UFC 228 goes down this Sunday in Dallas Texas. Tyron Woodley will be looking to make his third title defence against the undefeated Darren Till who is looking to go one better than the last Englishman to contend for the Welterweight title, Dan Hardy. Also on this card Nicco Montano makes her long awaited first title defence against the woman many people believe to be the uncrowned champion of the division, Valentina Shevcenko. Read on for our breakdowns of these two big title fights.
Former D1 wrestler Tyron Woodley will look to defend his welterweight title for a third time against undefeated Scouser Darren Till. Woodley won his title in devastating fashion with a first round KO of MMA legend Robbie Lawler. Since then his title run has been far less spectacular. He had a draw and a close decision win over Wonderboy Thompson which gave some of the most lacklustre 10 rounds in title history and then an equally uninspiring decision over BJJ black belt Demian Maia. However what Woodley did show off in those fights is an ability to stick to an effective gameplan; he refused to be drawn forward against the counter punching Wonderboy and despite his wrestling credentials didn’t let Maia get close to initiating a grappling exchange. Despite these performances Woodley is still undoubtedly an excellent fighter and maybe the best athlete on the UFC roster. I think he is being slightly overlooked coming into this fight.
The Challenger, Darren Till grew up on the mean streets of Liverpool and turned pro Muay Thai fighter at 15. After leaving Liverpool (after allegedly being stabbed); Till’s MMA career began to blossom in Brazil. He made his pro MMA debut in 2013 and rattled off 8 straight victories in that calendar year and was soon signed to the UFC. Till hasn’t looked impressive thus far in the UFC, but his only really quality opponent has been Wonderboy Thompson and many people believe he should have lost that decision. Till is a massive welterweight and while that is obviously an advantage in the cage, the weight cut to 170 pounds is clearly starting to effect Till and that will certainly be something to watch going into this one.
Prediction: I see this one playing at similarly to Woodley’s last few title defences. Both these fighters are going to be acutely aware of the one punch power they possess and will be reluctant to get into any firefights. Till will have a big size advantage and will work behind his jab and 1-2. Woodley will also be happy to stay on the outside, but look for him to explode in and try and get inside Till’s range sporadically. If Till comes forward too recklessly, Woodley has some of the nastiest counters in the business and could catch him. The biggest gulf in ability comes in the wrestling department; on paper Woodley should have a big advantage there. However he has shown a reluctance to use wrestling lately and many people postulate it could be due to cardio issues. However if Woodley can get in top control it could absolutely turn the fight. I expect this to be a close tentative fight. I’m not afraid of it turning into another Woodley Wonderboy staring contest, because Till will be pushing the action. I lean ever slightly Woodley due to his power, speed and wrestling edges; but he is going to need to be careful not to get caught on the cage. The fact I can get Woodley as an underdog makes me even happier about it. Tyron Woodley by 48-47 decision
Nicco Montano comes into this fight as the longest priced defending champion in UFC history. She’s as high as $8.50 to defend her flyweight title against number one contender Valentina Shevchenko. Montano won her title as a relative unknown on The Ultimate Fighter reality show and hasn’t yet defended her 125 pound belt. Her opponent is Ukrainian Muay Thai specialist Valentina Shevchenko. Shevchenko recently fought Amanda Nunes for the batamnweight title and fell agonisingly short in a decision loss that many people thought the judges got wrong.
The odds paint a pretty clear picture here. Shevchenko is a far better all-round fighter and could go on to hold the flyweight title for a long time. Montano looked solid on The Ultimate Fighter as she outpointed her way to decisions in scrappy contests. But this is a huge step up in competition. Shevchenko will have a massive advantage on the feet and will be the stronger grappler. Montano is tough enough to hang in for a few rounds, but as the damage on the feet builds up I see Shevchenko getting a late finish. Valentina Shevchenko by 4th round submission.
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