5 biggest takeaways from UFC Fight Night 191: Is Darren Till destined for mediocrity?

What mattered most at UFC Fight Night 1911 at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas? These are some post-fight thoughts …

Derek Brunson is making a case for a title shot in his late career with his five-fight winning streak that was capped by a win over Darren Till.

How many people predicted this? Is it really? Brunson (23-7 MMA, 14-5 UFC) has been the underdog in every fight during his current run, yet he keeps going out there and getting the job done. He was at his most impressive in his fight with Till. His third round tap by rear-naked choke . was his best yet.

Brunson would fight for the belt next in a normal world. The middleweight title picture is anything but normal at the moment, though, with Israel Adesanya and Robert Whittaker expected to rematch in early 2022 and Jared Cannonier waiting in line for a crack at gold, too.

Brunson’s career will be determined by whether he sits out or stays busy. Brunson has worked hard to earn that belt and it would be a nice reward. It’s not a good idea to wait too often.

Brunson would be a huge underdog against Whittaker or Adesanya if he does get the shot. Both of them have finished Brunson in Round 1. Brunson has defied all expectations since switching to Sanford MMA, where he wore the blond hair. Who am I to tell what he can do?

It’s amazing how this sport works. This column can be opened by discussing Brunson’s overachieving relative expectations and being a viable title candidate. But on the flip side, I have serious questions about the man Brunson beat to get to that position.

That’s the reality of where we find ourselves though, in the aftermath of Till’s (18-4-1 MMA, 6-4-1 UFC) fourth loss in his past five fights. It was almost exactly three years ago that Till challenged then-champ Tyron Woodley for the UFC belt at welterweight when he was a perfect 17-0-1 in MMA. He was a star in the UFC, and many were eager to name him the next big star. But then he became dominated and was tapped out for his first loss.

Till lost to Jorge Masvidal in the subsequent fight. This prompted him to move up from middleweight. He edged out Kelvin Gastelum in his divisional debut, then lost a competitive decision to Whittaker in July 2020. Despite the defeat, it seemed Till was going to be a big part of the title picture at 185 pounds, but the loss to Brunson removed him from that conversation for the time being.

It’s not just that Till lost to a 37-year-old version of Brunson, it’s how it happened. He was almost helpless on his back and it was obvious that Till had a “punchers chance” of winning after the first takedown. He nearly won Round 3. But he was unable to keep that momentum going. In a flash, he went from rocking Brunson into being trapped on Brunson’s back and forced to submit.

Till’s quest for UFC championship glory will be hindered by his ground game competence. There are some solutions that will be required if he is to achieve his potential. What are those fixes? That question can only be answered by Till and his team.

Till has a strong mind and heart for the fight game. He truly wants to be great and will do whatever it takes to make it happen. There are no shortcuts to the top, though, and if the 28-year-old wants to be at the top, he can’t continue to let opportunities pass him by.

Paddy Pimblett delivered in spades with a first-round TKO of Luigi Vendramini in his anticipated octagon debut. It was perfect. It wasn’t perfect. It’s impossible to ask for more entertainment.

The former champion of Cage Warriors opened the main event with a thrilling finish to Vendramini. Pimblett (17-3 MMA, 1-0 UFC) got staggered with a huge shot early in the lightweight bout, and it seemed there was a good chance he was en route to opening his UFC career with a massive stumble.

Much to Pimblett’s credit, however, he pulled it off and didn’t fight scared. He chased Vendramini, until he hit a shot that changed everything. Once that was done, he displayed incredible killer instinct and Vendramini was left looking confused.

It was a good intro fight, but did it persuade anyone to believe Pimblett is the next great name at 155 pounds? It all depends on how you view it.

Better fighters that Vendramini won’t let the Brit off the leash if he makes mistakes. Pimblett’s ability to continue to improve and fill in the gaps in his game is not enough to make him the next UFC star.

Jack Shore‘s unanimous decision win over Liudvik Sholinian wasn’t anything special. He didn’t get pushed out of first gear over the course of 15 minutes, and easily dominated on the scorecard.

The ease in which Shore (15-0 MMA, 4-0 UFC) won, though, has me clamoring to see more of him. He is extremely intelligent and well-rounded. Sholinian was unable to identify him, so it’s time for Sholinian to show his brilliance with a major competition.

With 15 straight wins to start his MMA career, the bantamweight prospect from Wales looks like he could be a threat for years to come. However, we won’t be able to know until his opposition quality improves and UFC agrees that it is time.

Shoutout to my fellow Canadian Marc-Andre Barriault. Barriault’s UFC career began with four consecutive defeats, including three losses and a no-contest. Now, Barriault has won back-to-back wins.

Barriault (13-4 MMA, 2-3 UFC) put on a high pressure performance against Dalcha Lungiambula to win a unanimous decision, and suddenly he’s got some momentum in the middleweight division.

Recognition to Barriault for his success. Moreover, the UFC matchmaking staff deserves credit for believing in him enough to allow him to have this opportunity. It would not happen to everyone.

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