UFC London main event preview
Today is the day, it’s the UFC’s annual visit to the O2 arena and, this year, there’s a real treat for British fight fans.
Headlining a stacked card on Saturday night will be a clash between two real fighters, Scouse hero Darren Till and the American Jorge Masvidal.
After the incredible career of Michael Bisping came to an end, British martial arts fans needed a new superstar to fill his boots and the man looking to do just that is ‘The Gorilla’ Darren Till. After taking up Muay Thai at a young age, Till would eventually transition to MMA aged seventeen.
In 2012, Till faced a near-death experience; whilst at a party in a club, he would confront a group of men who stabbed him twice in the back. The life of such a talented athlete could have been ended there and then as the knife cut deep into his body and missed his main artery by a millimetre. After the incident, his coach advised him to move halfway across the world to Brazil to pursue his dream, arguing that remaining in Liverpool wouldn’t be conducive to a successful career.
Till would stay in Brazil for three years and fought thirteen times in South America with the last fight being his UFC debut. After four fights in the promotion, Till would get the opportunity to headline in Gdansk, Poland, in a huge step up against future Hall of Famer Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone. In a fight which the bookmakers struggled to split, the Liverpudlian announced himself to the world in dramatic fashion. Till dismantled the legend on the feet and breezed to a first-round finish.
After demonstrating skills in a cage and on the microphone, it was clear to see we had a star on our hands and Dana White certainly took note. For the first time in history, the octagon would be travelling to Liverpool and it was all down to one man. However, Till’s headline bout with Stephen Thomson would spark a lot of controversies. Firstly, after a family emergency, Till missed weight but after negotiations, it was agreed that the fight would go ahead as planned. The main event was an intriguing battle in which Till eventually sealed the win with a knockdown in the fifth round, although some felt the verdict could’ve gone the other way.
After the UFC was unable to reach a deal for the then interim champion Colby Covington to take on the undisputed king Tyron Woodley, Till was offered his first world title shot in Dallas, Texas and it was one he gladly accepted. At UFC 228, after being caught by a huge right hand from the champion, Till was the victim of a severe ground and pound assault and was ultimately submitted via d’arce choke in the second round. Although his first attempt at the strap didn’t go according to plan, Till has by no means given up and on Saturday night he will be trying to get back to winning ways, but the man facing him is just as hungry for success.
Jorge Masvidal also known as ‘Gambred’ is renowned for being one of the toughest men in the sport. He gained a great deal of notoriety from street fighting, where he defeated Kimbo Slice’s protégé, and competed in wrestling at high school as well as taking part in submission grappling competitions.
Masvidal is a real veteran of the sport, after making his debut all the way back in 2003 in AFC. He competed for the promotion nine times with his highest profile win coming against Joe Lauzon who was unbeaten at the time. Gambred spent time at Bellator and Strikeforce where he fought for the belt. After the Strikeforce promotion came to its close, it was time for Masvidal to fight in the UFC. He won his first two fights against Tim Means and Michael Chiesa respectively and would go on to mix it with the best.
His highest-profile victory came against Donald Cerrone where he won via knockout and earned ‘performance of the night’ for his impressive display. Despite the fact that he is coming off the back of two defeats, it would be ludicrous to write off this tough operator who’s only been knocked out once in a career spanning forty-five fights.
The main event has all the makings of a real classic, Till needs a win to cement himself back in the world title picture and Masvidal always turns up for a fight. Two real warriors with fascinating back stories are set to collide in the capital, in a battle that should live up to its billing as a potential fight of the year.