The Liverpool-born UFC middleweight has just one win in the previous three years, with a record that stands at 1-4 since August 2018.
UFC Vegas 36
Darren Till couldn’t find a way of escaping the strong hands of Derek Brunson as they slipped around the neck of Great Britain’s most famous fighter. A rear-naked choke secured Brunson his fifth straight victory, as middleweight hopes of Darren Till were rear-naked choked into oblivion.
The eventual finish came after a 10-minute beating that Brunson put on Till level changes, and an elite level of wrestling offense followed by some violent ground and pound strikes had already led the dance. Till looked out of his depth in a contest where Heritage Sports and bookmakers alike had favoured the Englishmen with odds that moderately favoured him.
This submission defeat was easily the most devastating of Till’s four professional losses to date because a downward trajectory that nobody had anticipated was looking more probable than ever.
On paper, without discrediting Derek Brunson, he was seemingly a drop-down in the level of competition that Till had faced in recent years. A 36-year-old wrestler with a questionable chin should’ve been the knockout win that Till managed. Unfortunately, Brunson’s grappling offense was underrated, and the ugliest streak of Till’s professional career continues.
Too Much Too Soon
In September 2018, Till challenged former UFC champion Tyron Woodley for the welterweight title, and there was an underline feeling that the then 25-year-old had been rushed. The UFC put the English fan favourite into a position where he could dethrone the dominant but supposedly “dull” Tyron Woodley. Till managed to claim a stake at Woodley after defeating Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson in Liverpool, a unanimous decision result that’s been argued by MMA critics since the night it happened.
The arguable victory against Thompson was the first high-level opponent Till had challenged. It became evident that Till wasn’t ready for UFC gold when Woodley dropped him within 10 seconds of the second round. To then dominate him on the ground until a D’Arce submission choke hold put the Englishman out.
However, his age and premature meetings with a champion didn’t give much cause for concern. Most 25-year-olds are years away from their prime fighting years, and UFC competitors have bounced back from much worse.
Half a year down the road, Till headed to his fourth consecutive main event to headline a UFC London bout versus Jorge ‘Gamebred’ Masvidal. Fans held high expectations as the Muay Thai specialist in Till was matched against an opponent with a striking output as his primary skill set. Then in front of a packed 02 Arena, Till dropped Masvidal within the first 30-seconds, only to be knocked out in the second round.
Till expressed in the media that there was little to learn from those losses.
“At that point, I was essentially fighting the scales; I wasn’t fighting my opponents,” he said. “It got to the point where I was just in a weight category that didn’t fit me no more. The guys I’ve lost to have been better than me on the night, but I don’t see them better than me in any way, shape or form. I’m in a great spot now. I’m in a division I feel comfortable in.”
Move to Middleweight
With a division change, weight cutting issues brushed aside, the words Darren Till had expressed seemed to match his 185lb debut.
In 2019 a tight split decision victory over the former title contender Kelvin Gastelum had removed Till’s losing streak, but again, it didn’t last long. The UFC had no qualms in putting Till against the former middleweight champion Rob Whittaker for his second middleweight bout, and it didn’t end well, losing a unanimous decision.
Many have believed that Till’s high-level striking skills would allow him to defeat the division’s best, but the argument remains that Till has never achieved greatness when matched with the UFCs elite. Harsh words are needed, despite all of Till’s opponents besides Thompson have been champions or former champions. Still, the Stephen Thompson win could’ve been handed to either man, and the win over Gastelum was extremely close.
Where Does Darren Till Go From Here
Perhaps Till isn’t ready or destined to become a UFC champion, but we must remember that he’s just 28-years-old. With that said, the changes required to become a champion need to be made and soon.
Till is exceptionally loyal to his coach Colin Heron and the Liverpool based Team Kaobon gym. Still, during the Brunson fight, it could be argued that their advice wasn’t the most desirable.
After round 1, Till said: “He can have that round, can’t he? He’s tired.” Heron responded, “He’s scared. He’s petrified.”
Brunson didn’t look scared as he was punching, elbowing, and smashing Till’s face into the canvas, and this unruly advice didn’t assist the Englishman whatsoever. It was hard to hear any actual advice, and although we can’t envision Till leaving his team, a visit to some of the most reputable gyms in the UFC could severely assist him during his tenure.
A drop back down to welterweight isn’t likely, especially with a wrestler level above Brunson in Kamaru Usman sitting on the throne. Hence, a drop-down in competition is necessary for Till to rebuild his confidence. Continue to evolve his grappling skills and focus on himself, rather than a shortcut into another unwarranted title shot.