There were two stats that grabbed the eye ahead of the matchup between Derek Brunson and Darren Till. The first was the number of takedowns Brunson averages, the other was the significant striking number of Till. Those stats came into play in a big way during the main event of Saturday’s UFC Vegas 36 fight card, which streamed on ESPN+.
Brunson, who entered the middleweight contest on a four-fight winning streak, averaged over three takedowns per 15 minutes of fight action during his UFC career. Till’s average number of significant strikes landed was below three per minute. It’s important to note that Brunson had 16 takedowns in his four fights ahead of the Till matchup. Before that run, Brunson landed two successful takedowns in 10 fights.
During the first round of the bout, Brunson landed an easy takedown and racked up nearly three minutes of control time. Till landed seven significant strikes, or 1.4 per minute. Brunson scored another takedown in the second stanza and earned 3:56 of control time, while Till landed five significant strikes. Till had his best round in the third. He landed 14 significant strikes and hurt Brunson, but he could not stop the takedown that put Brunson back in control and earned him the submission win and, more importantly, his fifth straight victory.
The moral of the story? If you face Derek Brunson these days, make sure your takedown defense in on point.
After the win, Brunson called for a shot at UFC middleweight champ Israel Adesanya. The two fought in 2018, before Adesanya claimed the title, Adesanya won that contest by TKO.
Also, yes, Paddy Pimblett backed up his pre-fight talk.
Read on for the winners and losers from UFC Vegas 36, which took place at UFC Apex in Las Vegas.
Derek Brunson: My thoughts going into UFC Vegas 36 were that while Derek Brunson was on a nice 4-0 run headed into his matchup against Darren Till, he hadn’t faced top-level competition during that stretch. My thoughts changed after Brunson scored a submission win over Till.
Brunson did well in the first two rounds, but the telling moment of the fight was in the third when Till’s striking put Brunson on his heels. In the past, that might have been the moment where Brunson would have put himself in a dangerous position and gotten knocked out. On Saturday, he stayed calm and simply went for a takedown. He scored that takedown and that seemed to force something from Till because it wasn’t long after that takedown that Till tapped to a choke.
I’m not sure Brunson will get a title shot, but he didn’t hurt his chances by defeating the favored Till.
Tom Aspinall: Tom Aspinall wants to climb the UFC heavyweight rankings at a slow and steady pace. I can appreciate that, but the UFC might have other plans for the 28-year-old, who scored his seventh straight stoppage win on Saturday.
Aspinall, who entered his matchup against Sergey Spivak as the No. 13 ranked fighter in the official UFC heavyweight rankings, used a knee to the body to get Spivak to lower his hands. That opened Spivak to the elbow that put him to the mat where Aspinell ended the bout with ground strikes at the 2:31 mark of the first round. As for striking defense, Aspinell didn’t absorb a single significant strike.
It won’t be a surprise to see Aspinall fight again in 2021 and I expect his next opponent will be a ranked heavyweight.
Alex Morono: Alex Morono defeated David Zawada via unanimous decision. The fight wasn’t earth shattering, but the fact that Morono is a part of Fortis MMA is notable because that squad is having a good year.
Mentioned on the broadcast, Fortis MMA are 17-5 in 2021. Nice to see @sayif_saud and co. resume their dominance.— Aaron Bronsteter (@aaronbronsteter) September 4, 2021
Khalil Rountree: Khalil Rountree has had a rough road over the past three years. His record was 1-3, and he struggled with his drive to compete in the fight game. It appeared that Rountree worked through his doubts ahead of his bout opposite Modestas Bukauskas on Saturday, as he clearly wanted to end the fight as quickly as possible. Rountree was all power in the early moments of the fight, but when he hurt, but didn’t finish Bukauskas, Rountree backed off a bit and let the fight go where it was going to go. Rountree got the finish in the second stanza via a nasty, but well, placed leg kick.
Paddy Pimblett: In the early moments of his fight opposite Luigi Vendramini, UFC commentator Daniel Cormier noted that Paddy Pimblett’s chin was a bit too high. Not long after that, Vendramini caught that chin and rocked Pimblett. The much-hyped Pimblett recovered and later in the first round showed that his hands might be low when it comes to defense, but that they pack plenty of power on the offensive side of the ledger. Once Pimblett hurt Vendramini. he unloaded with lefts and rights until his opponent hit the mat.
I do not know how far Pimblett will go in the UFC, but he delivered in his promotional debut.
