On Saturday night Darren Till grabbed his opportunity to headline UFC Gdansk with both hands and finished UFC veteran Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone inside the first round.
The Liverpudlian put on an excellent display with a flurry of punches flooring the UFC legend. Till continued with his attack by landing punches on a grounded Cerrone until the referee intervened.
A victory over Cowboy cannot be overlooked. The American’s last outing was a very close decision loss to former champion and welterweight legend Robbie Lawler. Till will be well aware of this and will be hoping to use Saturday night’s dominant win as a means of climbing up the rankings and challenging for the welterweight title.
In usual circumstances, a first round knockout over the number six-ranked fighter would be enough to secure a push for a title challenge. Unfortunately for Till, usual circumstances do not apply to the welterweight division, which is absolutely stacked with top class talent. Of the current top ten ranked contenders, all except for Cerrone have bouts scheduled or are awaiting confirmation. This means Till will have to be both patient and prudent when agreeing his next UFC fight.
Mike ‘Platinum’ Perry was in attendance at Gdansk and a confrontation ensued post-fight when Till called out his welterweight colleague. Perry approached the cage and proceeded to roar to his counterpart, claiming he is the real welterweight. A match-up against Perry would attract attention and would leave the winner in the title contender discussion. The only problem is that, like most welterweights, Perry is currently booked to fight the number nine ranked Santiago Ponzinibbio in December. So Till will have to await the outcome here but a spring bout against the winner most definitely remains a possibility.
However, the 24-year-old has no lack of confidence and may feel he is deserving of a more established welterweight name. UFC president Dana White has verbally confirmed the Robbie Lawler/Rafael dos Anjos showdown scheduled for December will be for a title shot at current champion Tyron Woodley.
Meanwhile, number two-ranked Stephen Thompson will face off against number four-ranked Jorge Masvidal in just under two weeks’ time at UFC 217. I imagine the undefeated Till will be keeping a close eye on both contests. Realistically, a shot at the fighters who finish up second best in the aforementioned fights would be a huge opportunity for the undefeated fighter. If he were granted a fight against any of the four names mentioned above, then a title shot would surely be within his reach.
The number eight-ranked Colby Covington will also take on the number three-ranked Damian Maia in December. As opposed to pursing a loser, as per the scenario above, a match-up against the winner here would land Till right in the title debate and could be an option. Maia has a Brazilian jiu-jitsu-based approach while Covington is a wrestler. These styles may not necessarily match up well with the ‘stand-and-strike’ approach of Till but nonetheless, this path would present a clear opportunity at UFC gold.
Everything is in Till’s favour right now. He is young, confident and has an exciting, powerful fighting style that backs up his own self-belief. Also, one must be mindful that ultimately the UFC is a global business which the UFC hierarchy are always keen to expand. As UFC legend Michael Bisping is approaching the tail end of his career, the emergence of a new British superstar would be in the best interests of the UFC for the British and European markets. This may have been acknowledged by White who uploaded a picture of Till landing a strike with the caption ‘the future’ to his social media accounts post-fight.
Only two months ago, a headline fight against Cerrone would have appeared to be a pipe dream for the Luta Livre purple belt. Now he has just defeated the number six-ranked welterweight with an outstanding first round stoppage.
The Liverpool man can afford to be ambitious and brazen while he pursues his next battle. The only certain thing is that regardless of who Till faces off against next, he will believe a title shot is a question of when and not if.
Cathal Geeney, Pundit Arena