If you’re among the lucky ones in America who will enjoy a three-day weekend for Memorial Day, but somehow find yourself with no plans to speak of, don’t fret. The UFC has you covered! Well, sort of.
American fans will be treated to a rare Sunday afternoon UFC Fight Night card on Sunday, May 27, with the latest installment, UFC Fight Night 130, set to take place across the pond in Liverpool, England. It may represent some kind of irony that the UFC would put on a card on Memorial Day weekend in the United Kingdom.
The headliner of this particular card is an important welterweight bout between Stephen Thompson and Darren Till. Thompson is gunning for a third crack at the UFC welterweight title, and gaining a victory over a fast-rising fighter like Till would go a long way toward helping Thompson make his case. Conversely, Till is coming off a surprising first-round knockout of Donald Cerrone in his last bout, and a win over a two-time title challenger could put Till in position for a title shot of his own.
The co-main event was originally going to be another interesting welterweight match-up, with Neil Magny taking on Gunnar Nelson. However, Nelson had to withdraw with an injury. Now, Magny will face Craig White, a veteran of UK promotion Cage Warriors who will make his UFC debut. Will the home-field advantage propel White to a big upset? Or will Magny continue building his case as a dark-horse candidate at 170 pounds?
The UFC Fight Pass preliminary card starts at 9:30 a.m. ET, followed by the preliminary card on Fox Sports 1 at 11 a.m. ET and the main card at 1 p.m. ET. Combat Press writers Chris Huntemann and Dan Kuhl are here to preview the action in this edition of Toe-to-Toe.
After a first-round knockout of Donald Cerrone and some Conor McGregor-esque mic work, Darren Till is now set to meet former welterweight title challenger Stephen Thompson in the evening’s headliner. Can Till live up to the enormous hype he’s built for himself and stay undefeated? Will Thompson be far too much for the Brit?
Kuhl: The short answer: I highly doubt it. Till is only 25 years old and has a very bright future. He’s also not your garden-variety English fighter. Till has been training Muay Thai since age 12, and he also spent three and a half years training in Brazil, where he has a family. However, Cerrone’s level of kickboxing is not even in the same category as the kickboxing of Thompson.
Thompson’s kickboxing prowess is likened to the grappling prowess of Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza or Demian Maia. It’s above the upper echelon. One shining example is when the former title contender knocked out current middleweight champ Robert Whittaker in the first round of their fight four years ago. This is still Whittaker’s only knockout loss. We could run down Thompson’s history in striking arts and kickboxing, but at 57-0 in pro kickboxing, let’s just say he’s the very best.
Sure, Till has the hype train. Sure, he will always have a puncher’s chance. However, he will not be able to best Thompson in this one. This is the fight Thompson needs to recover from his back-to-back failed title shots against Tyron Woodley. His win over Jorge Masvidal in November was him just clearing his throat. Till could very well make it the distance, but expect Thompson to win this one handily.
Huntemann: Mr. Kuhl and I are like a married couple at this point, with as often as we find ourselves completing this preview together and agreeing with each other. We’re still going furniture shopping this weekend too, right?
To the question at hand. Yes, my esteemed colleague is correct. I don’t see Till pulling this one off against Thompson. Till has a bright, bright future ahead of him. His knockout of Cerrone wasn’t a fluke, even if Cerrone’s best days are behind him and the bill for all the punishment he has taken over the course of his career is starting to come due.
But if there is one thing that sets Thompson apart from his contemporaries in the welterweight division, it is that he is pretty good at not getting hit. All you have to do is look at his two fights with Woodley. While one fight ended in a draw and the other went to Woodley, by and large Thompson did not suffer substantial damage, even though he did take a few shots in both of those fights. He is very good at using angles and movement to largely avoid the big hits and frustrate his opponents, all while waiting for the perfect moment to strike, like in his victories over Jake Ellenberger and the aforementioned Masvidal.
Thompson’s tendency to try not to get hit means this will probably not be the most exciting fight. It will likely rile up the enthusiastic Liverpool fans. Thompson is there to win fights, not a popularity contest, and he will use his reach advantage and movement to keep away from Till’s powerful fists and outpoint Till for a fairly uninspiring decision win.
Neil Magny was expected to fight Gunnar Nelson in the co-headliner before Nelson suffered an injury and was forced out of the bout. The UFC replaced Nelson with Craig White. Does White stand any chance against Magny?
Huntemann: Does White stand any chance? Sure, he does. He has won five out of his last six fights and four straight, all by knockout or submission. Those wins didn’t come against cans, either. He beat two previously undefeated fighters, one fighter with 20 pro wins and another guy with a 10-2-1 record. White has seen his fair share of challenges in one of the world’s more formidable regional MMA promotions during his stay with Cage Warriors.
However, the UFC is a different animal — even if that comes across as a cliché sometimes. Magny has faced an absolute gauntlet in the welterweight division over the last three years. He really hasn’t had an “easy” fight since 2015. Magny is battle-tested and shouldn’t be taken too off guard by an unknown opponent who stepped up on short notice.
