The UFC welterweight title will be on the line Saturday when Tyron Woodley takes on rising star Darren Till at UFC 228 in Dallas. Woodley will be attempting a fourth consecutive title defense as the headliner of a loaded card that kicks off the September schedule.
UFC 228 will also feature a women’s strawweight battle between Jessica Andrade and Karolina Kowalkiewicz, two fighters who are jockeying for the next title opportunity. Four bantamweights are looking to climb the ladder as well.
Sporting News’ MMA staff offers its predictions for UFC 228.
Tyron Woodley (c) vs. Darren Till for the UFC welterweight title
Andreas Hale: Woodley def. Till via (T)KO
The most underrated part of Woodley’s game is how cerebral he is. Over the past few years, he has managed to neutralize the strengths of his opponents and expose their weaknesses. Unfortunately, that has often led to less than exciting outings. That However, the reason doesn’t necessarily fall on Woodley’s shoulders. For the most part, his opponents have been unwilling to engage. Everybody learned about Woodley’s power after Robbie Lawler was decimated inside of one round, and that caused those opposite him to freeze up.
MUEHLHAUSEN: Where is the respect for Woodley?
Till has no fear of Woodley and that will likely serve as a huge weakness. It won’t be the biggest one, however. Till’s weight issues have been well-documented and with the contracted weight being 170 pounds, the Liverpool fighter may find his conditioning in question because of what has always been anticipated as a brutal weight cut. Woodley is well aware of this and will likely drag the fight into the later rounds and take full advantage of Till’s questionable cardio to polish off his opponent.
E. Spencer Kyte: Woodley def. Till via unanimous decision
Till is dangerous; he’s huge for the division, he can swarm and bury opponents with volume and has the strength to hurt them when he gets them up against the fence and covering up. That being said, I wasn’t overly impressed with what he did against Stephen Thompson and I think Woodley is too cerebral, too seasoned and too tactical to fall here.
Steven Muehlhausen: Woodley def. Till via unanimous decision
In my eyes, this fight comes down to how Till looks IF he makes weight. He missed weight by 3 1/2 pounds in his last fight against Stephen Thompson and hasn’t made the contracted weight in two of his last four fights. Talking to him last week, the weight cut for this bout appeared to be horrific. There’s no way he’s going to be 100 percent if he comes in at 170 pounds. Woodley will use his wrestling and make it a long a night for Till.
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Jessica Andrade vs. Karolina Kowalkiewicz
Andreas Hale: Andrade def. Kowalkiewicz via unanimous decision
Andrade is a giant at strawweight and continues to mow down anyone not named Joanna Jedrzejczyk. She’s just too physical for most opponents and possesses a relentless style in which she refuses to take a step back. Kowalkiewicz is a solid striker but doesn’t possess the power to keep the hulking Andrade off her for 15 minutes.
E. Spencer Kyte: Andrade def. Kowalkiewicz via (T)KO
I think this one ends up looking a lot like Kowalkiewicz’s loss to Claudia Gadelha where she was overwhelmed right out of the chute by an ultra-aggressive Brazilian. While I’m not sure Andrade will get a quick submission, there is a very real possibility she’ll swarm with strikes. Even if she doesn’t, her constant pressure and output will be too much for the Polish contender.
Steven Muehlhausen: Andrade def. Kawalkiewicz via unanimous decision
This is a battle between two former title challengers who look to be going in different directions. Andrade looks to be on the rise and Kowalkiewicz looks to be on a downward trend. Andrade is coming off a stellar performance over Tecia Torres in July; a victory at UFC 228 should get her another crack at the title.
Zabit Magomedshapirov vs. Brandon Davis
Andreas Hale: Magomedshapirov def. Davis via (T)KO
Davis will serve as little more than cannon fodder for the surging Russian. It won’t take long for Magomedshapirov to impose his will and have a highlight-reel finish against Davis, who should get praise for taking the fight on short notice.
E. Spencer Kyte: Magomedshapirov def. Davis via unanimous decision
Give Davis credit for stepping up, but he’s going to get stomped. While I don’t think Magomedsharipov is as close to title contention as some seem to believe or feel he’s deserving of a place in the top 15, there is no denying he’s a terrific prospect. He should roll in this one.
Steven Muehlhausen: Magomedshapirov def. Davis by (T)KO
If Davis hadn’t taken the fight on short notice, he would have had a better chance to win. He still wouldn’t win, though. Magomedsharipov is a savage and will wreck Davis.
Jimmie Rivera vs. John Dodson
Andreas Hale: Dodson def. Rivera via unanimous decision
Rivera was exposed by Marlon Moraes in his last fight and Dodson possesses a similar skill set when it comes to explosiveness, speed and power. He also has an exceptional takedown defense to neutralize Rivera’s wrestling. Dodson may not get the finish, but he’s going to use his physical advantage to keep Rivera off balance and take home the victory.
E. Spencer Kyte: Dodson def. Rivera via unanimous decision
Fighting Dodson has to be frustrating on a number of levels because he’s powerful and fast but also circles out and resets over and over, which makes it miserable to try to land consistent offense. While I think Rivera is the better fighter overall, this is one of those matchups where I think Dodson’s style and high-percentage approach will be successful.
Steven Muehlhausen: Rivera def. Dodson via (T)KO
Rivera is coming off the first loss of his career, to Marlon Moraes back in June. Dodson is looking for back-to-back wins as he tries to gain traction at 135 pounds. Expect nonstop action for however long it lasts.
Aljamain Sterling vs. Cody Stamman
Andreas Hale: Sterling def. Stamman via unanimous decision
Sterling is the better grappler and continues to improve his striking. There aren’t too many things that Stamman can do on offense to offset the advantages Sterling will have in this fight.
E. Spencer Kyte: Sterling def. Stamman via unanimous decision
Stamann has looked good, but not great, over his last two fights, while Sterling looked very good against Brett Johns after getting slept by Marlon Moraes. At this point, I’m not sold on Stamann’s ability to do enough on offense to get another victory as he keeps moving up the divisional ladder. It’ll be close, but give me The Funkmaster.
Steven Muehlhausen: Stamman def. Sterling via unanimous decision
Stamann isn’t getting much attention in the bantamweight division despite having won 10 consecutive fights. Sterling has gone 3-3 in his last six and hasn’t been able to get into the type of rhythm that helped him go 12-0 to begin his career. A win by Stamann will make him a contender at 135 pounds.