UFC Fight Island 3: Whittaker vs Till - Important Takeaways

Robert Whittaker beat Darren Till in a middleweight main event encounter, while Mauricio Rua took out Antonio Rogerio Nogueira in the co-main clash.

Robert Whittaker (left) celebrates after his win over Darren Till in the middleweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event.   -  Getty Images

The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returned to the Flash Forum at the Yas Island in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE), for one last time before moving back to the United States next week and Sunday's PPV involved a record 15 fights, tied with UFC 2, including the preliminary card outings.

The event, which is the last of the promotion's four in UAE this month, also didn't have any Fight of the Night award but six stars won Performance of the Night bonuses. Robert Whittaker beat Darren Till in a middleweight main event encounter, while Mauricio Rua took out Antonio Rogerio Nogueira in the co-main clash.

Let's see how these results will impact the UFC's future.

WHITTAKER BEATS TILL TO MOVE CLOSER TO TITLE SHOT

Former middleweight champion Robert Whittaker eked out a unanimous decision victory over former welterweight title challenger Darren Till, who had moved a division up in 2019, in five rounds at UFC Fight Island 3.

The judges' scorecard read 48-47, 48-47 and 48-47 in favour of Whittaker who had to dig deep after conceding the very first round. Till dominated the early exchanges and put his rival on the backfoot with an elbow knockdown.

It looked as though Whittaker was in serious trouble straightaway but he came back stronger in the second and smashed his opponent, who began to bleed from his nose, with some hard punches and elbows. He also executed a perfect kick to his adversary's right leg to slow him down.

 

The remainder of the fight was very close as Whittaker and Till won a round each. But in the final round, the former completed a few takedowns towards the end, gained the advantage and came out on top despite being bloodied due to a cut on his ear.

"That fight was so stressful. Honestly, I hope the fans and everybody can appreciate it. For me, it was one of the most technical fights I ever had to fight," Whittaker told after the encounter.

Till was contesting in the welterweight division until November last year before he beat Kelvin Gastelum during his middleweight debut at UFC 244. This was his second bout in the division and he did put up a good fight.

"I feel like I won it. I feel like we both won the fight. I'm not saying I feel like I won it -- we both won. It was a clinically great match," said Till.

Due to Till's loss, Jack Hermansson has moved to #4 in the middleweight contenders' rankings. Jared Cannonier is at #3, while Yoel Romero occupies the #5 spot.

The division's champion Israel Adesanya will defend his title against #2 contender Paulo Costa at UFC 253 next in September. The winner of that bout, in all likelihood, will face the currently injured Cannonier, who is expected to make a comeback later this year.

Whittaker, the #1 contender, is another candidate expected to be part of the next contest for the belt. However, he might face Hermansson in an eliminator before challenging the champ. Till, on the other hand, is a long way off a possible title fight.

TRILOGY: RUA BEATS NOGUEIRA IN THREE ROUNDS, AGAIN

Mauricio Rua, a former light heavyweight champion, capped off a historic trilogy by beating countryman Antonio Rogerio Nogueira for the third time in 15 years during his career on Sunday at the Fight Island.

The two experienced MMA artists had first met in June 2005 at Saitama, Japan. Their second clash came during August 2015 at UFC 190 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Rua had won both those bouts by unanimous decision. This time, he won via split decision.

Nogueira had rocked Rua with a crisp left-handed punch in the first round of their latest fight. But Rua recovered, connected with jabs of his own and went for a takedown to close the first round.

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In the second, both the fighters threw caution to the wind and were involved in a slugfest. Nogueira moved forward with intent and kept swinging at Rua. This allowed the latter to throw successful punches on the counter.  

The two Brazilians inside the Octagon were pretty tired in the final round as both of them turned to a cautious approach. However, Rua secured one last takedown and followed it up with strong blows to seal the deal. 

“I’m very happy because I won three times with the legend, Rogerio Nogueira. I am the happiest man in the world today. Every fight with Nogueira is a war,” Rua claimed.

Rua, 38, now has five wins from his last seven bouts. Considering his age, he might not be able to go for the light heavyweight belt, which he had lost to two-time and current undisputed champion Jon Jones in March 2011. But he still has a few more fights in him. 

Meanwhile, the 44-year-old Nogueira announced his retirement from Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) after the fight against Rua.

“I fought very well. I tried to knock him out every time. For me, it’s an honour to share the octagon with ‘Shogun.’ To be here 44 years old, I think that’s going to be my last one,” added Nogueira.

WERDUM STUNS GUSTAFSSON IN 150 SECONDS

Another former champ Fabricio Werdum made quick work of Alexander Gustafsson, a light heavyweight title challenger in the past, in a heavyweight contest at UFC Fight Island 3.

Werdum, ranked #14 in the heavyweight division, won in exactly two minutes and 30 seconds of the first round, thanks to the armbar submission move.

Gustafsson was unlucky to not have won the light heavyweight championship in three attempts, twice against Jones and once against Daniel Cormier. He had announced his retirement from UFC in June last year after losing to Anthony Smith in the main event of UFC Fight Night 153.

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However, he had announced his comeback earlier this year and decided to move up a division. This was his first bout in more than 13 months for the MMA promotion. But his heavyweight debut was an encounter to forget.

Early on, Werdum had thrown a powerful leg kick which connected perfectly. His rival did attempt an unsuccessful takedown but within a few moments, the former titleholder was back on top as he locked in the armbar and claimed the win.  

“This is the strategy. I am very happy. This is a very important fight for me. I’ve been waiting for a long time,” Werdum said.

Werdum, in his early forties, will be looking to fight a few higher-ranked opponents next up. Meanwhile, Gustafsson will have to reassess his situation with the company and decide if he wants to stay in the heavyweight division or move back to the light heavyweight category.

"It sucks to lose but I’m alive and healthy it’s a sport, a sport that I love! Thanks, Werdum for a great fight and the UFC for the opportunity!" Gustafsson wrote in a Twitter post.

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