UFC Fight Night 118: Cerrone vs. Till was a matinee of matchups, and Sporting News has all the results here.
Ladies and gentlemen, Darren Till
Darren Till called for a top-ranked opponent following his June victory over Bojan Velickovic. The UFC responded by giving him a main event assignment against Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone and Saturday night, the 24-year-old Scouser used the opportunity to launch himself into title contention by icing the all-action veteran inside the first five minutes.
Till has been telling anyone that will listen that he’s a future champion since he arrived in the UFC a little over two years ago and showed that just might be true by walking down and putting away Cerrone with relative ease. There was no hesitation, no sign of nerves from Till — just the same forward pressure and startling power he’s shown throughout his UFC run.
Cerrone seemed unsettled from the jump, unable to contend with Till’s pressure or find his range and as the Liverpool man walked him back into the cage, the perennial contender had no exit strategy and ended up getting tagged, dropped and stopped.
This was a blistering performance for Till and absolutely the best possible outcome the UFC could have hoped for – a star-making turn for a brash, young, unbeaten fighter on the come-up.
Not only did Till collect the biggest win of his career, but he also took steps to set up his next bout as well, using his post-fight interview to call out “Platinum” Mike Perry, who was seated ringside and engaged in a heated back and forth with the British upstart. As much as it would be an explosive encounter, I can’t help but think Till made a mistake by not setting his sights higher than the popular, but unproven Perry given that there are a number of high profile welterweight matchups on the calendar before the close of the year.
Regardless of what comes next, Saturday night was a breakthrough performance for Till and makes the confident Merseyside man a dangerous dark horse contender in the 170-pound ranks going forward.
High-class performance from Kowalkiewicz
Former title challenger Karolina Kowalkiewicz reminded everyone that she is one of the elite talents in the strawweight division, getting back into the win column with a lopsided decision win over gritty newcomer Jodie Esquibel in Saturday’s penultimate contest.
After suffering back-to-back losses to Joanna Jedrzejczyk and Claudia Gadelha, the first two losses of her professional career, Kowalkiewicz delivered a dominant showing in her return to Poland, swarming Esquibel with non-stop combinations and sprinkling in some new wrinkles in the clinch and on the ground as well. This was her most complete and impressive performance to date inside the Octagon and reestablishes the 32-year-old as a threat in the 115-pound ranks.
Kowalkiewicz was eager to put her recent setbacks behind her, particularly the quick submission loss to Gadelha, and following the official decision, the emotions washed over the proud Polish standout. If there were any questions about her place in the division, they were answered on Saturday in Gdansk.
Odds, ends and observations
— Allow me to start this quick-hitter section by singing the praises of the European broadcast team of John Gooden, Dan Hardy and ring announcer Joe Martinez. The group is a refreshing change from the consistently great teams anchored by Jon Anik, offering up fresh ways of describing the action, like Hardy saying Sam Alvey’s “knee aren’t cooperating with him” after the middleweight veteran got clipped and wobbled.
— A second non-fight related note from Saturday: the short UFC 217 promos for the other two title fights on next month’s NYC pay-per-view were outstanding, particularly the two for the strawweight clash between Joanna Jedrzejczyk and Rose Namajunas. Hopefully they get aired a lot more between now and when the action goes down on Nov. 4 at Madison Square Garden.
— What an outstanding homecoming finish for Polish star Jan Blachowicz, who collected a second-round standing rear-naked choke finish of Devin Clark. The long-time KSW champion had struggled through his first six UFC appearances, going 2-4 and entering on a two-fight losing streak, but he found success with kicks to the body and then latched onto Clark’s exposed neck when he crashed in to close the distance.
— Solid debut win for lanky Polish middleweight Oskar Piechota, who outworked Jonathan Wilson from start to finish to collect a unanimous decision victory. In addition to showcasing his strong submission skills, “Imadio” (which means “vice” in Polish) also showed he’s gone some pop in his hands too, dropping “Johnny Bravo” at the close of the second round.
— Nasrat Haqparast might have come away on the wrong side of the results, but the 22-year-old UFC freshman is one to watch going forward after showing flashes on short notice against Marcin Held. Keep this one ear-marked because watching it Saturday, it felt like a low key version of Max Holloway’s debut loss to Dustin Poirier where the veteran got the victory, but the neophyte showed a ton of promise.
— Strong, gutsy effort from Brian “Boom” Kelleher, who rebounded from a slugging opening round to bust up and finish Damian Stasiak on Saturday. After eating a clean spinning back kick to the liver in the first, the New York-based bantamweight altered his timing and started throwing on half-beats, ultimately finishing Stasiak under a torrent of punches in the late stages of the third round.
— Referee Marc Goddard showed what it truly means to be in charge inside the Octagon on Saturday, pausing the action between Andre Fili and Artem Lobov to tell Conor McGregor to “act professional” as he circled the cage, shouting instructions and encouragement to his teammate and close friend Lobov.
— For the record, Fili earned a unanimous decision win after dropping “The Russian Hammer” with a head kick in the first and timely, tactical wrestling in the third. He then offered a poignant, passionate post-fight interview, saying, “We gotta start treating each other like human beings. There’s only one race — the human race. We need to take care of each other.” Well said, Andre.
— You’re going to want to remember the name Aspen Ladd. The 22-year-old newcomer remained undefeated with a second-round mauling of Lina Lansberg, pushing her record to 6-0 in the process. She gained quality seasoning fighting under the Invicta FC banner and should establish herself as a contender in the bantamweight division in the next two years.
— Team Alpha Male’s Josh Emmett looked slick in his featherweight debut, dropping Felipe Arantes four times in the first round en route to sweeping the scorecards and picking up a solid victory.
— Saturday was the first time I can remember a UFC fight being moved because of crowd concerns. After Polish heavyweight Adam Wieczorek was held out of the ceremonial weigh-ins due to the presence of rowdy fans of a rival football club., the organization decided it would be best to shift his matchup with Anthony Hamilton to next month’s fight card in Sydney, Australia.
Facts and figures
Fight of the Night: Brian Kelleher vs. Damian Stasiak
Performance Bonuses: Jan Blachowicz, Darren Till
Gate: $677,000 USD
E. Spencer Kyte covers mixed martial arts for Sporting News and PostMedia in Vancouver, British Columbia. Follow him on social media: @spencerkyte.