Stephen Thompson lands a kick against Jorge Masvidal

Stephen Thompson vs. Darren Till is a fight that many MMA fans have been champing at the bit to see, including a striking nerd with a healthy appreciation for the traditional martial arts. Young upstart Darren Till looks to put himself on the shortlist for a title shot by besting Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson. Both men are strikers which means an all-out war of punches, kicks, elbows, and knees should be expected. In order to get the job done both fighters will have to stray from their usual strategies and catch their opponent sleeping.

How can Darren Till defeat “Wonderboy?”

First up is Darren Till who has built up a ton of confidence over his last few fights. Whether that confidence is warranted will be left up to how he performs against Thompson. For the most part Till relies on his left side weapons, the left straight, the left round kick, the uppercut, and elbow. While this may give some the impression that his attacks are predictable, Till had been able to get away with it by utilizing excellent distance management, timing, and subtle feints to keep his opponent’s guessing what strike is coming their way. His wide stance allows him to cover distance quickly, much like a boxer or karate fighter. He can pressure forward as well as leap out of firing range. The problem with that kind of stance is that it leaves him open to both leg kicks on his forward leg and takes away one of his best options to win this fight: the low kick.

If Darren Till wants to pull off the Flawless Victory, then he’ll need to employ some kicks to Thompson’s wheels. This will serve two purposes. One, this will minimize and destroy Thompson’s movement. Two, it allows Till to know precisely where Thompson is going to be when he decides to fire his left hand. To pull this off, he’ll have to switch from a wider stance to a more narrow Muay Thai stance that allows for better kicking. Once he gets Thompson to slow down or stop right in front of him, Till can shift back to that wider stance and throw his left hand with power.

Inside Darren Till’s corner

As Darren Till’s cornerman, I’d be yelling a few things. One, I’d want him to pressure out the gate, make the octagon feel small. I’d be screaming my head off telling him to use the jab and the right low kick if Thompson is in orthodox (righty) stance or the left if the karate fighter chooses to work in southpaw. Rushing the left hand isn’t an option as Thompson is expecting this. Instead, faking the left for some right hooks to left round kicks to the legs, body, or head should take priority. Most of all, it is essential to tell Till to have fun in there. Fighting in his hometown lends it’s own distinct pressure on the world stage, so reminding him to enjoy the moment will allow him to remain loose.

Darren Till celebrates victory against Bojan Velickovic
Darren Till celebrates victory against Bojan Velickovic (Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Europe)

What does Stephen Thompson have to do to defeat Darren Till?

Anyone who knows my love for striking knows I’m a big time Stephen Thompson fan. Besides training in a similar style, the effectiveness of his karate is simply something that can’t be denied or ignored. What makes his style unique are his angle changes and his ability to fight from both stances with equal effectiveness. If he’s in orthodox stance then his approach is most likely to be a more traditional kickboxing approach with more emphasis on hand strikes. In southpaw, he utilizes his front leg side, round, and hook kicks to keep his opponents guessing as well as having a dangerous shift back left straight counter when his prey rushes in.

With all that said, Thompson is going to have to make some decisions fairly quickly at the beginning of this match. Is it going to be a chess match where he measures Darren Till’s approach before opening up or will he simply apply pressure and keep the prideful Liverpool native guessing? Luckily for Thompson, he can use both strategies in this fight. When in orthodox he should look to measure Till, bounce in and out, side to side to enter in on an angle, preferably on Till’s right side. If in southpaw he should utilize his kicking arsenal to not only keep Till guessing, but to keep him at bay should he choose to pressure “Wonderboy.” While Thompson doesn’t usually apply it, the front leg side kick to Till’s front leg would work wonders in maintaining the distance.

Inside Stephen Thompson’s corner

Reminding Thompson just to do his thing as his father Ray often does is the first piece of advice I’d give. Second is that I’d be screaming for him to never stand right in front of Till. When Thompson is bouncing on the outside and entering in on angles, he’s supremely hard to time. Bouncing right then to the left, outside Till’s lead right foot, will also be a keynote between rounds to ensure he takes away the Liverpool native’s best weapon: his left hand. Fast, snappy body shots when there’s any lull in the action will also be necessary not only to score points but keep Till honest and force him to think twice before pressuring forward.

This one could be a fight to remember. Both guys are technical, and both have something to prove. Who comes out on top is anyone’s guess, but it’s sure to be exciting while it lasts.

What’s your opinion? Leave a comment below.

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