The Film Room: Darren Till

By Kevin Wilson May 25, 2018
The surging Darren Till takes on Stephen Thompson this Saturday in front of his home country in what is his toughest test to date at UFC Fight Night 130. Till was relatively unknown before his KO win over Donald Cerrone last October, but is now being heralded as the best prospect the welterweight division has to offer. A win this Saturday over the No. 2-ranked “Wonderboy” might see him next in line for a title shot.

The Liverpool Slugger

Till began his marital arts training at 12 years old and quickly went pro at 15. He started off training muay Thai and transitioned to MMA at 17. When Till was 19, he was stabbed in the back twice after confronting a group of men at a party and nearly lost his life. After the stabbing, Till’s coach urged him to move to Brazil to further his training as living in Liverpool was too much of a distraction. The trip was only supposed to last six months but he ended up staying for three and a half years and had his first professional fight in Brazil in 2013. Just five years later, Till is on the cusp of a title shot, and at only 25 years old, he has plenty of time to round out his game achieve his goal of becoming the greatest of all-time.

Although Till has been training Muay Thai since he was 12, his style is much more karate than Muay Thai. With his hands low, stance slightly sideways, and torso upright, his style can best be compared to Conor McGregor. And like McGregor, Till’s bread and butter is his left straight. Till elects to set up that punch with a variety of feints and slight angle changes before closing the distance. In the open guard (southpaw vs. orthodox), Till likes to slap his opponent’s lead hand down to open up their guard and place his lead foot outside of his opponents to create a dominant angle for the left straight. This technqiue is also called the Dutch hand trap. Till is massive for the welterweight division and his power is evident in every strike he lands.

Although Till’s leading attacks are at the forefront of his highlight reel, he’s a counter striker at heart. Just like his leading attack, on the counter Till is mostly looking for the left straight. He achieves this by keeping a slow pace while setting the range at which exchanges take place with his jab and incredible distance management. This forces his opponents to aggressively move forward if they want to land anything, and when they do, Till will use a back-skipping left straight to stop them in their tracks. Till was able to knock down Jessin Ayari multiple times with the back-skipping left straight and nearly finished Nicolas Dalby with an intercepting left uppercut.

Like any true Nak Muay, Till’s other most used technique is elbow strikes. Whether on the ground or on the feet, Till is always looking to land elbows and sets them up similarly to his left straights. Till dropped Bojan Velickovic twice with elbows on the feet. Notice how Till traps Velickovic’s lead hand, then steps in with the left elbow. In his UFC debut against Wendell de Oliveira, Till took the fight to the ground and quickly battered him with elbows from half guard, earning him the KO win.

In his most recent fight with “Cowboy” Cerrone, Till proved he has more than just a left straight as he landed uppercuts, straights, and hooks. Notice here how he throws all three in succession and lands each of them on the tip of Cowboy’s nose with pinpoint accuracy. Till’s accuracy is outstanding, as he lands an above-average 52% of his strikes while avoiding 63% of his opponents strikes.

In the finishing sequence against Cerrone, Till showed incredible patience and accuracy. Till starts the sequence with a beautiful 1-2 that stumbles “Cowboy.” Instead of getting overzealous looking for the finish, Till patiently sets up a rear elbow with a couple of jabs before connecting with a few hooks that force Cowboy to cover up. As Cowboy covers up, Till swarms in for the finish, taking out the future hall of famer in the first round.

Till may seem unstoppable, and his 16-0-1 record certainly backs that up, but he did deal with some adversity early in his UFC career. After dominating the first two rounds against Nicolas Dalby, Till was caught with a head kick early in the third and subsequently got picked apart for the rest of the round. The fight ended in a draw, but Till surviving the three-minute onslaught is the best thing that could have happened to the young contender. Often fighters like Khabib Nurmagomedov come into the UFC undefeated and dominate their way to the top, which is fine until the fighter finds himself in peril and lacks the experience to handle it. Despite the undefeated record, Till has managed hardship inside the Octagon before, which should assist him in the future if he finds himself in similar situations.


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