Darren Till dropped to 5-1 in his last six fights after losing at UFC 282. When competing at 170lbs, he looked like a world-beater… until he didn’t. He was fast-tracked to a title shot off the back of a six-fight UFC run which saw him go undefeated, headline two events and become the next great English hope. He single-handedly bought the UFC to Liverpool’s Echo Arena, had a captivating back story and the collective heart of a nation backing him.
Heading over to Dallas, Texas in September of 2018, many believed Till would capture the belt from then-champion, Tyron Woodley. Unfortunately for the Brit, despite starting well in the first round, Woodley dropped The Gorilla and consequently subbed him inside 10 minutes.
Following the loss to Woodley, Till returned home to clash with Jorge Masvidal. Again, however, it didn’t go his way despite starting well again. He dropped Masvidal before being brutally knocked out.
A move up in weight to middleweight, a jump of 15lbs, saw Till regain a little form. He was able to narrowly outpoint Kelvin Gastelum and fans of Till were hoping that this move up in weight would mark a career revival. He was matched with former champion, Robert Whittaker on Fight Island, but again would come up short. The Whittaker loss marked Till’s third loss in four fights having previously gone 18 undefeated.
It would be over a year until fans saw Till return, this time he stood across from Derek Brunson. This would arguably mark Till’s most disappointing performance on this unwanted run. Till was unable to stop the takedown of Brunson, who controlled him on the ground and out-landed the Brit 101-28. Brunson submitted Till via rear naked choke in the third round and fans wouldn’t see Till compete again for over a year.
UFC 282 saw Till take on Dricus du Plessis in a make-or-break fight for Till. He appeared in great shape and in a good headspace ahead of his fight. Despite originally being placed on the prelims, he was bumped up to the main card. The fight itself got up to the worst possible start. du Plessis took Till down almost instantly and across the first five minutes, clocked up 3:56 control time. He outlanded Till 82-9 in the first round and referee Mark Smith almost stepped in to stop the fight on multiple occasions.
The second round was more of the ‘old’ Darren Till we were used to in 2017/2018. He found his range, landed multiple step in elbows, was able to keep his opponent on the end of his punches and, although he was taken down, those takedowns were largely ineffective.
The third round appeared to be going the same way as the second. du Plessis appeared fatigued, whereas Till was eager to get back to the centre of the octagon and throw down. It was going well until it didn’t. Till was taken down and quickly gave up his back, consequently getting submitted and falling to 1-5 in his last six.
How to fix the losing streak
1. Work on takedown defence
Prior to losing to Woodley, Till had a good takedown defence. Whenever he was taken down, his opponents were unable to keep him there or do any damage to him while they held the top position.
Since losing to Woodley, Till has been taken down 13 times. Prior to the Woodley loss, he’d only been taken down three times.
He seems all too accepting of the takedown when it comes and his inability to get back to his feet is becoming a real issue. There is a clear blueprint as to how to beat Till. His ability to stop the takedown at 185lbs seems almost none existent. His takedown defence stands at just 48.28% since losing to Woodley.
Fans of Till’s were excited when they saw Till training alongside Khamzat Chimaev. Chimaev is one of the best wrestlers in the game and could teach Till a lot about the grappling side of the game. However, all the training they did together seemed to be to no avail as he was unable to defend a single takedown from du Plessis.
2. See a sports psychologist
Suffering a knockout as devastating as the knockout that Jorge Masvidal inflicted on Darren Till will certainly have an effect on most people. It appears that this is the case for The Gorilla. Since the knockout that he suffered in London back in 2019, Till has appeared slightly gun shy.
He’s always had a habit of backing up with his chin in the air, however, lately, it appears that he is far less willing to exchange in the pocket with opponents and would rather step fully out of range and then reset and start again.
Whether it’s a hesitancy and a fear of being knocked out again or whether there is a fear of the takedown it’s clear for all to see that Till is not the same as he previously was. Maybe it’s the power of those at middleweight that ignites fear in Till causing him to be a little more measured but as it stands, we don’t officially know why.
He himself said in a post fight video that he isn’t sure what is going wrong as he trains well, he is able to defend takedowns in training and this isn’t transferring over to his octagon performances. It could be beneficial for Till to see a sports psychologist and try to find the root cause for his hesitancy and inability to transfer gym work to the big stage.
3. Consider a move back down to welterweight
Since his middleweight move, Till has had four fights. Two of the men he’s fought, Whittaker and Gastelum are both smaller middleweight who previously competed at welterweight. Till was able to use his size to defend the takedowns of these two men. Whittaker landed just two of 13 attempts and Gastelum was able to complete just one of four.
When facing legitimate middleweights in Brunson and du Plessis, he was taken down nine times in 12 attempts. du Plessis even said in the post-fight press conference that Till isn’t big enough or strong enough to fight at middleweight, which is pretty damning from a man that spent almost 13 minutes in the octagon in there with The Gorilla.
Dricus Du Plessis feels Darren Till is "not strong enough or big enough to fight at middleweight."
— MMAFighting.com (@MMAFighting) December 11, 2022
If Till can still make 170lbs, his size will give him a huge advantage. He didn’t look drawn out or like he struggled too much to make weight on Friday and if he can get his diet in check, focus on lowering his weight overall so he wouldn’t have to endure such a brutal cut.