Previous UFC middleweight champ Robert Whittaker claimed a consentaneous choice victory over British competitor Darren Till in the final occasion of UFC Fight Island in Abu Dhabi.
Australian Whittaker, 29, who lost the UFC’s 185 pound title to Nigerian-born New Zealander Israel Adesanya in October, stepped away from the sport to recover, complaining of burnout.
He returned after nine months to outpoint Till over 5 tight, tactical rounds and put himself back into the UFC middleweight title discussion.
Battle Island – the creation of UFC president Dana White – was established in a bid to continue hosting combined martial arts occasions throughout the coronavirus pandemic.
More than 100 fighters flew to Abu Dhabi’s Yas Island for four events between 11 and 25 July, and they have dealt with stringent security procedures given that arriving.
” It was among the hardest battles I’ve remained in,” said Till about his second fight given that moving up to middleweight. “It was so mentally demanding, such a chess match. It was a close fight against a former champion. I’m up there.”
Northern Irishman Rhys McKee lost on his UFC launching, but there were early victories for Scottish light heavyweight Paul Craig and British heavyweight prospect Tom Aspinall.
Whittaker’s second-round knockout loss to Adesanya at UFC 243 last year was his only defeat as a middleweight, and he produced a composed, managed performance to beat Till with ratings of 48-47, 48-47, 48-47 and enhance his record to 21 wins, five losses.
Till dropped Whittaker with a completely timed brief elbow in the preliminary, but Whittaker returned the favour in round two with a big best hand.
In a fight of fine margins, it was Whittaker’s exceptional striking output that saw him edge the battle on the scorecards.
Whittaker told ESPN the battle “was so difficult”. He said: “Truthfully, I hope the fans and everybody can value it. Since that level for me, that was among the most technical battles I have actually ever had.”
What about the rest of the Britons?
Earlier in the night, Scottish light-heavyweight Craig produced among the most impressive surfaces of the night as he completed Russian submission expert Gadzhimurad Antigulov in the very first round utilizing his go-to submission relocation.
Antigulov headed into the battle with 15 of his 20 wins coming over method of submission, but it was Coatbridge’s Craig whose jiu-jitsu abilities proved definitive as he locked up a triangle choke off his back to force the tap and sign up the 13 th win of his profession, and his 12 th by submission.
It was a harder night for debuting Northern Irishman McKee, who lost to Swedish hot possibility Khamzat Chimaev in their welterweight bout.
McKee got the short-notice call to make his UFC debut recently, with his manager Graham Boylan sharing on social media the emotional moment when he amazed the 24- year-old with the news.
But McKee’s first UFC look ended in defeat as he was quickly taken down and completed with ground and pound in the first round by Chimaev.
Chimaev scored his 2nd win on UFC Fight Island in the area of 10 days to set a brand-new record for the fastest time in between modern-era UFC victories.
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It was a better night for another of the night’s debutants, however, as British heavyweight possibility Tom Aspinall scored an eye-catching TKO finish of American Jake Collier.
A thumping knee to the body, followed by quickfire two-punch mix, sent out Collier crashing to the mat as 27- year-old Aspinall, a former sparring partner for Tyson Fury, took just 45 seconds to sign up a magnificent victory – the fourth-fastest win for a heavyweight debutant in the UFC’s modern-day era.
- Battle Island: Paul Craig on hazmat suits & banging on the roofing system
- My time to shine – Rhys McKee on whirlwind UFC launching after late call-up
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