mma / Columns

Darren Till: Should We Care Yet?

October 24, 2017 | Posted by Evan Zivin
Darren Till UFC Fight Night 118

For someone who doesn’t get paid to offer worthless MMA opinions and recapitulate news items that are available in 200 other different places on the Internet, it can certainly be a chore to find a subject worth sinking one’s journalistic – I mean, “journalistic” – teeth into during these weeks where no major news breaks in the UFC or any other major organizations.

I mean, Bellator had a show on Friday. It featured Gegard Mousasi getting his face broken by Alexander Shlemenko before ultimately taking a unanimous decision that the crowd thought “Storm” had managed to weather.

Ha. Puns with fighter nicknames…

They also had their eventual women’s fight of the millennium take a hit when the two fighters who would be involved in it, former boxers Heather Hardy and Ana Julaton, both got beat up by two women with 3 pro fights between them. I guess that’s the way the nose crumbles sometimes…

Speaking of noses crumbling, did anyone see Donald Cerrone get his face smashed in on Saturday?

Did anyone know Donald Cerrone fought on Saturday?

Did anyone know UFC had a fight card on Saturday? It was in Poland and aired on Fight Pass. They mentioned it for two seconds during the last UFC event you didn’t watch. C’mon guys!

No, Joanna Jędrzejczyk did not fight on the card. I’m sure she would have loved to, but UFC is saving her for UFC 217, mostly so they have something to point to as fans continue to call them out for creating an event headlined by a matchup whose sole purpose is to make money. Rankings, integrity , and everything else that used to make the sport great be damned.

We still love you, Georges. Welcome back! You’re looking good. Have you gained weight?

UFC did, however, load up Saturday’s show with as many other Polish fighters as they had available, including Karolina Kowalkiewicz, Jan Blachowicz, and Marcin Held. They all had good nights/afternoons, but the star of the show was the Liverpudlian Darren Till, who smashed Cerrone with punches and finished him inside the first round.

It’s not often I get to use the word “Liverpudlian” so I’ll take it any chance I get.

Till’s base is his striking and his punches found a home on “Cowboy’s” range (ha!). His left hand has good power behind it and, once it started finding a home, it started doing damage. Cerrone only ate a few shots before getting overwhelmed. Till then shied from taking the conservative approach once he hurt Cerrone and swarmed, raining down violence until the referee told him to knock it off.

It was a big win for Till, clearly the biggest of his career, a career that only started 4 years ago but has seen him go unbeaten in 17 fights.

That’s impressive, but it still begs the question: should we care? Is this victory worth caring about?

I mean, yeah, he hasn’t lost but, prior to Cerrone, who has he beaten? Wendell de Oliveira? Jessin Ayari? Bojan Veličković? Is it impressive to beat somebody with that many special characters in their last name?

Till was such a big underdog coming into the Cerrone fight because it was the first time he had ever faced ranked competition. And it was the one ranked fighter who was willing to do battle with him because Cerrone will fight anyone. Cowboy would probably accept a fight with Kevin Lee’s staph infection if UFC needed a main event badly enough.

When it comes to beating Cerrone, it doesn’t seem like it should be difficult. He has a penchant for being a slow starter so any gameplan that involved attacking him from the start would have been a sound one.

It could also be a stupid strategy, as very few fighters have been able to take Cerrone out in the UFC.

As a matter of fact, of Cerrone’s 7 UFC losses, all but 2 have come at the hands (and feet) or former UFC champions or challengers. Those two exceptions are Jorge Masvidal, who was trending towards contendership before Demian Maia knocked him back down the ladder, and Till. That’s some very lofty company to be in the presence of.

But that’s why it’s hard to gauge if the story of this fight should be what Till did or what Cerrone didn’t. Obviously, Dana White thinks Till is a stud. He went so far as to call the kid “The Future” before carpetbombing the Twitterverse with expletives when fans had the audacity to disagree.

I wouldn’t disagree with calling Till “The Future” but I also don’t think that it means much at this point. It’s easy to see why Dana likes him, as the kid is young, good looking, and likes knocking dudes out as much as he likes running his mouth and calling his own shots.

He’s trying to use the McGregor playbook and, right now, he’s not doing a terrible job of it. It just remains to be seen what will come of this. Following Conor’s path only works if he can keep winning, and if he can keep ratcheting up the trash as he does it.

Can Darren do that? I’m thinking we’re going to find out, as he practically had Mike Perry frothing at the mouth to get in the cage with him after Darren called him out.

I’m guessing this means UFC will be making that fight. And I’ll say this much: I’m more interested in seeing that fight now than I was before Saturday. I won’t be watching it to see who’s going to be fighting for the title next but it’s certainly possible that the winner could be in that conversation within the next 2-4 years.

That’s assuming, of course, Till’s win over Cerrone was the start of something bigger and not just him getting a lucky win and/or taking advantage of a weakened former contender.

Seriously, wasn’t Cerrone battling The Plague before he fought Robbie Lawler earlier this year? What happened with that? Did he drink enough Budweiser until he got better? Or Modelo?

Seriously, though, just think of the trajectory past fighters who defeated Cerrone went on:

Nate Diaz – Fought for the title two fights later.

Rafael dos Anjos – Started on the path to winning the title less than two years later.

Robbie Lawler – Could win a title shot in his next fight (against dos Anjos…).

Fighters who beat Cerrone are primed for success. Is Till going to be next? Will Tyron Woodley be complaining about not getting the St-Pierre or Nick Diaz fight (again) and be talking about how Darren Till is not deserving of a title shot?

Stay tuned. Just remember that, if he does make it to the title, you heard it here first…after you heard 200 other people say it everywhere else on the Internet. It’s really amazing I still bother at this point.

Evan Zivin has been writing for 411 MMA since May of 2013. Evan loves the sport, and likes to takes a lighthearted look at the world of MMA in his writing…usually.

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Darren Till, Evan Zivin