UFC 228: Woodley and Till Collide in Clash of Titans

Tyron Woodley wanted the biggest fight possible, and he literally will get it in top contender Darren Till in the main event of UFC 228.

Tyron Woodley is the first fighter to remind the next generation that their era has not yet arrived in the welterweight division.  Darren Till currently leads the charge for the new wave of contenders eager to make their mark in the UFC, but he faces the daunting task of upsetting the dominant welterweight champion.  Though it is not the fight that was expected, it remains the biggest clash at 170 pounds this year.

Tyron Woodley has triumphed over the old guard of the welterweight division.  Undefeated since 2014, he holds victories over Robbie Lawler, Stephen Thompson, Demian Maia, Kelvin Gastelum, and others en route to one of the most dominant runs in the history of the division.  At the height of his powers, it is only understandable that he made a push for a fight with the likes of Georges St-Pierre and then middleweight champion Michael Bisping.   It is also why he is now in the unenviable position of facing the new generation of contenders eager to take over.

To put it into perspective, all three of Woodley’s past opponents have been over the age of 35.  Darren Till is 26.  Colby Covington and Kamaru Usman are 30 and 31 respectively.  Woodley has found himself in a corner, expressing that he is highly criticized across the board whenever he pushes for the big name opponents that hover around his division.  But to say one of the most analytical champions in the UFC is distracted would be incorrect.  In a recent scrum, Woodley stated “My goal is on dominating who is in front of me…Anytime I speak about who I want to fight, it is never taken the right way.  My goal, and the way I’m going to be the greatest of all time, is by dominating and annihilating whoever is in front of me.”

Darren “The Gorilla” Till has emerged as one of the break-out stars of the UFC.  He made his debut three years ago, but it wasn’t until 2017 where he put together three victories to alert the MMA world to his presence.  While not the exciting contest people expected, his victory over number one ranked Stephen Thompson earlier this year furthered his case that he was ready for the best in the division.

At a time when both Michael Bisping and Dan Hardy are out of competition, Darren Till is a breath of fresh air whom the UFC undoubtedly hopes will carry the flag for the market in the United Kingdom.  However, after two incidents of missing weight in his last three fights, there is question of his ability to consistently make the welterweight limit for championship bouts.  It has led to Till himself stating that he anticipates only a few more fights at welterweight before moving up to the middleweight division.  While he will lose much in terms of credibility should he miss weight against Woodley, he will conversely silence critics should he arrive at the limit and put on a masterful performance to become champion.

Stylistically, the bout pits two of the more powerful athletes in the welterweight division.  For Till, the key will be to use his height and reach to keep Woodley at bay.  His best route for success is to attack Woodley from the outside in the center of the Octagon where he forces the champion to potentially take damage as he attempts to close the distance.  The general consensus is that if Till keeps Woodley in the center of the Octagon, he will win the fight.

The key for Woodley will be to punish Till against the fence where the height and reach of Till is neutralized.  Stephen Thompson found success against the fence where Till was unable to walk him down as he did with other opponents.  Getting “The Gorilla” against the fence opens up Woodley to be able to punish with huge punches to the body or to use his wrestling to wear down Till.

To not grant Woodley an immediate rematch should he lose would be a travesty, regardless of the inevitable push Colby Covington would make for the next shot.  Should the champion stave off Till, “Chaos” would be the next logical contender on marketability for early 2019.