Our last stop on fight island (for now) takes place this Saturday and brings with it one of the best main events of the year. A fight that has absolutely everything aside from a title on the line; though the winner will put themselves in pole position.
When Liverpool’s Darren Till and Australia/New Zealand’s Robert Whittaker face-off in the cage, you can expect fans across the world to be split. Both men are two of the biggest fan favourites in the sport and the build-up to this contest has raised this even higher. Robert Whittaker is not a man to engage in a war of words, but he has engaged in Till’s hilarious social media war that has made fans get behind both men even more.
Robert Whittaker, aside from his injuries, was on an absolute tear going into UFC 243. Since moving up to the middleweight division, he won eight back-to-back fights including two unforgettable wars with Yoel Romero that defined him as the middleweight champion. No-one could see past Whittaker as middleweight champion until Israel Adesanya began carving his way through the division right to the top.
Adesanya was on an incredible run going into UFC 243, which just shows how highly people rated Robert Whittaker at the time. Though you have to give Adesanya credit for his title winning performance that saw him finish Whittaker in the second round; it’s safe to say it wasn’t the champion’s best performance. All of Whittaker’s key attributes that had got him this far were simply not there in this fight. His ability to read a fight along with his composure, patience and accuracy that had been instrumental in his wins over Brunson, Jacare and Romero, had many thinking his fight with Israel would be very competitive. Instead, in attempting to close distance on Adesanya as much as possible using strikes, he too easily left himself open for counters from ‘The Last Stylebender’. A performance like that would surely mean another defeat on Saturday night.
On the flip side of this incredibly even match-up, is another former welterweight with only win on his record at middleweight. Since suffering back-to-back losses at welterweight, Darren Till moved up to middleweight which was always seen as his more natural weight class. It was then announced that he would be taking on Kelvin Gastelum, a very dangerous first opponent at 185 pounds.
Though he was coming off of a loss, Kelvin Gastelum’ stock had certainly risen following his breathtaking war with Israel Adesanya, where he pushed the now-champion much further than anyone else. Till was able to use his striking and footwork to keep Gastelum out of boxing range, not allowing him to land any significant damage through all 3-rounds. Till would have definitely seen what Adesanya did well against Gastelum to control the striking ranges and use it in his own gameplan, the question is can he do the same to the former champion Robert Whittaker.
What we do know is that this will be a fascinating fight between two of the most exciting fighters and best personalities in the sport that will likely see one of them put themselves right in the title picture. What a way to close out fight island (for now).
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