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UFC London: Darren Till aiming to establish welterweight dominance in blockbuster main event

UFC London: Darren Till aiming to establish welterweight dominance in blockbuster main event
The UFC welterweight title picture will come into focus in the organisation's return to the English capital on Saturday, with abrasive Englishman Darren Till 170 lbs.

Liverpool's Till, who has a record of 17-1-1 and coronated England's premiere mixed martial artist following the retirement of former UFC champ Michael Bisping, will fight for the first time since a September defeat to then-title holder Tyron Woodley.

But with the American having lost his title earlier this month at the hands of Kamaru Usman, number three-ranked Till has been handed an opportunity to re-establish his title credentials in front of an expectant fanbase.

Till, nicknamed 'The Gorilla', has shot up the welterweight rankings over the course of the last 18 months. The spindly southpaw was one of MMA's best kept secrets, but surged to prominence with a one-round shellacking of Donald 'Cowboy' Cerrone in Poland in October 2017. 

He passed a further test when he outpointed world class kickboxer Stephen 'Wonderboy' Thompson in Liverpool last May before the setback against Woodley. 

The man charged with playing spoiler this time around? Grizzled veteran Jorge Masvidal who has a record of 32-13. The Cuban-American is a notoriously hard-nosed competitor. He brings to the cage a wealth of combat experience, beginning with videotaped backyard brawls in Florida under the watchful eye of the late Kimbo Slice all the way through 45 professional MMA bouts.

Masvidal, ranked 13th in the division, has lost two straight fights coming into Saturday's contest, though they came against top-ranked fighters Demian Maia and common opponent Stephen Thompson. 

Both are known for their preference to keep the fight on their feet, which should mean fireworks for the sold-out crowd in London's O2 Arena, but when all is said and done, look for Darren Till's laser-sighted left as being the difference maker.

The co-main event pits another English welterweight, Leon Edwards, winner of six straight at welterweight, against Conor McGregor's Icelandic teammate Gunnar Nelson.

Like Till, Edwards is another long fighter with an impressive array of striking skills and will look to keep the fight from going to the ground against Nelson, one of the best submission artists on the UFC roster. 

Both fighters come into this bout on the back of career-best performances. Edwards outpointed Donald Cerrone last summer to claim the biggest scalp of his professional career, while Nelson scythed through another fighter nicknamed 'Cowboy', Alex Oliveira, in December.

Nelson has a strong record against proficient strikers, having felled and submitted the likes of Brandon Thatch, Alan Jouban and Albert Tumenov in recent years and once again this time the smart money is on the Icelander claiming what would be the 14th submission win of his career, and quietening the London crowd in the process.

Elsewhere on the card, a host of English prospects such as Arnold Allen and Nathaniel Wood will look to burgeon their blossoming careers, while a hotly-anticipated light heavyweight showdown between former title challenger Volkan Oezdemir and the unbeaten Dominick Reyes should be as exciting as it is potentially brief.

The welterweight division, though, is the real focus of Saturday's card. The title picture at 170lb remains very much open for business following Usman's capturing of the title earlier this month and once the dust settles late on Saturday night, we should have another pair of contenders to add to what is an ever-expanding mix of players among one of UFC's most talent-rich weight divisions.

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