Darren Till walked out to an eruption of cheers and applause from his hometown crowd on Sunday at the Echo Arena in Liverpool, England. Before he entered the Octagon to face Stephen Thompson in the UFC Fight Night 130 main event, he was already a star in the eyes of many. Nevertheless, Till refused to buy into the hype and seemed eager to answer questions surrounding whether or not he was a legitimate title contender at 170 pounds.
Till and Thompson engaged one another in a hotly contested showdown that played out over five full rounds. Till leaned on his forward pressure and muay Thai-style striking, as he remained the aggressor throughout, attempted to corner Thompson against the cage and looked for a fight-ending strike. “The Gorilla” had his best moment in the fifth round, where he landed an overhand left behind the ear and briefly planted Thompson on the mat. Thompson was content to fight off of his back foot while hunting opportunities to counter. “Wonderboy” was crisp with his strikes and landed a number of hard shots in the 25-minute battle. Neither man seemed willing to cede ground to the other, and after 25 minutes, their fate was in the hands of the cageside judges.
As ring announcer Bruce Buffer read the decision and declared Till the winner by unanimous decision, the fans in attendance let their jubilation be known.
Carnage in the Kingdom
Neil Magny knocked out short-notice replacement Craig White in the first round of their co-main event. White was quick to initiate clinch exchanges, but Magny took advantage of the position and forced the Cage Warriors Fighting Championship alum to the ground before securing mount. Eventually, Magny allowed White to stand, as they found themselves in the clinch once again. Magny landed a well-timed knee to the chin that sent his counterpart crashing to the floor and followed up with ground-and-pound until the job was done. After posting his second win in a row, Magny called out fellow ranked welterweight Kamaru Usman.
Meanwhile, the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s debut in Liverpool marked Arnold Allen’s return from more than a year of inactivity. Once considered one of the Europe’s top prospects, Allen aimed to regain some of his past momentum with a convincing victory over Mads Burnell. The Dane largely controlled Allen through two rounds, as he utilized a relentless grappling attack. However, Allen made the most of his opportunities. In the third round, Burnell changed levels for another takedown, only to find his opponent waiting with a guillotine. Burnell dropped to the mat in an attempt to defend the choke, but his efforts went for naught. He tapped soon after, giving Allen a stunning come-from-behind win.
Elsewhere, Makwan Amirkhani and Jason Knight went the distance in an excellent featherweight scrap. Knight was at his best in the first round, where he dropped the Finn twice with hellish uppercuts and looked to lock in submissions. In the waning moments of the period, he secured a triangle choke and rolled to mount before the bell seemingly saved Amirkhani. The last two rounds saw Amirkhani turn to his strength advantage and opt to grapple with the Mississippi native, as he stuck Knight to the canvas and played on his willingness to fight off of his back. Amirkhani was awarded a split decision after 15 minutes.
Claudio Henrique da Silva returned from close to a four-year absence and finished Nordine Taleb with a rear-naked choke in the first round. After landing his first takdeown of the fight, Silva capitalized on a kneebar attempt from Taleb and secured mount before transitioning to the back. From there, he locked in the choke at the end of Round 1 … Darren Stewart notched his first win in the UFC, as he knocked out Eric Spicely in the first round of their undercard pairing. “The Dentist” stuffed multiple takedown attempts from Spicely before landing a straight right that sent his opponent to the ground. Stewart then teed off with ground-and-pound on the turtled Rhode Island export, forcing the referee to step in … Tom Breese earned a technical knockout victory over Daniel Kelly in the first round of their preliminary middleweight clash. Breese took advantage of the height and reach discrepancy early on, staying just outside of Kelly’s range. At the midpoint of Round 1, Breese caught the four-time Olympian leaning forward and landed a lead left uppercut that had the Australian judoka pawing at his eye and retreating backwards. Breese smelled blood in the water, beat Kelly to the mat and pounded on his grounded opponent until it was over.