With UFC 228 looming ever closer, Darren Till remains only a slight outsider to beat Tyron Woodley. Ten years younger than his American opponent, the Liverpudlian Till is the only one of UFC 228’s headliners to be undefeated thus far in his career. As expected, the first verbal shots have been fired, and it is a feud that will only intensify as that first bell on Sept. 8 draws nearer.
For even the most seasoned pundits, this fight is too close to call at present. In any case, the age gap between the two might as well not exist. While Woodley began his current venture as a university-educated wrestler, who did not have his first professional fight until the age of 26, Till turned professional in Muay Thai at the age of just 17.
The age of 20 was significant in the lives of both fighters. While Woodley’s 20th year was marked by his first venture as an All-American, the same period in Till’s life brought the Briton a violent confrontation, which culminated in him being mere millimeters from death. Stabbed in the back during a brawl in Liverpool, which precipitated his decision to move to Brazil and focus solely on his training, Till fears no opponent, having come so close to death in 2012.
Both men had difficult early lives, but while one is educated and calculated, the other is pure, street-learned aggression. Come fight night, some may use this as justification for backing the challenger Till.
The form of both fighters also offers little in the way of inspiration for anyone planning to back one or the other via sportsbooks like those found in the portfolio of operator Mr. Green. It is four years and counting since Woodley last tasted defeat and six years since he last tasted canvas. This strongly implies that Muay Thai specialist Till could be in for a long night, and will need to time his blows to absolute perfection.
Naturally, if the fight reaches the ground, then Woodley is in a prime position to honor his current standing as the slight favorite. In addition to Woodley, Till is also fighting what are (for now) isolated calls from UFC fans that he has lost his knockout touch. Though Till comes into this one with a 17-0 record and one draw, only one of his last four fights has ended in a knockout.
In addition to his lack of consistent knockouts, Till has also never managed to knock out an opponent with his knees. Martial arts films, with a Muay Thai-practicing protagonist, are full of flying knees and high kicks. Never once has Till managed to do this crowd-pleaser in the Octagon, and the last time he utilized anything remotely unique to Muay Thai to a winning end was his knockout of Wendell de Oliveira with elbows in May 2015.
Ultimately, Woodley is the favorite only by virtue of the fact that this bout will better suit someone with the patience to wear down the opposition. With Till being a whole three inches taller than Woodley, the reach advantage held by Till gives Woodley full license to play to his strengths. With all considered, a decision is a very real possibility, and which way it goes depends on Woodley’s ability to ride out Till’s early advances.