MMAOB staff writer Adam Martin takes a deeper look at the main event of UFC on ESPN 14, a five-round middleweight bout between Robert Whittaker and Darren Till. The event takes place on Saturday, July 25 on Fight Island at Yas Island in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
Robert Whittaker (-110)
Whittaker (20-5) is the No. 1 ranked middleweight in the UFC and the former UFC middleweight champion. The 29-year-old Aussie is 11-3 overall in the UFC with notable wins over Yoel Romero, Ronaldo Souza, Derek Brunson, Uriah Hall, and Brad Tavares. A former Ultimate Fighter winner, Whittaker had a rocky start to his UFC career as a welterweight before moving up to middleweight and having tons of success against the best in the world. At 185lbs, Whittaker is 8-1 with his only loss coming to Israel Adesanya in his last fight. He is a tremendous striker with knockout power, he has really good takedown defense, a solid chin, and great cardio. Despite losing his last fight, Whittaker is still one of the best in the world and he can still make another run for the belt.
Darren Till (-110)
Till (18-2-1) is the No. 5 ranked middleweight in the UFC. The 27-year-old Brit is 6-2-1 in the UFC with notable wins over Kelvin Gastelum, Stephen Thompson, and Donald Cerrone. Once a title contender at 170lbs, Till outgrew the weight class and moved up to 185lbs for his last fight against Gastelum. Although it wasn’t the best performance of his career, he was able to outpoint a former title challenger in Gastelum which should give him confidence going forward in the division. Till is a tremendous striker with knockout power at times and he has the cardio to go the full five rounds. Although he did suffer a KO loss to Jorge Masvidal last year, he’s mostly shown a solid chin and his durability should improve at middleweight. It will definitely be fun to see what Till can do at 185lbs going forward and if he can beat Whittaker here, he could very well get a title shot.
Fight Breakdown: This is a true Pick ’em fight at the odds and that’s how the fight is playing out in my head, as well. This is just an incredibly close fight between two elite middleweights and I find it hard to be truly confident in predicting how this fight goes. If you asked me two fights ago I would have picked Whittaker, but after seeing him get knocked out by Adesanya and considering all the injuries he’s dealt with the last few years, there are things not to like about him here. As for Till, he didn’t have an amazing showing against Gastelum in his middleweight debut, but he did get the job done. Till is also slightly younger and slightly bigger, so there are some things going in his favor. This is a tough fight to call and I’ve gone back-and-forth on this one ever since it was announced, but ultimately my pick is going to be Till to win a competitive decision. I just think he’s going to be able to outpoint Whittaker and get his hand raised, but this fight can play out in so many ways.
Prediction: Darren Till wins by decision