Daggs 187: Is it smart to give Darren Till a guy like Kelvin Gastelum for his debut??
I must say I’m not a big fan of this matchup in terms of what it means for Till. The UFC is clearly high on his potential and has been desperate to catapult the kickboxer into some level of stardom for the UK market. So far, it hasn’t gone over very well.
First, there was a controversial split decision win over Stephen Thompson. Despite falling far short of his duties in regards to weight management, that razor close win -- that had a smell of good ol’ home cooking from the judges in Liverpool -- was enough to put him in a title fight against then-welterweight king Tyron Woodley. Till was dominated inside of two rounds. A third consecutive main event, this time in London, against Jorge Masvidal didn’t exactly go his way either. He was once again finished before the second round came to a close. However, this time it was by devastating knockout.
Two things seemed very clear throughout this tumultuous trifecta of fights. The first was that a move to middleweight might be best for Till’s long term safety and short term hopes of winning a title. The announced bout with Kelvin Gastelum signals that move to 185 is finally upon us --unless, of course, we want to see two men with well noted weight issues killing themselves for a lackluster welterweight meeting.
The second takeaway is that Till might need to rebuild himself against lesser opposition. A former champion, a two time challenger, and a near 50-fight veteran who has consistently given fits to the best of the best might have been a bit much for the young fighter to handle. Stepping in the Octagon against Gastelum completely ignores this possibility. The man who was just one step shy of winning a middleweight belt earlier this year and has collected the scalps of five champions in two different weight classes doesn’t check that box at all.
Even from a style perspective, Gastelum is a frightfully dangerous pairing for Till as he attempts to rehab his projected future. An Unrelenting pace with high pressure, heavy power, and dangerous grappling ability is a nightmare for Till from a strategic perspective. Perhaps we’ll see a version of Till at 185 that resembles an elite fighter ready for title contention, but it seems very premature and short sighted to test this theory on his first outing.
X Factor: Who should be first for Anthony Johnson at heavyweight? Top guys like Curtis Blaydes or maybe somebody lower down like Walt Harris or Tai Tuivasa?
I think we’d be content to see Anthony Johnson against almost anyone at heavyweight. He’s an action fighter that has nightmarish power in his hands and feet, but also has clear exploitable weaknesses. It’s the perfect recipe for something exciting to happen. Curtis Blaydes, Walt Harris, or Tai Tuivasa would all be fun match ups.
I think it would be important to know what Rumble’s intentions were coming back. If he plans on sticking around for the long haul and chasing title contention, then anyone in the top 10 sounds appropriate. However, I’m willing to wager that he doesn’t plan on becoming a rank and file guy at heavyweight. Take his statements about only wanting to fight Jon Jones at heavyweight as evidence. If that’s the case, he should be in against big names that won’t factor into the title picture.
Someone like Alistair Overeem fits these criteria. Considering he’s been finished by both champion Stipe Miocic and possible next challenger Francis Ngannou, it’s safe to say Overeem probably doesn’t factor into the immediate title picture. The two also have a dislike for one another that created some headlines a few years ago after training together briefly. A veteran like Alexey Olenik could be cruel way to commemorate the twilight of his career while providing an interesting style contrast.
If he could be lured into it, a fight against Brock Lesnar would make the most sense to me. It provides the perfect striker versus grappler bout that still fascinates us. Both men shouldn’t be even considered for anything resembling a title fight, but have big enough names that could persuade Endeavor to allow them to skip the line. By keeping them occupied with one another in what would be a lucrative headliner, they can stay away from the belt.
Kowboy (formerly known as Kung Fu Tze): So... Cyborg fights a legit 145er in Budd. Then what? Cross Promotion Fights?Why not? Isn’t that the fun part of Cris Cyborg fighting outside of the UFC with a less restrictive contract. Of course, the side of me that rants and raves about “sporting integrity” wants to see the reason why there is a women’s featherweight division fight actual featherweights. While Bellator doesn’t exactly have an endless supply of top shelf 145ers, they have more a couple more than the UFC. Julia Budd is also one of the few known names currently competing that Cyborg hasn’t fought yet.
Assuming she wins what will almost certainly be an immediate title shot, there are plenty of fun options for Cyborg that don’t fit in the conventional arch of a champion but would be too tempting to pass up on. Sign me up for a Rizin New Year’s Eve show where she can beat up on some poor obscure former pro wrestler. Maybe if enough money is on the table, she and Gabi Garcia can put their friendship aside for an exhibition bout. I’m all on board for a Bellator Kickboxing match or challenging a prominent female boxer.
If we don’t take the carnival route, Cyborg can fight the actual featherweights on the Bellator roster until she doesn’t feel like doing it anymore. Additionally, I’ll take this time to reiterate my theory that the UFC will be doing away with its female 145 division in the absence of Cyborg, with Amanda Nunes lacking any real challengers there and a bantamweight belt to defend. If that prediction comes true soon enough, there will be at least a few women for Scott Coker to sign to fight her. Also, he could go the UFC route and raid the ranks of Invicta for talent as well.
After 14 years as an MMA fighter, it’s safe to say that Cyborg isn’t likely to stick around for that much longer. With a less hostile work environment and the ability to explore other ambitions, Bellator seems like the perfect fit.