UFC 228 is set for Dallas, Texas this Saturday and pits welterweight king Tyron Woodley against Darren Till.
It’s the experienced champion versus the fresh challenger; All-American meeting a true Brit; a rocket right hand clashing with a lethal left; old lion against young, er, gorilla.
This fight is also a chance for Till to become only the second UFC champion from the UK and, at 25, he could be MMA’s newest star attraction.
To support the main event there’s a three-tiered undercard to get stuck into.
Woodley v Till – Bet Now
Paddy can’t split Woodley and Till and it might have something to do with the dynamite both men carry. Either can land the decisive blow at any point and the contest is 8/11 to finish before the final bell.
You can expect Till to take the centre of the octagon and ‘The Gorilla’ likes to crowd and control his rivals. ‘T-wood’ springs attacks from the cage wall and Till will have to defend against take-downs as well as the big right hand upstairs.
Between 2016 and 2018 both Woodley and Till faced Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson. In these ‘Wonderboy Years’ Woodley managed a draw and a mixed decision win against the American striker, while Till out-manoeuvred Thompson to a close unanimous decision this May.
The Scouser took the initiative in that bout and although he was less aggressive than usual he looked positively energised compared to the economical Woodley, who has appeared more concerned with keeping his title rather than going out and dominating.
The pragmatism the Missouri man has shown has resulted in a recent record of one draw, three decision wins and only one KO victory, but Till’s five fight form matches that record exactly.
The absence of early wins for Till is partly down to competing at a higher level, partly down to fighting smarter and partly down to finding the weight increasingly hard to make – in two of Till’s last four bouts he’s come in over the limit.
But while Till has been continuously working his way towards UFC gold, Woodley has been out of the cage for over 12 months, and at 36 he’s at an age when most welterweights are past their best. The middleweight, lightweight and featherweight champs are 27, 29 and 26 respectively.
Woodley is fully accustomed to tall, southpaw strikers but he only really has a six-minute engine.
After just two tight rounds I expect Till will be too active and too sharp, and take the win via a decision. The danger to that bet is that somebody lands a bomb, but there’s enough bang in Paddy’s price to keep me interested.
Bet of the bout: Darren Till to win on Points – 7/2
The co-feature fight sees inaugural women’s flyweight champ Nicco Montano starts as a 6/1 underdog in the two-horse race with Valentina Shevchenko. The challenger from Kyrgyzstan has been fighting adults for sport since she was 12 years old and her only defeats in UFC have come against bantamweight champ Amanda Nunes.
Montano has limited experience in MMA and was a surprise winner of The Ultimate Fighter in 2017. Shevchenko’s last two wins were by submission and back her to make it a hat-trick this Saturday at 3/1.
Three outings in UFC and two ‘performance of the nights’ and one ‘fight of the night’, Zabit Magomedsharipov is ripping through the featherweight rankings. The opponent this weekend is late replacement Brandon Davis and you should be looking at an early victory for Zabit ‘Zabeast’.
The UFC 228 prelim’s feature two British fighters both with tough fights but good chances to win. Darren Stewart has found things hard since stepping up to UFC, but ‘The Dentist’ meets American Charles Byrd who has a similar record. Get behind Stewart to score his seventh KO win at 7/2.
Finally, we have Craig White taking on UFC legend Diego Sanchez. The Mexican American has been in the company since 2005, but he’s lost six of his last nine, and the most recent three of those have been by KO. Expect White to be too big and too fresh, and take the ‘W’ by decision at 5/1.
* All odds correct at time of posting.