By: Chris Clark
This Sunday Liverpool hosts its first UFC event in history, as the Echo Arena plays host to an event headlined by a mouth-watering matchup in the Welterweight Division between Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson, and hometown hero Darren Till. This matchup was rumored to be in the works for an event in February, until we were informed that Wonderboy still needed to recover from a thumb injury picked up in his last fight against Jorge Masvidal, but he’s now fit and ready to challenge Till. Till has boasted a very self-assured attitude, similar to what we saw during the rise of Conor McGregor, someone many have compared him to. The question remains, can Till continue his meteoric rise to the top, and make a further name for himself with victory over Thompson. The win over Cowboy introduced him to the MMA mainstream, a win over Wonderboy makes him the number one contender (outside of the Dos Anjos vs Covington interim title fight). He called his shot and got it, a main event fight in front of his people in Liverpool, a chance to prove to the MMA world that he’s no one hit wonder. I would argue the pressure is all on Till for this matchup, but he has certainly not shied away from it, proclaiming himself to be the next big superstar, a department the UFC is currently lacking in. The potential is there, he has a passionate sports city behind him, a country on his side, and even representing Brazil having lived there, in addition to speaking the language fluently. Wonderboy honestly doesn’t have a lot to gain from this, he just needs to keep winning until someone named Tyron Woodley isn’t the champion anymore, then maybe he’ll get another crack at the title. He can also derail a hype train, and possibly gain some international fans in the process. He comes into this one as the enemy, which sounds odd for a guy as likeable as Wonderboy, but if there’s one thing we know about Liverpool, it’s that they get behind their own, and Wonderboy is in for a hostile night on Sunday. One thing is for certain, we’re in for an extremely intriguing striking battle between two top contenders in the Welterweight Division.
Till thus far hasn’t impressed too much outside of the Cowboy fight, which could suggest he rises to the level of his competition, something that doesn’t bode well for Wonderboy. Regardless I have my doubts here, Till doesn’t have a whole lot of experience, and coming up against arguably the best striker in the division (maybe even the UFC) will be a very tough test, not to mention he’s the number one ranked welterweight contender in the UFC. One thing we don’t know is what Till has grappling wise, which may serve him well given that approach has presented Wonderboy with problems. It might be to Till’s advantage to mix in some takedowns, maintain top position, and wear Wonderboy down with his size. Although I can’t see him going there honestly, due to more than likely wanting a knockout victory, particularly in front of his home crowd. I think this will be fight of the night, and both fighters will likely get hurt at some point.
How Wonderboy wins: I can see Wonderboy keeping his distance and pouncing anytime he sees an opening. He’s very good at out-pointing opponents, and I see this fight being no different of an approach from him. I don’t see him winning by knockout given Till seems to have a pretty solid chin, but I can see Wonderboy outsmarting Till, and riding his way to a lopsided victory
How Till wins: Till’s path to victory is by knockout, and I have no doubt he’ll be the aggressor throughout this fight. The crowd will motivate him, he’ll look to go for the finish, but I don’t necessarily think he’ll be reckless due to this big occasion, he seems like too calm of a fighter to let this fight overwhelm him. I think he’ll look to trap Wonderboy, and throw that power left hand he typically looks for.
My prediction: I believe every word Till says, I think he’ll be a superstar, and a champion in the UFC at some point, but it isn’t his time yet. Wonderboy will win this fight via unanimous decision, he’s too crafty and experienced for Till right now. I see the fight playing out with Wonderboy catching Till multiple times with counter punches, and making him miss a lot, giving him a points decision.