With Derek Brunson vs Darren Till right around the corner, many MMA fans have been left wondering what the result will mean in terms of the landscape of the middleweight division. In fact, it has been said there will be a purported bout between Israel Adesanya, the current middleweight champion, and Till provided he wins.
This fantasized bout has been met with incredible scrutiny and loathing from MMA fans around the world, mostly because Till will be coming off one win against the 5th ranked contender in Brunson should he win Saturday. The purist view of title-challenging is being broadcasted by fans to dispute this potential matchup and it’s gaining more momentum by the days.
If we take a step back and look at the alternatives, we can form a pretty solid view regarding whether this is in fact a warranted outrage or not.
Keep in mind, this is predicated on both Till and Adesanya winning their upcoming bouts. Adesanya is unofficially set to face Robert Whittaker in a rematch some time early in 2022. Adesanya beating Whittaker will be no easy feat, Whittaker has looked like the best version of himself recently and if he brings that same version to their fight, we could easily be staring at 1-1 with a trilogy on the horizon shortly after. This means to say, should Whittaker beat Adesanya we won’t be seeing Till fight for the belt until late 2022 earliest. Till getting the win against Brunson will be every bit as difficult, Brunson is on a 4-fight win streak which includes the likes of Edmen Shahbazyan and Kevin Holland who were hot prospects going into their fights. This record of derailing hype may not bode well for Darren as a result. However, provided both get their respective victory then we may be seeing a title matchup that is disliked and disrespected.
Fans’ main contention with seeing Till fight for the belt next is he’d be 2-1 in the middleweight division coming off one win to the #6 ranked contender. I would suggest that rather than look at that, we delve into the other potential matchups which are as follows:
- Winner of Paulo Costa vs Marvin Vettori on the 23rd of October.
- Jared Cannonier
- Winner of Sean Strickland vs Luke Rockhold on the 6th of November.
If we look here first, Adesanya fighting the winner makes no real sense, as both fighters were set aside by Israel with no danger at any time in either fight. Not to mention, these fights took place within the past year with both men not having fought since. What we have here is the same circumstance in the sense that either fighter will only be coming off one win but an added disincentive which is both have been dislodged by Adesanya already. Either matchup doesn’t have any weight in terms of purism or business acumen.
Glancing at this, it makes the most sense out of any other matchup. The only thing that detracts from this is its lack of PPV numbers. Not a great many people would know who Cannonier is outside of the MMA sphere and even at that, some have criticised his last two performances for being boring and having a lack of output. Instead, it would likely be more beneficial to Cannonier to fight once more and try look for the finish to solidify his power that we have seen in previous bouts. Not to mention, his criticism on the MMA hour of the UFC’s pay structure will certainly not have gone down well with Dana and the higher-ups which in turn hurts his chances even further.
Taking this into serious consideration is tough to do, and I do not see any way either fighter would have more claim to the throne than Till. Rockhold is 1-4 in the last 5 years with the one win coming against David Branch in September of 2017. Strickland is coming off a 5 win-streak looking to extend it to 6, keep in mind only 3 of those coming at Middleweight with Uriah Hall being the most notable name. Again, Strickland would struggle with the PPV side of things as he is virtually unknown outside of MMA weekly watchers.
On the other hand, if we take Till, Adesanya called Till out himself, which is the inverse of the norm. Till tends to do well in PPV’s anyway but his social media ‘antics’ over the past year or so have made him an even larger figurehead in MMA, coincide this with Adesanya being his opponent and you’re looking at potentially a very successful night for the UFC. Yes, while he has only had 2 fights at middleweight so far, he has looked exceptional.
We saw him initially facing off against Kelvin Gastelum, whom at the time was coming off the widely revered fight against Adesanya himself for the interim title. Till won via split decision however, the majority of fans gave it to Till 29-28 according to verdict and the decision itself was criticised heavily at the time due to it being split. His next and most recent fight came against Robert Whittaker in July of last year, in which Whittaker took it 48-47 in a razor-thin fight. Till hurt Whittaker hard twice, in which he said he could’ve finished it both times had he been a little more aggressive. Some even saw the fight for Till giving him rounds 1, 4 and 5. It’s important to note that this was against the new and improved Whittaker aforementioned whom the likes of Cannonier and Gastelum found a little too much to handle.
All this goes to say is, the backlash this potential matchup has faced is unwarranted as the alternatives aren’t any stronger.
We will see how Till fares against Brunson this weekend and whether this is a discussion even worth having.