UFC Vegas 36: Can Till Break Through or Will Brunson Complete His Resurgence?

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Derek Brunson and Darren Till, UFC Vegas 36 weigh-in
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - SEPTEMBER 03: (L-R) Opponents Derek Brunson and Darren Till of England face off during the UFC Fight Night weigh-in at UFC APEX on September 03, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

Derek Brunson has been one of the most consistent competitors at 185 pounds, but he faces a popular Englishman with title hopes of his own in Darren Till at UFC Vegas 36.

If a title shot is in the cards for Derek Brunson, it will be noted that he took the long way to the sport’s ultimate opportunity.  A professional since 2010, Brunson joined the UFC in 2012 and has faced many of the best middleweights of the past decade.  His resume features matches with the likes of Israel Adesanya, Robert Whittaker, Anderson Silva, Yoel Romero, “Jacare” Souza, Lyoto Machida, and more.  His run has seen it’s share of ups and downs, but through it all he has remained a formidable matchup every night out and established himself as one of the perennial contenders of the past decade.

Going into 2019, Brunson was at an unenviable spot in the division.  He had recent losses to the division’s elite in Adesanya and Whittaker.  He was also 35 with a title shot not on the horizon.  But where most might be facing the potential end of a run, Brunson regrouped and went on a four fight win-streak that has seen him best the likes of Kevin Holland, Edmen Shahbazyan, Ian Heinisch, and Elias Theodorou.  It has been the second best run of his UFC tenure.  It has also brought him to the brink of the title shot that has so far eluded him.  With another victory, and the foes ranked ahead of him having been recently dispatched, Brunson could finally secure a date with UFC gold on the line.

Darren Till has let his middleweight run play out like a sitcom, playing the foil to the established kingpin Adesanya.  It is clear he is still a darling of the UFC, with the promotion having twice targeted a return to London in 2021 with Till locked in as the headliner.  Through his performances and personality (both on the mic and on social media), he has seemingly inherited the role of being the face of the UFC in the UK from the retired Michael Bisping.  With the promotion doing large numbers on TV in Europe, and a built in angle with Adesanya already in place, it is reasonable to expect that the UFC would love to have Till reach a second UFC title shot.

The biggest hurdle now is that Till must deliver on his end of the bargain.  Last July, with Adesanya himself seemingly penciling in a date for their match-up, Till came up short against former champion Whittaker.  Adesanya went on to turn his sights towards Marvin Vettori, and “The Gorilla” has not returned to the cage due to injuries suffered in training.  As it stands, Till enters his potential title eliminator on a 1-3 run in his past four fights.  But timing is everything.  Should Adesanya best Whittaker next year, and Till prevail Saturday, a meeting between the two for the title is all but secure.

Till’s ability to get in-and-out will be tested by the wrestling of Brunson.  The Englishman has proven himself to be a handful to deal with at mid-range in the center of the Octagon and does his best work when he is able to use his physicality.  That said, the powerful Brunson has made great strides in his game and still possesses exceptional wrestling that could neutralize Till’s offense.  The fight will likely come down to which fighter is able to impose their will on the feet as that will determine who can push the other’s back to the cage and thus be the one to have the advantageous position for the majority of the fight.

The future for the winner will come down to timing and scenarios.  Should Till be the victor and Adesanya defeat Whittaker, then it figures that the two will meet without any other bouts in-between.  Should Whittaker prevail, it is expected that this Saturday’s winner will face fellow top-contender Jared Cannonier.  Notably, Whittaker defeated both Till and Cannonier in 2020 and it stands to reason he would elect to fight the winner of the upcoming fight between Paulo Costa and Marvin Vettori before possibly entertaining rematches with his former foes.

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