If you have not seen the main event of UFC Gdansk, I highly recommend you either find it on YouTube or sign up for UFC Fight Pass, because you just missed an Upset of the Year candidate. Honestly, I wasn’t sure what to expect; in one of the least promoted cards of the year, on Fight Pass no less, we may have just seen the passing of the guard from a seasoned veteran in Donald Cerrone to a brash new contender in Darren Till, who was absolutely brimming with confidence from the moment he was given the opportunity of a lifetime. The premise was intriguing, and the matchup certainly spelled fireworks on paper, but still the question remained…was there to be anything unexpected here? The answer was a YES, which may as well have been broadcasted in neon lights and shouted on a megaphone. This was just unreal, and for all the right reasons.
Let’s start with even how this matchup came about. Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone, long-time veteran of the UFC and perpetual fight seeker, has gained a reputation for staying unusually active over the course of a year. Not one to back down from challenges, he also proactively seeks opportunities to fight simply out of boredom. It’s really no surprise then that the former lightweight and currently ranked welterweight contender would, after a recent loss to former WW champion Robbie Lawler, want to get right back on the horse. As it turns out, he had just the opportunity waiting for him – a Fight Pass headlining opportunity in Poland against a relatively unknown, but fiery hot, undefeated prospect in a Muay Thai specialist from Liverpool, England. The upside for Cerrone? Not much; he gets to fight on a card with limited broadcast against someone who would not be able to bolster his standing in the division even with a dominant win. However, the real win for Cerrone was just being back in the Octagon and fighting in a place he had never been to. For him, it was just a vacation with some kicks and punches to be thrown in front of a crowd. Unfortunately, by seemingly treating this like a vacation, and by impulsively taking a fight against someone who he knew literally nothing about, he put himself into a predicament against a hungry young warrior who wanted nothing more than this very opportunity. Enter Darren Till.
Darren Till, who is instantly appealing on the microphone with his cocky demeanor, simply oozes confidence every time he speaks. Particularly, he took a fight against a successful, 2-division contender who has proven to be dangerous in every aspect of the game, and expressed absolutely no doubt that he would annihilate this man. He not only KNEW he would knock out Cerrone, but also decided right away that he would be the greatest of all time. When you hear young, relatively unproven fighters say things like that, you can’t help but feel like they are in over their heads, especially when coming up against warriors that have run the gauntlet. Still, there was something about this kid…something that just made you want to believe that he had a shot against the same Cowboy who executed a picture perfect fight-ending combo against Rick Story, and knocked out the ever durable top-10 mainstay Matt “The Immortal” Brown. Darren Till came into the contest with the self-belief and bravado of a 100 fight veteran, and come fight time, I started to think to myself that perhaps this could be more of a fight than I had previously thought.
It turns out that any doubts created by Till based on his previous UFC outings were quickly thrown out the window. In fact, you’d never even recognize Till as the same fighter; there was just something about his aura that spelled victory, and as soon as that bell rang, he quickly passed that message to Donald Cerrone. Till took over the center of the Octagon, demeanor as calm and relaxed as ever. Every single kick Donald Cerrone threw at him was caught and followed swiftly by a shake of the head, as if to say “Try again, son”. He stood in front of his foe, calculating his shots instead of swinging wildly as most might under the pressure of the headlining bright lights against a superstar. Every shot came with speed and ferocity and, soon enough, Darren Till would land a shot in the second half of the first round that would confirm his pre-fight prediction. He staggered Cerrone, and chased him to the cage with added shots that would ultimately crumble his already wounded opponent.
As the referee soon came to the rescue of Cowboy, who was at that point turtled up and having no more of this punishment, Darren Till rose unscathed and rather unsurprised at his achievement. He did what most prospects could only dream of doing in only their 5th UFC fight – he dominated a stalwart in epic fashion, and put the WW division on notice of a bright new star. Contenders beware…stay sharp and alert…
Ladies and Gentlemen…Darren Till has OFFICIALLY arrived.