UFC-Gdansk in-depth breakdown: Stylistic matchups, fight picks, best bets and fantasy studs

MMAjunkie Radio co-host and MMAjunkie contributor Dan Tom provides an in-depth breakdown of all of UFC Fight Night 118’s main-card bouts.

UFC Fight Night 118 takes place Saturday at Ergo Arena in Gdansk, Poland and streams entirely on UFC Fight Pass.

UFC 216 takes place Saturday at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, and the main card airs on pay-per-view following prelims on FX and UFC Fight Pass.

Donald Cerrone (32-9-1 MMA, 19-6-0 UFC)

Donald Cerrone.

Staple info:

  • Height: 6’1″ Age: 34 Weight: 170 lbs. Reach: 73″
  • Last fight: Decision loss to Robbie Lawler (July 29, 2017)
  • Camp: Jackson-Wink MMA (New Mexico)
  • Stance/striking style: Orthodox / Muay Thai
  • Risk management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+ Multiple Muay Thai titles
^ 28-0 as a pro kickboxer
+ 8 KO victories
+ 16 submission wins
+ 13 first-round finishes
+ KO power
+ Intelligent strike setups
^ Feints, reads, reacts
+ Devastating head kicks
+ Accurate and intercepting knees
+ Hard leg kicks
^ Most landed in UFC history
+ Underrated wrestling ability
+ Excellent transitional grappler
+/- 4-7 against UFC southpaws

Darren Till (15-0-1 MMA, 3-0-1 UFC)

Darren Till.

Staple info:

  • Height: 6’0″” Age: 24 Weight: 170 lbs. Reach: 74″
  • Last fight: Decision win over Bojan Velickovic (Sept. 2, 2017)
  • Camp: Team Kaobon (England)
  • Stance/striking style: Southpaw / Muay Thai
  • Risk management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+ K-1 European title
+ Luta Livre purple belt
+ 9 KO victories
+ 2 submission wins
+ 4 first-round finishes
+ KO power
+ Good feints and footwork
+ Accurate left hand
^ Coming forward or off the counter
+ Hard Thai kicks
^ Works well to the body
+ Strong inside the clinch
^ Dangerous elbows and knees
+ Underrated grappling ability
^ Shows good positional awareness

Summary:

The main event on UFC Fight Pass features a muay Thai maelstrom between Donald Cerrone and Darren Till.

A top-ranked welterweight who is looking to recover from a two-fight losing skid, Cerrone is in Gdansk to get his redemption. There, the American will find Till, an undefeated Englishman who is seeking to steal the spotlight and further state his arrival.

Starting off on the feet, we have two Thai-style strikers who ply their craft in different ways.

Till, the southpaw, will work behind subtle feints and solid footwork, creating angles that allow him to capitalize and counter on his opponent’s reactions. Favoring his heavy left cross, Till possesses a pull-counter that bears a slight resemblance to Conor McGregor, typically stunning his opposition when landing cleanly.

However, Till’s one-sided ways have often drawn criticism and questions about his game as a whole, something he will likely have to answer for in this matchup. With that in mind, it will be interesting to see if Till makes the adjustments and displays the proficiency of his right hand, especially considering that right hands have typically been Cerrone’s common culprit against both stances.

I will also be curious to see how Till’s kicking arsenal of playing, prodding and picking his places for power will play out with Cerrone, who never seems to shy away from trading shots.

Embracing his frame and kickboxing base, Cerrone does an excellent job of using leg kicks and teeps from a distance. Mixing in punches appropriately, Cerrone will draw out his opponent’s defenses to set up the fight-ending head kicks that comprise his highlight reel.

And though those head kicks could tax Till’s low-handed leans, I see Cerrone getting much more mileage in this matchup with his leg kicks.

Till typically utilizes a wide stance to facilitate his power shot and pull-counter agenda, something that usually makes his lead leg available, as we saw Bojan Velickovic exploit in Till’s last outing.

Still, Till has displayed the composure and craft to work through this opening, inviting opponents to kick his leg as he keeps counter crosses at the ready. But against the fighter who has landed the most leg kicks in UFC history, the Englishman will most certainly be playing with fire if he fails to make adjustments.

Cerrone will also provide much more than kicks and knees. He’s made strides in his overall striking in recent years, particularly inside the pocket or when throwing in combination. Under the care of Brandon Gibson, this most recent iteration of Cerrone has him moving his head and torso offline and at angles, unloading his punches with different mechanics than before.

Often punching his way out of exchanges with his left-hook, Cerrone will feed his newfound flow into his patent head kicks, as his arsenal is now much more symbiotic –– which in turn makes him more dangerous.

Another potential linchpin in this matchup resides inside the clinch.

Both men are unabashedly offensive in this space, but I believe Till is quietly the better defensive fighter, as Cerrone has been surprisingly hittable from here for much of his career. Furthermore, Till also appears to be technically competent and comfortable in the clinch – which coupled with being the naturally bigger man – could pay potential dividends.

Nevertheless, Cerrone is not reliant on the clinch to get off his strikes or offensive grappling. Keeping an excellent reactionary shot in his holster, Cerrone will usually use it to throw off an opponent early, or go to it when he is under heavy fire.

Should Cerrone get the Englishman to the floor, he will surely have the on-paper advantage. Whether he is attacking off of his back or plotting his next move from a topside half-guard, Cerrone is a natural, gifted transitional grappler. But on-paper advantages can often be misleading, as I do believe Till is an underrated grappler to boot.

Coming from a Luta Livre background (a style more synonymous with catch wrestling than jiu-jitsu), Till demonstrates excellent positional awareness and disciplined hand-fighting, a technique that allows him to unleash unforgiving elbows when on top.

From the bottom, Till displays craft and composure, but will smartly not stick around long to see how things play out. Instead, the Englishman will typically elect to turtle-out to his base and work to stand from there. If Till can continue this approach while protecting his back, then I do not see ground stanzas lasting for large portions of the round.

With the betting lines being closer than expected, it seems that the oddsmakers and public either have high faith in Till – or fleeting faith in Cerrone.

As for me, it is easy to see why Cerrone is favored to win. He has more experience in big fights and has a much more diverse arsenal. But on the other hand, I can also see why Till is a live dog in this spot.

From his southpaw stance, brutal body attacks and confident attitude, he carries all the intangibles that have traditionally troubled Cerrone. All of the intangibles –– minus a high pace.

Like many traditional muay Thai fighters, Till can arguably be too comfortable in outclassing his opponent on a micro-level, which can be dangerous considering that MMA judges have trouble interpreting striking from a macro-level. If Till cannot significantly change the course of this fight with his power, then I see Cerrone having a stylistic edge should this contest go to the cards.

I’m a fan of Till’s game and am rooting for him to do well, but it is ultimately hard to pick him based on the information at hand. For that reason, I suggest keeping your money in your pocket and holding onto your beer firmly –– this fight will likely be a back-and-forth affair that could go long.

Official pick: Cerrone by decision

Official outcome: To be determined

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Source: MMA Junkie