UFC On ESPN 14 Clash: Whittaker Vs. Till!

UFC 243: Whittaker v Adesanya Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Middleweight strikers Robert Whittaker and Darren Till will clash TONIGHT (Sat., July 25, 2020) at UFC on ESPN 14 from “Fight Island” in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

Whittaker’s title loss to Israel Adesanya was a rough one, as the Aussie was basically knocked out twice (watch highlights). Since then, Whittaker has taken some time off to recover mentally and physically, but it remains unclear just where “The Reaper” stands after his defeat and layoff. Alternatively, Till exceeded expectations in his recent Middleweight debut, upsetting Kelvin Gastelum and jumping into the Top 5 as a result. One more victory could earn him a title shot, which would prove a remarkably quick rebound for “The Gorilla.”

Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:

Robert Whittaker

Record: 20-5
Key Wins: Yoel Romero (UFC 225, UFC 213), Ronaldo Souza (UFC on FOX 24), Derek Brunson (UFC Fight Night 101), Uriah Hall (UFC 193), Rafael Natal (UFC 197)
Key Losses: Israel Adesanya (UFC 243), Stephen Thompson (UFC 170), Court McGee (UFC Fight Night 27)
Keys to Victory: Whittaker is one of the sharpest combinations of Karate and boxing, capable of dangerous blitzes and more technical pocket exchanges. His defensive wrestling is pretty incredible, too, as he’s consistently denied takedowns from the best grapplers at 185 pounds.

Till is a crafty kickboxer, but this reads like a solid technical match up for Whittaker. After all, Till has struggled with blitzes before, notably when Jorge Masvidal shifted forward with a sudden lunging left hook. Whittaker has a nasty left hook and is quite good at suddenly crashing forward with the strike, which is already bad news for Till.

In addition, I’d really like to see Whittaker firing kicks to the thigh. His usual spearing side kick is great, but Till has a proven history of neglecting to check low round kicks. Whittaker would be wise to take advantage, as chopping at the longer man’s lead leg is usually a good idea.

Lastly, Whittaker needs to keep the pace high. Till likes low-volume fights, whereas Whittaker is very proven in 25-minute battles with dozens of strikes throw. If Whittaker is throwing more, he’s probably landing more and staying ahead on the judges’ scorecards.

Darren Till

Record: 18-2-1
Key Wins: Kelvin Gastelum (UFC 244), Stephen Thompson (UFC Fight Night 130), Donald Cerrone (UFC Fight Night 118), Bojan Velickovic (UFC Fight Night 115)
Key Losses: Tyron Woodley (UFC 228), Jorge Masvidal (UFC Fight Night 147)
Keys to Victory: Till has a lot of training and competition experience in Muay Thai, which definitely shows in his range management. The Southpaw has a real piston of a left hand, which he sets up with feints and hand traps.

In his last bout, Till demonstrated a different strategy than his previous bouts at 170 pounds. At distance, Till was more active with low kicks, and whenever Gastelum stepped forward to punch, Till wrapped him up in the clinch and smothered his offense. That proactive clinch work was much rarer at 170 pounds, where Till diligently fought at the end of his punches almost exclusively.

Against Whittaker, occasionally attempting to tie up the Aussie would be a smart way to interrupt the lunging punches. Big bursts of offense tend to work best when a fighter tries to step back/lean back out of range, rather than stay right in place and catch the arms.

Till’s best chance to land something major seems to be on the counter. Most of Whittaker’s heaviest absorbed shots came when his opponents slipped or pulled away from his strikes, landing while the Aussie was out of position. Till has an excellent pull-left cross, and landing it perfectly could end the fight.

Bottom Line

This could be a Middleweight title eliminator.

Robert Whittaker’s loss to Adesanya was devastating, but that doesn’t mean he cannot climb the mountain once again. A win over a Top 5-ranked fighter like Till proves that “Bobby Knuckles” is still at the top of his game, and peak Whittaker is a threat to just about anyone.

It may require one more win to make it official, but defeating Till puts Whittaker right back in the mix.

As for Till, he has an even stronger shot at securing an immediate title shot with a win. After all, he’s been talking trash with Adesanya for months already, and UFC would love to book that fight (assuming Adesanya can defeat Paulo Costa). If not, a title eliminator with Jack Hermansson or Jared Cannonier is possible as well.

Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC on ESPN 14 fight card this weekend RIGHT HERE, starting with the ESPN+/ESPN “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance on ESPN+/ESPN at 8 p.m. ET.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC on ESPN 14: “Whittaker vs. Till” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.

At UFC on ESPN 14, Robert Whittaker and Darren Till will square off in the main event. Which man will earn the victory?

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