T.J. Waldburger has had a tough go of things in the UFC lately. He's been KO'd clean twice in his 1-3 stretch of recent fights and his last fight, against slugger Wendell Oliveira, was cancelled at the last minute when Waldburger passed out cutting weight. He hasn't competed more than once in each of the last two years and it looks like he'll be out for a while longer now, after pulling out of his re-booked fight with Oliveira due to a back injury. Fortunately for Oliveira, this time the UFC had enough notice to find him a replacement opponent. Combate announced that Oliveira will now be facing newcomer Darren Till at UFC Fight Night Goiania on May 30th, in Brazil. So...
Who is Darren Till?
The 22-year old English fighter trains out of Astra Fight Team in Brazil, alongside notable Bellator prospect Julio Cesar Neves Jr. and veteran Rafael Silva. It's a team notorious for padding their fighters records, but has produced some decent talent none the less. In that sense, Till's 12-0 unbeaten record isn't much outside the norm for them, with his only real challenges coming in his last couple fights, but he has at least taken a step up in competition. That means his fights are lasting longer, but he's still finishing his competition. Before his move to Brazil, Till trained out of Team Kaobon and competed in Muay Thai before starting his MMA career.
What you should expect:
Most notably, the rear leg round kick to the body. It's easy to see Till's Muay Thai base in the way he uses his legs. He's a fierce kicker with real power behind him. The other side of that is that his hands are somewhat under developed. He prefers to counter strike when throwing punches, waiting for his opponents to come in before looking for a single uppercut or hook. Occasionally he'll flash a lead jab or straight left out of the southpaw stance, but they seem more designed to keep his opponent thinking rather than to cause real harm. He also tends to use spinning backfists regularly as another strike designed to keep his opponent out in kicking range. He's got a very solid base for takedown defense (if a little overly reliant on his athleticism), but a somewhat underdeveloped clinch game considering his lack of other tools.
What this means for his debut:
The interesting thing with this fight, as it now stands, is that both Oliveira and Till are almost certainly going to get the fight they like. Both men prefer to sit at range, with Oliveira using primarily a boxing game and Till using primarily a kicking game. Till's lack of setups on his kicks could put him in trouble if Oliveira is able to get into the pocket and let his hands go. Unfortunately, both men tend to like to counter strike, so it could end up being a pretty slow affair with both fighters looking to pot shot. I'd probably give Oliveira a small edge, due to his power and Till's lack of consistent clinch entries, but this has nitpicky split decision written all over it.
To get us better acquainted, here's Till's recent bout against Guillermo Martinez Ayme at Arena Tour 4, back in December.