Many people, including yours truly, considered Darren Till a favorite against Jorge Masvidal. What Till lacked in experience he made up with sheer size and power. Plus, he’s one of three people to ever beat Stephen Thompson. But two rounds in and the Brit laid on the canvas like a corpse.
It was not only Till’s most severe loss, but Masvidal’s greatest win. And yet, when the smoke cleared, a lot of old-time fans nodded their heads and went, “that makes sense.”
To understand why you have to understand the puzzle that is Jorge Masvidal.
Tale of two Masvidals
Masvidal’s UFC record stands at 10-6, respectable but certainly not impressive. But four of those losses came via split decision in which Masvidal could have won. If Masvidal feels he’s winning the fight, he’ll step off the gas pedal and cruise to the end. A sound if somewhat boring strategy if you know you’ll win on points. But Masvidal frequently misjudges his leads and gives away winnable fights due to inactivity.
His fight against Al Iaquinta illustrates this perfectly.
In the first round, Masvidal bloodied Iaquinta with his slick counter boxing and even scored a knockdown. But he spent the next two rounds taunting the NY native while shrugging off his desperate offense. Credit to Iaquinta, he pulled every trick in the book to try and break through Masvidal’s shell. But it was clear to fans that Masvidal was simply toying with Iaquinta.
And… he lost. In point-fighting, a flailing and ineffective offense is worth more than no offense at all. So a bloody and outclassed Iaquinta accumulated enough points in the last two rounds to squeak by.
But when Masvidal actually tries, he’s a monster. He’s the fighter who executed Donald Cerrone with exceptional power boxing. The guy who can out-wrestle all but the elite. The guy who cut his teeth street-fighting like Kimbo Slice.
Powerful but basic
With the exception of the occasional uppercut, Till relies primarily on his jab and straight. There are plenty of feints mixed in, but those two cash the checks. Not that it’s inadequate; a single left straight crushed the notoriously Donald Cerrone’s will to fight. In the event that his two punch special isn’t enough, his enormous size makes up for it. Stephen Thompson, part-exciting part-Nyquil defensive savant, found himself bullied by the technically inferior Till.
But having only one or two punches in your repertoire comes with notable downsides.
Relying on so few attacks makes it easy for fighters to prepare for you. Woodley may frustrate Dana White to no end, but he’s a smart fighter. Knowing the Brit relied on his left hand, Woodley neutralized nearly all of Till’s offense in the first round. Frustrated, Till threw caution to the wind in the second and waded forward on a predictable one-two combination. Woodley timed his right hand as Till wound his left and dropped him to set up the end of the fight.
All respect to Masvidal, people understandably considered him a step down from Woodley. Could he exploit this same weakness?
Punching vs. Boxing
Punching is about striking someone with your fist with at least enough force that they don’t want to be your friend. Boxing is more holistic and artistic; it’s about everything around the punch as well. Every MMA fighter can punch but very few can box, and Masvidal illustrated that difference.
After being knocked down in the first round but recovering immediately, Masvidal came to two conclusions. First, Till didn’t throw with enough power or variety to take him out with head shots. Two, the only punch he really had to worry about was the left straight. And with that information, Masvidal took Till to school.
Most of Till’s opponents respond to his thudding power in one of two ways; backing off or exaggeratedly reacting. Not Masvidal.
He stood in Till’s range and proceeded to make him look silly. He’d slip under Till’s left and rip him with hooks over the top. If Till grew hesitant but left no opening, Masvidal would touch him with straight punches to the face. And when Till kept jogging backwards with his hands low, Masvidal shifted and floored him with a long left hook for a brutal KO.
This was no fluke; this is Jorge Masvidal at his best. The prospect of facing the beastly and equally fearless Darren Till woke the demon inside Gamebred. If he’s serious about getting to a title shot, keep feeding him killers. After all, it brings out the best in him.