UFC 228: Woodley vs. Till Preview
A preview of Saturday’s UFC 228 card, set to take place in Dallas.
Updated: Sept. 6, 2018 • 1:31 PM ET
Tyron Woodley has been the UFC's welterweight king for more than two years.
The UFC is heading back to Dallas on Saturday for UFC 228, which will feature two nail-biting title fights. In the main event, welterweight champion Tyron Woodley will try to successfully defend his title for the fourth time against rising contender Darren Till. In the co-main event, women’s flyweight champion Nicco Montano will defend her title against former bantamweight title challenger and No. 1 contender Valentina Shevchenko.
Woodley hasn’t fought in more than a year since successfully defending his title at UFC 214 against Demian Maia. During the fight, Woodley suffered a shoulder injury that required surgery, sidelining him for the start of 2018. He was expected to fight interim champion and bitter rival Colby Covington next in a unification bout, but Covington could not be ready by September while recovering from injuries, so the UFC opted for Till in a quicker matchup.
Despite his history with Covington, Woodley believes this was the fight to make and isn’t looking past Till.
“I try not to focus on the title run and how many defenses and breaking records,” Woodley recently said during the UFC 228 conference call. “I try to focus on each fight. This is my super fight.
“This is the biggest fight of my career. I’m in great shape. I had a great training camp. I feel like all the pieces to the pie, that we’ve addressed those issues that we’ve seen in film and that’s my goal, to go out there and have a great performance.”
The 36-year-old from St. Louis has called out big names in the past, but he’ll have his hands full with Till, who is still unknown to mainstream MMA fans. Till will enter the fight with a three-inch height advantage, but the champion has fought and defeated a who’s who of welterweights, so it would be foolish to count Woodley out against the younger, heavily-hyped fighter.
Woodley has defeated Maia, Stephen Thompson (technically twice), Robbie Lawler, Kelvin Gastelum, Dong Hyun Kim, Carlos Condit, Josh Koscheck and Paul Daley, amongst others in his career. The biggest question is, how will Woodley approach the fight with Till? Will he be the aggressor, or will he back up against the fence like he did against Thompson? Even though Till has a size advantage, he doesn’t necessarily have the power advantage. Till hasn’t fought anyone as strong, or with the wrestling pedigree that Woodley will bring into the fight.
The 25-year-old Till is 5-0-1 in the UFC and got MMA fans’ attention with his first-round TKO of fan favorite Donald Cerrone in October. The victory landed him a fight with former title challenger Stephen Thompson in May, which was a disappointing chess match to many casual fans. Till followed the same game plan as Woodley against Thompson by not being overly aggressive and falling victim to Thompson’s counter-striking ability.
The biggest problem for Till against Thompson was his inability to make weight for the fight, but he claims it was due to a last-minute family emergency that distracted his weight cut. Despite what Till says, there are still major concerns that he won’t make weight because it’s a drastic weight cut for him, as he regularly walks around at more than 200 pounds.
The fighter from Liverpool is 17-0-1 overall and represents the new breed of fighters in the UFC. But is it too soon for a title shot? That question has been asked many times about other fighters who emerged victorious in their first title shot.
Will Till follow in the footsteps of Jon Jones and Cody Garbrandt by winning their first shot at the belt, or will Woodley continue his run at the top?
Update: The Nicco Montano vs. Valentina Shevchenko fight has been called off due to Montano missing the weigh-in.
Nicco Montano burst onto the UFC scene in December by becoming the first women’s flyweight champion after defeating Roxanne Modafferi by unanimous decision. The bout earned Fight of the Night honors after the two landed 318 combined significant strikes, Montano landing 186 of them. However, the champ hasn’t fought since and revealed in May that she was dealing with several health issues.
“I’m 5 days post tonsillectomy and adenoid removal surgery due to a bacterial infection that’s been inhibiting my practice all year,” Montaño wrote on her official Instagram. “Soonest I can get back on the mats is 16 more days.”
