Darren Till came away with the victory in the eyes of the judges in his hometown. Just perhaps not in the opinion of the majority of onlookers.
Till defeated Stephen Thompson by unanimous decision (48-47, 49-46, 49-46) in the main event of UFC Liverpool on Sunday in a razor-close bout that many thought Thompson won.
The bout was a technical, tactical one. Not many strikes landed over the five rounds. Till was in pursuit throughout, with Thompson evading and sometimes countering. Thompson landed the harder, cleaner shots in the first round and Till did better in the second. The third and fourth were incredibly close — they could have gone either way — and Till exploded in the fifth, dropping Thompson with the most significant action of the bout.
Afterward, Till ranted in the post-fight interview with Dan Hardy with the Liverpool crowd whipped into a frenzy. The majority of his speech was censored on FS1 due to profanity, though.
Till (17-0-1), who missed weight Saturday by more than three pounds, is unbeaten in his MMA career and looks primed now for a top contender bout in the welterweight division. The Scouser probably would have loved a finish or a more exciting bout, but he’ll certainly take the win over the crafty karate fighter. The confident, brash Till, 25, said afterward that he’d take “everyone” next.
Thompson (14-3-1) has now lost two of three, but both were close decisions — the former in a welterweight title fight against Tyron Woodley last year. The South Carolina native remains a very tough matchup for anyone at 170 pounds due to his striking prowess. Thompson, 35, will remain near the top of the division, but coming up empty handed twice against Woodley — the first time was a draw — and now this loss to Till will hurt his standing in the division for now.
Neil Magny didn’t have much to gain taking a short-notice, unknown opponent when Gunnar Nelson fell off the Liverpool card. But Magny still came out for the better Sunday.
Magny dropped Craig White, the former Cage Warriors star, with a knee to the head up against the cage and then poured on the strike while White was grounded. The finish came at just 4:32 of the first round.
Afterward, Magny said he’d be donating $15,000 of his purse to a little girl battling severe medical issues. He also called out fellow welterweight contender Kamaru Usman.
“I’ve been too quiet for too long,” Magny said. “Kamaru Usman, you’ve been calling me out for two years. It’s time for me to beat that ass, baby.”
Magny (21-6) has won two straight and three of his last four, remaining a factor in the 170-pound division. The Colorado resident has only lost to Rafael dos Anjos and Lorenz Larkin in the last three years. Magny, 30, is 12-3 in his last 15 fights.
White (14-8) was on a four-fight winning streak coming in. The England native came in on about two weeks notice when Nelson fell out. White, 27, was closing in on a Cage Warriors title shot before this chance.
Arnold Allen was just about done. Mads Burnell had dominated the bout pretty much the whole way with his wrestling. Allen needed a finish badly.
And he got it.
With Burnell pushing him against the cage, Allen grabbed onto a front choke — some would call it a power guillotine or ninja choke — and squeezed. Burnell tried to escape, but Allen pulled him down and Burnell had no choice but to tap out at 2:31 of the first round. Allen had the victory — and a comeback of the year contender.
Allen (13-1) has won six straight and notched this big victory in his return to the Octagon after a year away. Burnell (9-3) has lost two of three in the UFC, but looked like the superior fighter against Allen throughout. Both Allen and Burnell are just 24 years old and have bright futures in the featherweight division.
Makwan Amirkhani and Jason Knight seemed ready to fight each other all week in Liverpool. They did not disappoint when they got in the cage.
In a back-and-forth fight that had moments both on the feet and on the ground, Makwan Amirkhani pulled out a split decision win (27-30, 29-28, 29-28). Knight dropped Amirkhani twice in the first, but could not finish, while Amirkhani rallied to win the next two rounds.
Amirkhani (14-3) has won five of six now, but has only fought three times in the last three years. Knight (20-5) has lost three straight.
Claudio Silva had not fought in more than three years. That was not an issue for the self-proclaimed “Britishzilian.”
Silva choked out Nordine Taleb at 4:31 of the first round in his first fight since November 2014. The Brazilian, who has lived in England for more than a decade, said a host of injuries had kept him out. Silva (12-1) has not lost a fight since 2007. Taleb (14-5) had a two-fight winning streak snapped.
In the main card opener, Darren Stewart picked up his first UFC win, a second-round TKO of Eric Spicely. Afterward, Stewart got on his knees and was emotional in his post-fight interview with Hardy.
“I deserve to be here,” Stewart said, repeatedly.
Tom Breese definitely didn’t look like someone coming off a two-year layoff. The Englishman lit up Daniel Kelly often in the featured prelim Sunday and finished with a nasty uppercut that connected to Kelly’s eye at 3:31 of the first round. Kelly was clearly hurt by the blow and Breese pounced with combinations until the referee stepped in.
Breese (11-1) was coming off a split decision loss to Sean Strickland back at UFC 199 in June 2016. The 26-year-old put his name back on the prospect list at middleweight with the win over Kelly (13-4), the 40-year-old former judo Olympian who has now lost three straight.
Also on the FS1 prelims, Gillian Robertson defeated hometown girl Molly McCann via rear-naked choke submission at 2:05 of the second round, Carlo Pedersoli won his UFC debut via split decision over Brad Scott and Lina Lansberg beat Gina Mazany by unanimous decision.
In the opener on UFC Fight Pass, Elias Theodorou defeated Trevor Smith by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28).