Whittaker beats Till by unanimous decision at UFC Fight Island

Former UFC middleweight champion Robert Whittaker beats British contender Darren Till by unanimous decision in the final show on UFC Fight Island in Abu Dhabi

  • Robert Whittaker won the main event in the UAE against British fighter Darren Till
  • The New Zealander won by unanimous decision in a tactical encounter overnight
  • It was tight but all three judges scored the fight 48-47 in Whittaker’s favour  
  • Elsewhere, veteran heavyweight Fabricio Werdum beat Alexander Gustafsson
  • The event was the last of the UFC Fight Island events to be held in Abu Dhabi 

Former UFC middleweight champion Robert Whittaker earned his first victory in two years, winning a unanimous decision over Darren Till on Fight Island overnight.

In the last of four UFC shows in two weeks from the MMA promotion’s fan-free bubble in the Middle East, the main event was something of a messy, technical fight which turned into an encouraging step forward for Whittaker. 

The New Zealander ended the victory with a smile and a horrifically bloody cut above his left ear, stretching his record to 21-5.  

Robert Whittaker beat British fighter Darren Till by unanimous decision in the main event

Whittaker (left) lands a punch on Till in a tactical encounter, for his first victory in two years 

Whittaker won his middleweight belt in 2017, but the Australian brawler defended it just once and missed significant time with injuries. 

He lost the title last October to New Zealand’s Israel Adesanya, and Whittaker then withdrew from a scheduled comeback fight because he felt burned out on MMA.

He didn’t have an easy return, but the ex-champ still handled his matchup with Till, the touted British prospect.

‘That fight was so stressful,’ Whittaker said. ‘I hope the fans and everybody can appreciate it. That was one of the most technical fights I’ve ever had to fight. We both knew each other’s strengths. I had to really adapt on the go.’

Till dropped Whittaker with a sneaky elbow in a strong first round for the Englishman, but Whittaker knocked down Till in the second and then hurt him with elbows on the ground. 

The next three rounds weren’t quite as exciting, but Whittaker appeared to land more accurate strikes while fighting at his preferred distance.

Till lands a left-hand on Whittaker in a fight which was a close affair in the United Arab Emirates

Till still caught Whittaker with a late shot that opened a major cut on Whittaker’s head, but all three judges scored it 48-47 for Whittaker.

Till was among the UFC’s brightest rising stars until welterweight champ Tyron Woodley stopped him in September 2018. 

Till then got knocked out by Jorge Masvidal in London, but rebounded with a narrow win over Kelvin Gastelum last November.

UFC president Dana White has held four shows on the UFC Fight Island in Abu Dhabi 

After returning from a stoppage due to the coronavirus pandemic with shows in Florida and Nevada, the UFC has spent July on Yas Island, the popular Abu Dhabi tourist destination. The shows all started before dawn to reach North American audiences.

The UFC has several upcoming shows scheduled for the gym on its corporate campus in Las Vegas, but president Dana White has said he expects to be back at Fight Island later this year, particularly if the pandemic worsens in the U.S.

Veteran heavyweight Fabricio Werdum finished Alexander Gustafsson by armbar submission midway through the first round, and Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua got an entertaining split-decision victory over fellow Brazilian veteran Antonio Rogerio Nogueira. 

Veteran heavyweight Fabricio Werdum defeated Alexander Gustafsson by submission

The 38-year-old Rua and the 44-year-old Nogueira put on an entertaining performance in their third fight in a rivalry that began 15 years ago. 

Rua won all three of those bouts, but he barely won this lively striking matchup, triumphing 29-28 on two cards.

‘I am the happiest man in the world today,’ said Rua, who has won five of his last seven fights. ‘Every fight, Nogueira has made it hard. I took one more step in my career tonight.’

Nogueira said he probably will retire after this defeat, although his reluctance was visible. The twin brother of fellow UFC veteran Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira has been a pro MMA fighter for 19 years, including the last 11 in the UFC.

‘I know I can (still) fight very well, but I think it’s time for the new generation to come,’ Nogueira said.

Brazilian Mauricio Rua celebrates his victory on Fight Island against Antonio Rogerio Nogueira

Werdum earned his first victory since 2017 with an impressive submission of Gustafsson , the former light heavyweight title contender who briefly retired last year.

Werdum turns 43 next week, but the famed jiu-jitsu practitioner took apart Gustafsson on the ground for an armbar. Gustafsson, who nearly beat Jon Jones for the light heavyweight title in 2013, has lost three straight fights and five of seven.

On the undercard, welterweight Khamzat Chimaev set a UFC record with his second victory in only 10 days, finishing welterweight Rhys McKee with punches just 3:09 into the first round.

Chimaev made his UFC debut as a middleweight in Abu Dhabi on July 15, stopping John Phillips with a choke in the second round despite fighting on short notice in a higher weight class. 

Welterweight Khamzat Chimaev set a UFC record with his second victory in only 10 days

His 10-day gap between victories is the shortest in UFC history since the end of one-night tournament competition, breaking Chas Skelly’s record of 13 days in 2014.

‘I can fight (again) after one hour,’ Chimaev said with a smile. ‘Maybe if you give me a minute, if somebody is injured, just tell me. I’m going to smash everybody…

‘How many fighters in my division? I can smash the whole division. Easy work, easy money.’

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