Whittaker, Till set for epic middleweight showdown
Odds courtesy: 5 Dimes
The final event during the UFC’s month at “Fight Island” takes place this Saturday and features a main event with major implications in the middleweight division as former champion Robert Whittaker faces surging divisional newcomer Darren Till.
Whittaker is coming off of his first middleweight loss in the UFC against Israel Adesanya, where he dropped the middleweight title, while Till is coming off of a win against Kelvin Gastelum in his middleweight debut.
Now Till, a former welterweight title challenger, has the opportunity to earn himself a title shot in a second division should he be able to defeat the former champion.
Who’s got next?
Robert Whittaker (-125) vs. Darren Till (+105)
After a two-year run as the middleweight champion, Whittaker is not getting much respect for his first non-title bout since April of 2017.
Whittaker is only a small favourite against Till, who has been put on the fast track to title contention.
Whittaker did not look like himself in his loss to Adesanya, leading many to believe that his best days are behind him.
This is a situation of known versus unknown. Whittaker has been in some absolute wars in recent years, including the loss to Adesanya and two bouts against the perpetually dangerous Yoel Romero.
Till, meanwhile, has absorbed far less punishment in his UFC career, and having just moved to the middleweight division, many are intrigued by his upside now that he does not need to cut a dreadful amount of weight.
One thing that has not been taken into account is how well Whittaker had performed prior to his bout with Adesanya against top-calibre opposition. Till hasn’t yet had a statement win over anyone at the top of a division in the same way that Whittaker has.
This bout will tell us a lot about where Whittaker is at this stage of his career, but at only 29 years of age, it’s difficult to believe that the drop-off could be as bad as this betting line indicates.
Two Canadians in Two Different Situations
Tanner Boser (-265) vs. Raphael Pessoa (+225)
Nicolas Dalby (-260) vs. Jesse Ronson (+220)
Tanner Boser, who last fought less than a month ago in Las Vegas, earning a first-round knockout over Philipe Lins, is back in the octagon against Raphael Pessoa.
Meanwhile, Jesse Ronson returns to the UFC following more than six years fighting outside of the promotion. His previous UFC run ended following three split-decision losses against Kevin Lee, Francisco Trinaldo and Michel Prazeres, all of whom would go on to be top-15 ranked competitors.
Boser comes to Fight Island with a world of momentum. While a 2-1 record might be nothing to write home about, his last two bouts have said a lot about how good he is. Aside from his spectacular knockout over Lins, Boser also went all three rounds with Cyril Gane, who was a nearly six-to-one favourite in the bout and is considered a top heavyweight prospect.
Pessoa, meanwhile, is 1-1 and also has a loss to the aforementioned Gane, which he has since rebounded from with a win over Jeff Hughes, a training partner of champion Stipe Miocic.
Pessoa is a tough opponent for Boser and one that he accepted on short notice, so proceed with caution at this price.
Ronson marks his return by facing Dalby, who made his triumphant return to the UFC with a win over Alex Oliveira last year.
Dalby is a good stylistic matchup for Ronson, who excels on the feet, where Dalby also shines.
The line makes sense given that Ronson has had a mixed bag of success since his stint with the UFC, but Ronson has proven over the years that he is always dangerous, and he will be motivated by a second opportunity in the big show.
The next big thing?
Khamzat Chimaev (-1200) vs. Rhys McKee (+800)
Just 10 days prior to when he competes on Saturday, Chimaev had one of the all-time great UFC debuts, absolutely dominating John Phillips and outstriking him 140-3, while controlling most of the fight.
With that win, Chimaev was anointed a potential future champion and drew comparisons to lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov.
While McKee is hardly a pushover, most of his competition has taken place in the lightweight division and he will be at a big size disadvantage against the surging newcomer Chimaev.
Chimaev’s debut took place at middleweight and he moves down to his natural weight class of welterweight for his second bout this month.
It is always a risk to wager on any UFC bout with a favourite this big because anything can happen with two fighters at this level, but that being said, McKee would be the biggest underdog to ever win a UFC bout should this line stay around this price.
Odds and Ends:
- Antonio Rogerio Nogueira is an underdog on Saturday against Mauricio Rua. He has not been a favourite in a UFC bout since Dec 10, 2011, when he fought Tito Ortiz at UFC 140.
- Alexander Gustafsson has been a favourite in every non-title fight that he has competed in since April of 2010.
- Since Francisco Trinaldo turned 40 years old, he will have been a favourite in four of the five bouts that he has competed in (should he compete on Saturday).
- Paul Craig is a small favourite over Gadzhimurad Antigulov. Should he close as a favourite, it will be the first time he is favoured in his 10-fight UFC career. His UFC record is 4-4-1.