Deren Brunson and Darren Till are set to throw down in a middleweight matchup taking place at the UFC Apex facility tonight in Las Vegas.
Brunson is currently ranked #5 in the division and will be looking to extend his win streak to five when he faces Till who is ranked #7 in the 185-pound division.
Brunson vs. Till and the rest of the UFC Fight Night event will stream live on ESPN+ starting at 1:30 pm ET. See below for our detailed staff predictions from Braeden Arbour and Michael Pounders.
Brunson vs. Till staff predictions
Till vs. Brunson is a fascinating fight. Darren Till throughout most of his career enjoyed a big size advantage, at middleweight however he is about average and will even give up a reach advantage to Brunson. This is significant because Till likes to fight long, he stands tall so that he can lean away from shots and come right back himself. Although this puts his head often on the center line, it also means he is postured and balanced when landing himself.
He can play the distance game well, better than Brunson, but some of Till’s most dangerous work is done when his opponents try to bridge the gap and run into his short elbows which come down the pipe. His jerking feint style hides his strike choice well and he is particularly difficult to anticipate.
Derek Brunson by comparison is a far more one-dimensional striker. He typically looks for just one or two shots at a time but with full force behind them. That being said, it does only take one or two to spell the end for those opposite him. Defensively, Brunson does his best when he is controlling the action, when he finds himself being hit against the cage, he will fade back and try to close himself off until he can reset or throw wildly back. It would do Till well to try to push the action and cut off the cage, forcing Brunson to work with his back to it.
Brunson’s biggest strength, especially as of late, is his wrestling abilities. A powerhouse, Brunson is extremely good at mixing up his takedowns between the upper and lower body. From his bodylock, his control is vice-like allowing him to break his opponents’ balance and rip them to the canvas on either side. This is especially the case in open space which is where Darren Till is the weakest at defending.
Darren Till has a very high takedown defense himself. He has a solid base and powerful hips which allow him to sprawl onto the cage with a lot of force, and also has the technical skill to battle for hooks in the clinch. Out in the open, because Till often stands tall, his ability to sprawl straight down is neglected a bit, therefore if Brunson wants to take the fight down often, watch for his time when they are closer to the middle of the octagon.
Brunson has been comfortable working from inside his opponents’ guard in the past, taking his time and picking apart their gas tank with short shots to the head and ribs. It is imperative for Till that if he finds himself being controlled on the bottom that he lets the clock run out on him, and finds himself losing rounds on control time. However, I think that Till’s abilities suit defending the takedowns better than necessarily consistently getting up from the bottom.
Ultimately, however, I think that Till will be able to keep it standing long enough to find his moments. Brunson will be able to take the fight to the ground, but I don’t think he has the ability to hunt the finish against Till, and at some point maybe late, Till will be able to capitalize on Brunson against the cage and find the shot to put him out.
Prediction: Darren Till by KO
Everyone knows what Brunson’s path to victory is – wrestling – the question becomes, is it so overpowering that his opponent can know what to expect and be unable to stop it? If so, he can be a title challenger; if not, he’ll continue to float around the rankings. Recently, in his last two wins, Brunson’s wrestling seemed unstoppable. He landed 4 of 8 takedowns against Shahbazyan and landed 6 of 12 against Holland. In both cases, Brunson’s obvious path to victory couldn’t be stopped. However, Shahbazyan and Holland are not strong defensive wrestlers; and, in each fight, Brunson’s opponent was able to tag and sting him. Brunson showed a better chin than his 5 knockout losses suggest and his improved offensive boxing allowed him to swing back effectively. Still, his wrestling will be his pathway up the rankings. That is if it is as dominant as it has recently seemed.
On the other side, Darren Till poses a legitimate threat to Brunson. While Brunson is the best offensive wrestler Till has faced, Till, with an 82% defensive takedown rate, is the best defensive wrestler Brunson has faced. On the feet, Till has a clear advantage in speed and technique. However, despite his 10 knockout wins, Till has not finished a fight since 2017; so, in the power department, both men are fairly even. Additionally, Till is only 1-3 in his last 4 fights (all against top tier fighters) and his only win was a split decision victory. All 4 of those fights came against strong strikers and Till was outworked on the feet in 3 of them. Against Brunson though, Till should be able to land moving forward regularly; and, when Brunson shoots, Till has the skill to stuff the takedown and land a counter shot or combination back. With Brunson’s historically suspect chin, any one of these shots could end the fight and get Till’s power striking reputation back.
This is a tough one to call. I’ve been wrong on Brunson before, fading him in his last two fights because I thought Shahbazyan or Holland could find Brunson’s chin before Brunson secured a takedown. Brunson proved me wrong. Till, on the other hand, has the reputation and statistics of a strong takedown game; but, has not been tested by a wrestler of Brunson’s caliber ever before. Still, if Till can stuff the takedowns, it should be only a matter of time before he sleeps Brunson. If Brunson can survive the first round or two, he should be able to drag Till down in the later rounds. A bet on Brunson is a bet on his chin, suspect; but, recently strong. I’m going to continue to ride the hot hand and take the underdog money in the main event. If Shahbazyan and Holland couldn’t finish Brunson before he wrestled his way to a win, I don’t see Till doing it either.
Prediction: Derek Brunson to win
Braeden Arbour is an aspiring journalist out of Ontario, Canada. He is a recent graduate of Trent University, with a black belt in Karate and a blue belt in Judo. He has also been an avid fan of MMA for the last decade.
Michael Pounders is a high school English Teacher, a boxer himself, and is a fan who loves, gambles on, and nerds out about all things MMA.