavyweight Fight: Mauricio Rua (26-11-1) vs. Rogerio Nogueira (23-9)
Fight odds: Mauricio Rua -200 Rogerio Nogueira +175
Middleweight Fight: Robert Whittaker (21-5) vs. Darren Till (18-2-1)
Fight odds: Robert Whittaker -145 Darren Till +125
The UFC will hold its last fight card from Fight Island in Abu Dhabi before coming back stateside to Las Vegas for the month of August. Last Saturday, the UFC Flyweight Title was on the line in a rematch between Joseph Benavidez and Deiveson Figueiredo. Figueiredo won by 1st Round submission in a dominant performance to become the undisputed champion at 125 lbs. Figueiredo is quite big for the division and carries a lot of power in his striking. Figueiredo could even compete at 135 lbs. because of his size, wrestling skills and power.
In his previous fight against Benavidez, Figueiredo missed weight by 2.5 lbs. making it a non-Title fight. Figueiredo won the first fight by 2nd Round TKO, but there was some controversy following the win because there was an accidental head-butt that compromised Benavidez and lead to the knockout. The rematch had no such controversy with both fighters making weight. Figueirdo’s win was dominant and decisive and he is the new flyweight king. It seemed like any time that Figueiredo would land on Benavidez with any force that Benavidez would go down because he couldn’t handle the power and speed of his opponent.
Figueiredo landed 40 total strikes and had 2:23 of ground control time. Benavidez landed 22 total strikes in a one sided fight. Figueiredo did a great job of mixing up his striking with his wrestling as each time Benavidez would go down Figueiredo would aggressively pursue submissions and was eventually successful with a Rear Naked Choke that ended the fight at 4:48 of the 1st Round. Benavidez stated that he wants to win one more fight, then retire in an emotional post-fight press conference.
While Figueiredo has effectively retired Benavidez there is no clear contender for Figueiredo to defend his Title against. Brandon Moreno, Alex Perez and Jussier Formiga remain possible future fights for Figueiredo. Figueiredo’s only career loss came against Jussier Formiga by unanimous decision in March of 2019. However, Formiga followed up that win with 3 consecutive losses to Joseph Benavidez, Brandon Moreno and Alex Perez.
While its unlikely that Formiga will be his next opponent, former UFC Flyweight champs, Demetrious Johnson or Henry Cejudo remain the most intriguing fights for Figueiredo. Johnson now fights with ONE Championship, but it would be in the UFC’s best interest to attempt to bring him back to their promotion. Cejudo is retired for now, but it’s still a possibility that he comes back and fights against Figueiredo for the Title. With a lack of star power in the flyweight division, fighters like Demetrious Johnson and Henry Cejudo make the division a whole lot more intriguing. If neither fighter comes back to the UFC, then expect Figueiredo to remain the Flyweight UFC champion for the foreseeable future.
The Co-Main Event featured a middleweight fight between Jack Hermansson and Kelvin Gastelum. Hermansson quickly took care of Gastelum with a well executed heel hook, at only 1:18 into the 1st Round. Hermansson showed expert grappling and was opportunistic off his back to secure the submission. Gastelum took Hermansson down, but was unable to keep his feet out of the grasp of Hermansson as he was scrambling from the bottom position. What makes this win even more impressive is that it took Isreal Adesanya and Darren Till the full fight to get a decision win over Gastelum. Hermansson took care of Gastelum in a little over a minute and really made a statement to the rest of the middleweight division. Perhaps, Hermansson should face the winner of the fight between Robert Whittaker and Darren Till coming up this Saturday.
The Main Event between Robert Whittaker and Darren Till should be an exciting fight as both fighters like to throw heavy punches and aren’t too keen on wrestling for a majority of the fight. Whittaker is 29, 6’0 and 186 lbs. with a 73.5 inch reach. Till is 27, 6’0 and 186 lbs. with a 74 inch reach. Whittaker, the former middleweight champion is coming off a 2nd Round KO loss to Israel Adesanya in October of 2019 when he lost his Middleweight Title. Prior to that loss, Whittaker was undefeated from June of 2014 until June of 2018.
Whittaker has beaten fighters better than Till, such as Ronaldo Souza by TKO and Yoel Romero, by decision twice. Till isn’t a natural middleweight as he used to compete at welterweight (170 lbs.). But, after losing to Tyron Woodley by submission and then getting knocked out by Jorge Masvidal, Till decided to move up in weight. Till’s most recent fight was at middleweight, against Kelvin Gastelum. Till won by split decision as he was able to use his size and reach to mitigate Gastelum and fight at his preferred range. Against Whittaker, Till can’t use these same tactics and will need to mix up his striking to try and match Whittaker’s output.
Whittaker has shown to be a true warrior going toe to toe against Yoel Romero and coming out on top. If this fight goes to the mat, then Whittaker has the clear advantage in wrestling and may even get a submission. While Till does have decent power, with 10 career wins by knockout he’s never faced a middleweight at Whittaker’s level. Whittaker has the size and strength to overpower Till and should have the wrestling fundamentals to control him on the mat.
Expect Whittaker to get a unanimous decision win over Till in an entertaining fight. Whittaker has so much experience at middleweight and has shown to be a durable fighter. Till still has some holes in his game, but his left hand always give him a chance in any fight. Even though Whittaker was knocked out by Adesanya, he is a durable fighter that was just fighting an opponent who’s striking is at a different level than most fighters. Till doesn’t pose the same threat as Adesanya and doesn’t have the striking versatility to keep Whittaker guessing. Whittaker is the more adaptable striker, capable of landing both kicks and punches, while Till is the more straightforward boxer that will be looking to land his big left hand.
The Co-Main Event will feature two Brazilian legends when Mauricio Rua and Rogerio Nogueira fight at light heavyweight. Rua is 38, 6’1 and 206 lbs. with a 76 inch reach. Nogueira is 44, 6’2 and 206 lbs. with a 75 inch reach. This will be Nogueira’s last fight before retiring and it should be a fun one, possibly fight of the night. Rua has been fighting since 2002 and has fought Nogueira twice before, winning both fights by unanimous decision. In Rua’s impressive career 18 year career he has knockout wins over Quinton Jackson, Alistair Overeem, Chuck Liddell, Lyoto Machida and Forrest Griffin. Nogueira has been fighting since 2001 and has wins over Alistair Overeem, Dan Henderson, Tito Ortiz and Rashad Evans.
Nogueira and Rua always put on exciting fights because of their come forward style and knockout power. Nogueira has 8 wins by knockout and Rua has 21 wins by knockout. Both fighters have incredible heart and longevity and will be missed when they retire. Rua may just have a little more left in the tank and should get a 3rd Round knockout win over Nogueira. Both these fighters are incredible warriors that have been entertaining fight fans for nearly two decades. Rua likes to mix in some takedowns with his striking to keep his opponents guessing. Expect some grappling and striking in this matchup as both fighters will look to engage and make the fight a brawl. Tune in to watch two Brazilian legends slug it out for the third and final time.
Another fighter to keep an eye on is Khamzat Chimaev who absolutely dominated in his UFC debut on July 15th, with a 2nd Round submission of John Phillips. Chimaev is an expert grappler with great ground and pound striking that could one day challenge for the Welterweight Title if he continues to put on impressive displays. Chimaev will be facing Rhys McKee only ten days after beating Phillips in his previous fight. Expect another dominant performance and most likely another submission victory for Chimaev. Tune in for an exciting night of fights from Fight Island in Abu Dhabi.