LAS VEGAS — It’s hard to know what to make of Darren Till. The UFC middleweight has lost three of his last four and was finished in two of them. His only win in that period was a split decision over Kelvin Gastelum.
And yet, Till is still ranked seventh in the deep welterweight division.
He’s facing yet another significant test on Saturday, when he meets fifth-ranked Derek Brunson at Apex in the main event of UFC Vegas 36. It’s a critical fight, given that a loss would probably drop him out of the top 10 and a win, particularly an impressive one, would likely vault him into the top five.
Till is a -175 favorite at BetMGM to end his slide and defeat Brunson on Saturday. Brunson is +145.
Brunson is on a four-fight winning streak, during which time he’s defeated Kevin Holland, Edmen Shahbazyan, Ian Heinisch and Elias Theodorou.
To break the fight down to its most basic would be to look at it as Brunson’s wrestling against Till’s striking. Brunson’s also a better striker than Till is a wrestler, so it would seem he has somewhat of an edge.
In his last two wins, over Holland and Shahbazyan, he faced two elite prospects whose profiles were as high-end strikers. Holland, in particular, was a one-dimensional fighter at the time, and Brunson used his wrestling to take the fight down and control him.
It wasn’t pretty at times but it was highly effective. Holland is one of those explosive athletes who has great KO power and can finish a fight in the blink of an eye. Those same attributes could be given to Till, as well.
So that would make sense that Brunson would look to get Till on his back early and often.
But according to UFCstats.com, Brunson’s striking accuracy is slighting better than Till’s — 47 percent to 46 percent — and he absorbs 2.72 strikes per minute compared to 2.99 for Till.
Till, though, has an 82 percent takedown defense while Brunson’s takedown accuracy is only 33 percent.
That said, the fight could be Brunson repeatedly shooting on Till and forcing Till to defend. Even if he’s not able to get Till down a lot, just making him defend the takedowns repeatedly plays into Brunson’s hands. Every second that Till isn’t firing his heavy hands at Brunson is a second that plays out in favor of Brunson.
That, to me, is the difference in the fight and why I will take the plus money and bet Brunson. I will bet $100 on Brunson to win at +145. Though the prop bets haven’t been released at BetMGM, I’ll also bet on the fight to go the distance.
Other plays for UFC Vegas 36
Tom Aspinall at -250 to win over Sergey Spivak, who is +200.
Khalil Rountree at +130 to win over Modestas Bukauskas, who is -155.
Paddy Pimblett at -145 to win over Luigi Vendramini, who is +120.