Esther Lin, MMA Fighting
It’s hard to believe Darren Till was in a must-win situation after fighting for the welterweight title just over a year ago but that’s where he stood heading into UFC 244.
The 26-year old Liverpudlian opted to make the move up to 185 pounds after suffering two knockout losses in a row and immediately jumped into the deep end of the division by facing former interim title contender Kelvin Gastelum in his debut.
The gamble paid off with Till earning a split decision win over Gastelum in his middleweight debut with two scorecards reading 30-27 and 29-28 in his favor with the third going 30-27 for the former “Ultimate Fighter” winner.
“I proved a lot of f*cking doubters wrong,” Till said. “I’m just happy to be here right now. I want to build myself back up. F*ck all them doubters!”
What was expected to be a slugfest on the feet started as a clinch war with Gastelum and Till jockeying for position while locked against the cage for much of the opening round.
When they finally broke free, Till used a series of leg kicks to keep Gastelum guessing but it appeared both fighters were wary to really engage while respecting each other’s power.
Following a slow start to the fight, Till and Gastelum got busier in the second round with the Brit using his reach and power to give the former interim title contender some problems on the feet. Gastelum fired back with a few leg kicks but he was struggling to put together his boxing combinations with any real accuracy.
Till continued to land the better shots with Gastelum looking frustrated that he couldn’t find a consistent home for his best offense.
The third round saw a similar pattern emerge with Till connecting with perhaps his best punch of the fight with a laser-like left hand that blasted Gastelum. In return, Gastelum started winging his power left looking to shift the momentum but he was struggling to connect with any real consistency.
As the fight came to an end, the crowd at Madison Square Garden was definitely restless with Till and Gastelum opting for a more technical battle rather than just launching strikes at each other until one man fell.
Ultimately, Till got the nod in a much-needed win after suffering back-to-back knockouts at welterweight before finally making the move up to 185 pounds. Considering Gastelum’s standing prior to Saturday night, it’s hard to believe that Till won’t find himself immediately mentioned as a top-five contender following a single fight as a middleweight.
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