Saturday night’s main event between Robert Whittaker and Darren Till is as close to a chess match you’re likely to find in the Octagon at the highest level. Two top contenders in every sense of the description, with ultra-deadly striking acumen on the feet.
Measured and coiled for each of the five rounds, the former champion, and the one-time welterweight title challenger knew the exact consequences of counter offence, with both finding themselves on the canvas at times, via well-placed shots. Whittaker walked onto a sharp left elbow, dropping him – before Till was met with a right-hand which had him on his backside.
In a back-and-forth of narrow margins, it was former kingpin, Whittaker who emerged with the 48-47 unanimous decision judging, returning him to the win-column, and forcing a third defeat in four outings, for the rangy Liverpudlian, Till. Whittaker’s success didn’t come without battle scars, however, as a massive cut over his left ear was opened and gushing via another elbow. For Till, a constant barrage of calf kicks to his southpaw lead will more than likely require him to go under the knife, with ligament damage suspected. Below, I play matchmaker for these two middleweight elites.
Robert Whittaker vs. Jared Cannonier:
While Whittaker managed to scrape past Till, I personally don’t believe he should be next for the winner of September’s undisputed title tilt between former opponent, Israel Adesanya, and Paulo Costa. If the Australian was thrust into a rematch with Adesanya let’s say, I’d be hugely fearful of history repeating itself. Sure, he managed to defeat Till and utilize some of his less than often displayed skills – but his tendency to swing wild with caution to the wind would land him in huge peril against Adesanya undoubtedly.
For Cannonier, the former heavyweight has lit up the middleweight scene since his cut to 185-pounds and would be certainly among title contention, even further – if it wasn’t for a torn pectoral. The 36-year-old has bested a trio of David Branch, Anderson Silva, and Jack Hermansson since his move to the division, however, unfortunately – I believe he’ll become another victim of inactivity, similarly to welterweight contender, Leon Edwards. Both have incredible winning runs but are long removed from their most recent outings.
Lets pair Whittaker and Cannonier, for a second time since they were initially scheduled to meet in March, with the winner sealing their bracket as number-one contender to the middleweight throne.
Darren Till vs. Derek Brunson – Edmen Shahbazyan winner:
Often, I note the need for a change in pace for a contender who has faltered in an important tie, and in the case of Darren Till – I’ll paint this narrative once more. His headliner with Whittaker was quite close in terms of result, but simply put, that’s his third defeat in his last four Octagon outings.
He originally landed at middleweight following losses to Tyron Woodley, and Jorge Masvidal – and managed a split judging win over Kelvin Gastelum, however, I still think he’s been pushed far too soon. Till’s still only 27-years-old, and a welcome clash with the winner of this weekend’s return to Las Vegas between longtime contender, Derek Brunson, and division upstart, Edmen Shahbazyan would give us a real gauge, as to where either of those two and Till are at this stage of their respective career.
A matchup with Hermansson is another option, but one I wouldn’t necessarily look to make right away for the Team Kaobon trainee, but don’t be at all surprised if those two stand opposite each other in another headlining tilt, given their respective numberings, and wins over the aforenoted, Gastelum.