DARREN TILL secured hometown glory and moved closer to a shot at UFC welterweight gold, as he edged past Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson at the Echo Arena in Liverpool, winning by a unanimous, albeit debatable, decision.
There was no denying it was a close fight, a chess match at times, however all three judges saw it in Till’s favour, 48-47 and by two scores of 49-46, which will be at the centre of the conversation over the coming days.
“Wonderboy’s” elusive movement and sharp counters, in particular the right hand, looked to have done enough to send him home with the victory, however the rounds were so close, it was difficult to easily pick a winner.
Till was greeted as the returning, hometown hero. However, the fight was in jeopardy at the weigh-in, as Till missed the weight, coming in three pounds over the limit at 174.5lbs, and had to hit a check-weight just hours before the fight.
Despite the difficulties of the previous day, he was roared into the arena by a sold out crowd. Thompson was greeted by a cacophony of boos, but looked totally unfazed by the atmosphere, which was electric as the fight got underway.
The first round was a feeling out process, although it barely got away from that for the rest of the five rounds. Both threw plenty of feints, but not much leather, with a left hand from Thompson the standout shot of the round.
Till, was searching for an opening to throw his own left and closed the distance in the second, however neither was truly committing, as they looked to draw the other into making a mistake. It was fascinating to watch, as you waited in anticipation for the fireworks to happen.
We were still waiting for them as it went into the third, with Thompson’s catching Till with the right, as Till pressed forward. The clash was briefly paused as Thompson caught Till with an eye-poke and after the action resumed, you were still hard pressed to truly separate them.
“Wonderboy” began to get through in the fourth, which saw Till initiate a clinch and push him back to the cage, landing an elbow as Thompson moved off. Thompson continued to get snap in leg-kicks and appeared to be a round away from victory.
The general consensus was Till had to go for broke in the fifth and he certainly picked up the aggression, dropping Thompson with a left hand. But, “Wonderboy’s” powers of recovery were still in good working order and he was up quickly and secured a takedown as the fight went into the closing stages.
However, the judges went in favour of Till, who was in control of the centre of the Octagon, but was on the receiving end of the cleaner, sharper strikes of Thompson, who will look back on the fight and real hard-done to, although maybe not too surprised after arriving in Till’s hometown.
As for Till, a potential shot at UFC welterweight king Tyron Woodley, who is currently on the way back from injury, or the winner of Rafael Dos Anjos and Colby Covington’s clash for the Interim title in two weeks’ time. Whatever you thought of the decision, Till is right at the front of the line for a crack at glory.
In the co-main event, Neil Magny lived up to pre-fight expectations and took out late replacement Craig White inside a round of their welterweight meeting. “The Thundercat” gave it everything, but Magny decimated him with a thunderous knee before ending matters with some nasty strikes on the ground. The Denver based Magny proceeded to call out Kamaru Usman, who beat Demian Maia last week, after the win.
Arnold Allen was well on his way to losing his featherweight battle with Mads Burnell, who had no issue securing takedowns through the first two rounds. The Dane was putting on a career-best performance, until Allen snapped on a choke from out of nowhere and choked him out midway through the third and earn a stunning, come from behind victory. A clash with a ranked opponent in the featherweight division could be next for Suffolk’s “Almighty”.
A former Allen victim, Makwan Amirkhani got the better of Jason Knight, by way of a split decison in a fight that delivered on the pre-fight expectations. The opening round was breathtaking, as both fighters were dropped, Amirkhani twice, before they settled into a slower pace in the second. “Mr Finland” secured the takedown’s, however Knight was defending well off his back and could have stolen the victory, until the final minute, when Amirkhani turned the tables in his favour with a flurry of strikes.
Welterweight Claudio Silva, who refers to himself as “The Brazilian Brit”, returned to the Octagon after four years out and submitted Nordine Taleb in the first round due to a rear-naked choke. It’s good to see him back. Darren Stewart snapped his three fight losing streak in the middleweight division, stopping Eric Spicely in the second round. “The Dentist” was overcome with emotion in his post-fight interview and could have saved his UFC career.
On the preliminary card, Tom Breese made a welcome but brief return, as he flattened Dan Kelly, who may now call it as day at 40-years-old, in the first round. The Birmingham man will be a welcome addition to the middleweight division. Lina Lansberg’s striking was enough as she got the better of Gina Mazany in the battle of the ranked women’s bantamweight’s, winning by way of unanimous decision, 30-27 twice and 29-28.
Carlo Pedersoli Jr, who got the better of UFC veteran Nicolas Dalby at a Cage Warriors event last month, pulled off another upset on short notice, and deservedly so, as he outpointed Brad Scott in the welterweight division. Two of the judges gave it the Italian 29-28, whilst the other gave it Scott 29-28.
Molly McCann entered with a lot of buzz, as one of two Liverpool fighters on the card, however she was choked out in the second round by Gillian Robertson, who was excellent, as she dominated, silencing the crowd for a couple of hours at least. The fight was made at 127lbs, after McCann missed the day before by a pound and she fell victim to Robertson’s superior grappling.
“Meatball” tried to keep the fight standing, however she was dragged down to the canvas and Robertson transitioned to her back. Soon, McCann was in real trouble as the Canadian sunk in a rear-naked choke, which eventually got her the win, as McCann, refusing to tap in her hometown, passed out and was left twitching on the canvas, as Robertson celebrated another win.
Finally, in the first fight of the evening, middleweight Elias Theodorou, who was recently been attracting headlines, when he became the ring boy for a recent Invicta fight night, picked up his second straight win in the Octagon, beating Trevor Smith by unanimous decision, 30-27 twice and 29-28.