But if the Liverpool native had any sort of nerves going into the welterweight bout, he sure didn’t show it. The undefeated Till picked apart Cerrone and finished him via TKO at the 4:20 mark of the opening round at Ergo Arena in Gdansk, Poland.
Till (15-0-1) set the tone early by landing lefts, both of the overhand and straight variety, and finding a home. Cerrone was never able to get untracked as Till continued to pour it on.
“I believe I’m the best fighter around,” said Till. “I come in here, I believe I can beat anyone in this division.”
A standing elbow led to the finishing sequence, as Cerrone wobbled. “Cowboy” was covering up from the onslaught soon thereafter and the bout was waved off.
It was Till’s 12th career stoppage victory, while Cerrone (32-10, 1 NC) has now dropped three straight fights.
After the fight, Till exchanged words with fellow up-and-coming welterweight Mike Perry, who was seated cageside for the fight.
In the co-feature on a card that was by and large successful for the locals, Lodz’s Karolina Kowalkiewicz ended a two-fight win streak with a unanimous decision over Jodie Equibel at strawweight.
Kowalkiewicz used her trademark patient kickboxing to stalk Esquibel, shut down her offense, and score points, a rinse-and-repeat performance for 15 minutes en route to 30-27, across-the-board scores.
“I was very emotional, I won my first title in MMA here,” Kowalkiewicz (11-2) said through an interpreter, “and now I’m winning in the UFC here as well.”
Poland’s Jan Blachowicz (20-7) had the most memorable moment of his UFC stint go down in his homeland. The light heavyweight appeared well on his way to a one-sided decision against South Dakota’s Devin Clark (8-2). But after a timeout in the second, Blachowicz used brute force off the clinch to sink in a standing bulldog choke and earn the submission at the 3:02 mark.
“It was an amazing feeling,” said Blachowicz, who snapped a two-fight losing streak. “It will stay with me for the rest of my life. He made a mistake and I knew how to make the most of that. I feel really good overall. My opponent hit me twice and I really felt the punches but I was able to make the most of the mistake he made. I will remember this moment for a very long time.”
Oskar Piechota did everything but get the finish in his main-card opener against San Bernardino, Calif.’s Jonathan Wilson (7-3). Piechota finished the opening round working chokes and neck cranks; dropped him with a right hand in the closing seconds of he second; and secured an armbar near the end of the third.
Wilson survived all three, but Piechota (10-0), a middleweight from Gdansk, got the nod on across-the-board scores of 30-27.
“This is a great feeling,” Piechota said. “Jonathan was a really hard guy and he did a good job. I got a bit tired out there after I tried to submit him so I lost a lot of energy. But overall I feel really happy to win.”
Tychy, Poland’s Marcin Held used his home-country advantage to finally break into the UFC win column. Held (23-7), who had dropped his first three UFC fights, put on an exciting performance with replacement fighter Nasrat Haqparast (8-2). While the 30-27 across-the-board scores raised a bit of an eyebrow, there was no doubt the right guy got the nod, as Held convincingly to each of the the first two rounds in the lightweight matchup.
“I feel great,” Held said. “This was my first win in the UFC, which is a beautiful thing. My opponent was tougher and better than I expected but that’s a good thing. I like fights like that as they push me so I have to thank him for the fight. It was amazing to walk out there and hear the crowd.”
Long Island bantamweight Brian Kelleher has proven himself an exciting competitor, win or lose, in his short time in the UFC, and Saturday was no exception. Kelleher kept moving forward during his matchup with Damian Stasiak, and while the Polish Stasiak (10-5) proved plenty tough, Kelleher (18-8) finally put him away at the 3:34 mark of the final round for a TKO win.
“It took everything I had to finish him, he’s a really tough guy,” Kelleher said. “He brought the best out in me, which I have to thank him for. That was awesome.”
Sam Alvey stepped in on two weeks’ notice to meet Ramazan Emeev, and with the benefit of hindsight, it wasn’t his best move. Alvey (31-10, 1 NC) missed weight by three pounds on Friday, then looked sluggish throughout his loss to the Dagestani middleweight.
The judges’ scores were 30-27 across the board as Emeev (16-3) won his fifth straight fight.
“The fight was very good,” Emeev said. “I know that my opponent was quite slow, I tried to look for the takedowns but he had a strong head and a strong heart. I hope that my future opponents will not pick up injuries and that they will make weight.”
UFC lightweight champion Conor McGregor got a huge reaction from the crowd as he entered the arena for SBG teammate Artem Lobov’s featherweight fight with Andre Fili. McGregor was an animated presence pacing cageside to the point referee Marc Goddard admonished him for his antics.
Alas for Lobov, McGregor’s presence wasn’t enough to lift him to victory. Lobov (13-14-1, 1 NC) once again proved plenty tough -- rebounding from a wicked head kick in the first round -- but Fili peppered him earlier and often and cruised to the a unanimous decision victory. The judges’ scores were 30-27 across the board as the Team Alpha Male competitor won for this second time in his past three fights.
“I knew he was a tough opponent and I knew I was probably going to drop him.” Fili said. “I wanted to keep hitting him, I wanted to finish the fight when he was on the ground but I kind of expected that he was going to pop back up at some point. He was a good oppoonent, it was a good fight and I hope the fans enjoyed it.”
Krakow, Poland’s Salim Touahri (10-2) made his UFC debut on short notice, when Jim Wallhead had to drop out of his welterweight bout against Warlley Alves six days out. But while Touahri proved game, it wasn’t enough to get the nod against the TUF: Brazil 3 winner. Alves controlled the tempo and took a unanimous decision.
Alves got a pair of 29-28s and a 30-27 as he put a two-fight losing streak in his rear-view mirror.
“The change of opponent at the last minute was strange,” Alves said. “I had to fight someone with a very different style. I was also coming into the fight on the back of a couple of losses so I had to be more conservative with the way I fought so I could make sure that nothing went wrong. This victory has brought me back to the game.”
Ladd dropped the opening round to Lansberg, but listened to her coaches’ advice to change her approach between rounds. That paid off in the second, as Ladd, screaming while she rained down punches to her downed opponent, finished Lansberg (7-3) off via TKO at 2:33.
“It was a slow start for me but as soon as I listened to my coaches, everything went according to plan,” Ladd (5-0) said. I loved the crowd here, they were so enthusiastic and the place is packed - they were so loud and I just loved it. It was a good finish tonight but everything can always be improved.”
Josh Emmett got the card off to a fast-paced start in the opening round of his featherweight bout with Felipe Arantes. Emmett scored knockdown after knockdown and while Arantes (18-9-1, 2 NC) survived the round, Emmett got a pair of 10-8s and a 10-7 for his effort.
Emmett (11-1) cruised to victory from there, getting a unanimous decision on scores of 30-26, 30-26, and 30-25, which improved the Team Alpha Male product to 3-1 in the UFC.
“That was pretty perfect although I thought I was going to get the finish in the first round,” Emmett said. “He fell down a few times but he was tough as hell. It’s tough to make the weight class but I felt too small at lightweight so this was the perfect move for me, I felt great.”