UFC 228: Preview and match analysis
UFC 228 takes places at the American Airlines Centre in Dallas Texas this Saturday with fans gearing up for a mouth watering main-event as welterweight champion Tyron Woodley squares off against British challenger Darren Till.
Woodley returns to action following a year long injury lay-off to make his fourth title defence against brash Brit Till, who gets his first stab at UFC gold.
After shutting out Stephen Thompson (twice) and Demian Maia, Woodley faces an entirely different puzzle in Till, and ‘The Chosen One’ will need to be on his A-game if he’s to keep the 170lbs belt firmly wrapped around his waist.
The undefeated Till, who landed his first crack at a UFC title following back to back wins over Donald Cerrone and Thompson, will have a height, reach and overall size advantage. After missing weight twice previously however, perhaps Till’s first major challenge will come in the form of the scale.
Woodley has proven in the past to be a knockout artist, and whilst we’ve seen the Missouri-native deploy a more cerebral approach in his most recent contests, we can expect a more aggressive game plan this time around against Till, who likes to come forward and throw hands.
The bout could end up being a classic striker vs grappler affair, which makes the match-up all the more intriguing as we’ve yet to see how well-versed Till is on the ground. If he’s able to defend Woodley's excellent wrestling and keep the fight standing, we could see a new champion at welterweight - although with dynamite in both hands, all “T-Wood” needs is for one of those power shots to land, and that could be all she wrote.
Take your pick!
Co-main – Nicco Montano vs Valentina Shevchenko
The co-main event also sees a championship belt up for grabs, as women’s flyweight champion Nicco Montano makes her maiden title defence against challenger Valentina Shevchenko.
Montano clinched the title after winning the TUF: A New World Champion series last December, where she outpointed veteran Roxanne Modafferi in the season finale to take home the strap.
Despite her impressive performances on TUF however, Montano will face undoubtedly her sternest test to date against former two-time women’s bantamweight title-challenger Shevchenko, who drops down to 125lbs following her second razor-thin defeat to Amanda Nunes.
For most of her pre-MMA fight career, former Muay Thai World champion Shevchenko fought at 125lbs, and the Ukrainian often complained about being too small for bantamweight, bemoaning the absence of a flyweight division – despite running Nunes incredibly close in both their matches.
Now, ‘The Bullet’ finally gets the opportunity to compete closer to her natural weight, and the striking specialist – who also has a major advantage in the experience department with 18 fights compared to Montano's 6 – will be more than a handful for the recently crowned champion.
Zabit Magomedsharipov vs Brandon Davis
Elsewhere on the card, rising Russian superstar in the making Zabit Magomedsharipov takes on late replacement Brandon Davis, who steps in on two weeks’ notice for the injured Yair Rodriguez.
Earmarked as one to watch since he arrived on the scene in the UFC, Zabit demonstrated exactly why in his last outing as he mixed silky striking techniques with the dogged brand of wrestling Dagestani fighters are becoming renowned for, to score a unanimous decision win over Kyle Bochniak.
His opponent is American Davis, who comes in as a late replacement to face arguably his toughest task to date - and with two losses from his three contests in the UFC, it’s probably make or break for the Mississippi native’s UFC career.
Jessica Andrade vs Karolina Kowalkiewicz
In the ever-exciting women’s straw-weight division, two of the weight category’s best fighters battle it out in what’s most probably a number one contender contest.
Poland’s Karolina Kowalkiewicz, who outpointed the resurgent Felice Herrig in her last contest, takes on tough Brazilian Jessica Andrade, who has taken out fellow top contenders Tecia Torres and Claudia Gadelha in her previous two bouts.
Both women have looked good in their most recent outings, and with most of the division’s big guns coming off losses, the stakes couldn’t be higher as the winner will most likely receive the next crack at champion Rose Namajunas.
One side note is Kowalkiewicz also holds a victory over the current champ, so things could get really interesting if she walks away from Dallas with the win, although she’ll need to be at her best to get past Andrade.
Abdul Razak Alhassan vs Niko Price
Kicking off the main card is a welterweight bout that’s got slobber-knocker written all over it as finishing machines Abdul Razak Alhassan and Niko Price both look to continue their ascent up the 170lbs ladder.
With both of these rising stars coming off back-to-back KO victories, each will be looking to build on their recent performances and impress the audience in their first PPV main-card appearance.
Don’t expect this one to go to the judges – from a combined 23 fights of this duo’s record, only two of those contests went to the judges!