Despite being champion, Montano is entering the fight as the underdog with Shevchenko currently listed as a 12-1 betting favorite to take out Montano. Nevertheless, the 29-year-old champion isn’t concerned.
“I’ve already proven that (I’m a champion),” Montano said. “I feel like I’ve already proven that. With this fight, after I beat Shevchenko, it’s just going to show other people that, and the true people that are inspired by me, that no matter what the odds are, you can still come out successful and victorious.”
Shevchenko made her debut at flyweight in February and completely dominated Priscila Cachoeira, winning by second-round submission. The victory and her previous success at bantamweight was enough to earn her a title shot. She has defeated top contenders such as Holly Holm and Julianna Pena and went the distance twice with bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes.
The 30-year-old from Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan is still skeptical about Montano’s commitment to defending the title against her.
“I hope that Nicco, she will follow her word and will show up in the Octagon and we will fight, because before she will be inside the Octagon, I can’t believe that she will do it,” Shevchenko told reporters during a recent media scrum.
The rest of the main card
The main card will also feature a featherweight fight between No. 15 Zabit Magomedsharipov and Brandon Davis. Magomedsharipov was originally scheduled to fight fellow phenom Yair Rodriguez, but an injury forced Rodriguez to withdraw. Consequently, Davis will step in on short notice and fight one of the UFC’s most talked about fighters.
Magomedsharipov is 3-0 in the UFC, winning Performance of the Night twice and Fight of the Night honors after a back-and-forth brawl in his last bout against Kyle Bochniak. The 27-year-old from Dagestan, Russia has shown a wide array of skills and quickly become a rising contender in the featherweight division. He’s also possibly two more wins away from a title shot.
Davis is 2-2 in the UFC and coming off a unanimous decision loss to Enrique Barzola in May. Nevertheless, he has the opportunity to put a dent in the hype train that is Magomedsharipov by securing a victory on Saturday that would certainly gain him much-needed attention.
A strawweight fight and possible title eliminator between No. 2 Jessica Andrade and No. 4 Karolina Kowalkiewicz will also be on the main card. Both have unsuccessfully challenged for the title, but have rebounded well since.
Andrade has won two straight fights since losing her title shot to Joanna Jedrzejczyk in May 2017, defeating Claudia Gadelha and Tecia Torres. With a win on Saturday, Andrade might earn a shot at current champion Rosa Namajunas.
Kowalkiewicz has also won two straight since suffering back-to-back losses, one of the losses being for the title. She defeated Jodie Esquibel and Felice Herrig on her way to the matchup with Andrade, and a win on Saturday would put her right back in talks of being the next fighter to challenge Namajunas.
A welterweight fight between Abdul Razak Alhassan and Niko Price will round out the main card. The 33-year-old from Ghana is 3-1 in the UFC and coming off two straight first-round KO’s of Sabah Homasi, but Price would represent Razak’s biggest victory to date. Price is 4-1-1 in the UFC and coming off two straight victories, the latest being a rare knockout victory over Randy Brown from bottom position. A third straight win against a dangerous fighter such as Alhassan could send the 28-year-old into the top 15 of the division’s rankings.
Strawweight fight - No. 6 Carla Esparza vs. No. 9 Tatiana Suarez
Bantamweight fight - No. 8 Aljamain Sterling vs. No. 10 Cody Stamann
Bantamweight fight - No. 5 Jimmie Rivera vs. No. 7 John Dodson
Middleweight fight - Charles Byrd vs. Darren Stewart
UFC Fight Pass Early Prelims
Welterweight fight - Diego Sanchez vs. Craig White
Lightweight fight - Jim Miller vs. Alex White
Women's bantamweight fight - No. 12 Irene Aldana vs. No. 13 Lucie Pudilova
Flyweight fight - Roberto Sanchez vs. Jarred Brooks
Welterweight fight - Geoff Neal vs. Frank Camacho
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