Magny will be smart, utilize his ground skills and secure a convincing, if not entirely memorable, victory.
Kuhl: Of course White has a chance, but that’s always the case in any fight, regardless of who’s facing off. Also, as my colleague pointed out, White’s a finisher. In fact, he has never been to a decision before, which is a scary proposition for Magny, because the Welshman obviously takes that kill-or-be-killed mentality into all of his fights. However, this is Magny, not some gatekeeper.
Magny has been in the UFC for almost eight years now — ever since his appearance on The Ultimate Fighter 16. He is currently 13-5 in the promotion, and he has won and lost in just about every way possible. The Colorado-based fighter will also have a height and reach advantage.
Due to his well-rounded nature and his ability to take the fight wherever it goes, it’s hard to predict the outcome of a Magny bout. However, it is very well known that he is a longtime member of Elevation Fight Team, and those coaches, most of which have been fighters themselves, have a very high fight IQ.
When a fighter like White has little-to-no record of going into deep waters, I would assume that Magny’s coaches are telling their man to use his range, not do something that will get him caught, and drag this one out until White either gets tired or desperate, either of which should result in a Magny victory.
Craig White, Molly McCann and Carlo Pedersoli — do we need to know these names?
Kuhl: Whenever the UFC crosses the pond, the company is taking an even bigger risk for short-notice injuries, because visa issues and the overall talent pool of fighters who can legally fill in makes finding replacements very difficult at times. Was White the UFC’s first choice? Obviously not, considering how long it took the promotion to find someone at all. That being said, he has been on a good run and has a chance at making a big statement.
McCann was the Cage Warriors flyweight champ prior to coming on with the UFC. She has finished opponents and gone the distance. At 4-2, McCann’s opponent, Gillian Robertson, is not exactly unbeatable. So it’s up to McCann to let us know if we should know her name.
Huntemann: McCann is another fighter who makes her UFC debut on this card after coming over from Cage Warriors. The British organization appears to be quite a proving ground for fighters on the rise. McCann has won six straight fights, with three knockouts, and was the reigning champ.
Robertson will not be a pushover, though. She has already shared the cage with some tough customers, including Barb Honchak on The Ultimate Fighter and Cynthia Calvillo, Cheyanne Vlismas and Ashley Greenway across her amateur and pro career. This fight could be a sleeper pick for “Fight of the Night.” McCann will get the job done in front of her countrymen. She makes a nice addition to the women’s flyweight division in the UFC.
Which fight is the sleeper match-up on this card?
Huntemann: Whenever I see a Daniel Kelly fight on a Fight Night card, that’s the fight I’m going to pay attention to. I just have such a soft spot for Kelly, because he really does look like the dad next door, but he is also a dad who competes in MMA and has great judo skills. He even holds a win over a former UFC light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans.
Kelly has lost two straight, but those losses came against Elias Theodorou and Derek Brunson. That’s not exactly a walk in the park. Kelly has another stiff test in Tom Breese, who started his UFC career with a 3-1 record and two first-round knockouts. I look forward to seeing Kelly and his dad bod and taped ankles deliver another performance that takes people by surprise.
Kuhl: I completely agree. Kelly is one of those guys that can make anyone look bad.
That being said, I’ll choose the fight between Makwan Amirkhani and Jason Knight. Knight is coming off back-to-back losses, but he is still young and has beaten some top talent, including Daniel Hooker and Alex Caceres. Amirkhani, on the other hand, suffered his sole UFC defeat to Arnold Allen in March 2017. Knight will win, because his opponent comes in with well over a year of ring rust.
Pair this card with…
Kuhl: It’s Sunday, and we have the next day off, so that screams brunch buffet with a bottomless mimosa and Bloody Mary bar. Might as well take advantage of a long Sunday with never-ending food and drink.
Huntemann: Since this card takes place on Memorial Day weekend, is there any other answer here besides beer? If you’re enjoying a three-day weekend in America (or a four-day weekend like me, zing!), then take a moment to toast not only those who sacrificed their lives for our country, but also that you can enjoy some MMA on a Sunday and not have to worry about going back to work the next day.
Main Card (Fox Sports 1, 1 p.m. ET)
WW: Stephen Thompson vs. Darren Till
WW: Neil Magny vs. Craig White
FW: Arnold Allen vs. Mads Burnell
FW: Makwan Amirkhani vs. Jason Knight
BW: Manny Bermudez vs. Davey Grant
MW: Eric Spicely vs. Darren Stewart
Preliminary Card (Fox Sports 1, 11 a.m. ET)
WW: Claudio Silva vs. Nordine Taleb
MW: Tom Breese vs. Daniel Kelly
WW: Bradley Scott vs. Carlo Pedersoli
Women’s FlyW: Molly McCann vs. Gillian Robertson
Preliminary Card (UFC Fight Pass, 9:30 a.m. ET)
MW: Elias Theodorou vs. Trevor Smith
Women’s BW: Gina Mazany vs. Lina Länsberg
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