Molly McCann: Molly McCann earned her first victory in nearly two years when she took a decision over Ji Yeon Kim while still displaying the things that have made McCann a fighter who fans appreciate.
McCann is still a work in progress as far as her technical skills, but that kind of what is appealing about her. She always puts forth a strong effort, shows a lot of heart and toughness, and she packs some power in her strikes.
If you want a nice recap of what makes McCann fun, watch the last minute of this fight, it’s a good look at what McCann is all about.
The win seemed to come as a relief to McCann, who is now 4-3 in the UFC.
Julian Erosa: Julian Erosa saw his three-fight winning streak come to an end in June with a 97-second knockout loss to Seung Woo Choi. Erosa got back in the win column on Saturday with an impressive short-notice submission win over Charles Jourdain.
Erosa reminded me of Tim Means in the early going of the fight. Despite being the taller fighter, Erosa was comfortable working in close with his striking and using a litany of striking techniques to touch up his opponent. In the third round. Erosa showed he had submission skills to go along with his striking acumen. He used his wrestling to distract Jourdain and when he found an opening, he sank a choke that ended the fight.
Erosa looked very impressive in getting the victory at UFC Vegas 36.
Marc-Andre Barriault: Marc-Andre Barriault did not have the power of Dalcha Lungiambula, but he had the skills, cardio and output to win the opening fight of the night. A nice performance from Barriault, who went 0-3-0-1 in his first four UFC outings. The 31-year-old is now on a two-fight winning streak and his confidence appears to be growing.
Darren Till: Darren Till might only be 28, but his hopes of getting a title shot in the not too distant future faded the moment he tapped to a Derek Brunson rear-naked choke. Till’s takedown defense was sorely lacking and it cost him a lot during this fight. After a 17-0-1 start to his career, Till is now 1-4 dating back to September 2018.
Ji Yeon Kim: Ji Yeon Kim had a 10-inch reach advantage over Molly McCann. She also had better technical striking and movement than McCann. Despite that, Kim dropped the contest, which had to be a disappointment. After an 8-1-2 start to her MMA career, Kim is 1-3 dating back to November 2018.
Dalcha Lungiambula: Dalcha Lungiambula showed a great deal of power during the first round of his matchup opposite Marc-Andre Barriault, but his cardio failed and he spent much of the rest of the fight with his hands low, mouth open and in retreat.
Daniel Cormier: UFC commentator Daniel Cormier brought up his lack of fight scoring acumen early in the event, saying, “You know me, how much I love takedowns, I try and give a guy a round with one takedown. One takedown (and) I’m like that dude won the round.” Cormier’s tone showed that he found this self-assessment not damning, but funny. As someone who thinks commentators should know how fights are scored, I found Cormier’s “joke” as a statement that he would not bother learning the proper scoring criteria in MMA. It was a bad look for Cormier and a sign that fight fans shouldn’t expect to see an improvement in Cormier’s scoring skills.
Jack Shore: Jack Shore has a lot of hype behind him and he was the biggest favorite on this fight card. Shore looked excellent and showed a lot of technical ability in getting a win over Liudvik Sholinian, but I don’t see this fight helping him.
Let me explain.
Shore was a -550 favorite over Sholinian, who was not only a late opponent, but a fighter making his UFC debut after a break of nearly two years. The UFC matchmakers set up Shore for a big win. Instead, he fought a “safe” 15 minutes and walked away with the decision victory. I don’t blame Shore one bit for how he approached a matchup against an unknown and untrained for opponent, but we know the UFC brass sometimes doesn’t take that fact into consideration.
Shore is ready for a step up in competition, but I don’t know how the promotion is going to handle Shore after what it might see as a fighter refusing to take advantage of a golden opportunity to show out.
Michael Bisping: I’m throwing this under the “Neither” heading because where it lands for the reader probably comes down to their opinion of Michael Bisping.
Paddy Pimblett put his arm around Michael Bisping after Pimblett’s “Performance of the Night winning knockout and said to the former UFC champ,” What did I tell you Mike? Me and you would be having this conversation after the first-round finish and what happened?”
Without missing a beat, Bisping replied, “I’ll tell you what happened, you almost got knocked out, you got caught with a beautiful left hook. But it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish and you finished in style.”
Some will see this as Bisping taking an unnecessary shot at the young fighter in an attempt to take some of the shine off his win. I don’t think that’s the case. I don’t think the acerbic Bisping can help himself. It seems as if Bisping’s mind goes to that space and he’s unable to suppress his cutting sense of humor.