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|What||UFC on ESPN: Whittaker vs. Till|
|Where||UFC Fight Island Facility, Yas Island, Abu Dhabi|
|When||Saturday, July 25, 6PM EST|
|How to watch||ESPN, TSN, UFC Fight Pass, Watch on ESPN+ here!|
The main card for UFC on ESPN: Whittaker vs. Till this Saturday night is as stacked as a card can be without containing a title fight. From top to bottom, the main card has a plethora of Fight of the Night and even Fight of the Year potential. Some fights have great potential for an upset and some bouts have the odds of both fighters listed so close to one another that it’s almost impossible to pick an underdog.
Robert Whittaker, the former middleweight champion, returns to the octagon for the first time since losing his title last October. He faces Darren Till in the main event, in what will be only just Till’s second fight in the middleweight division since joining the UFC.
PRIDE FC and UFC legends Mauricio “Shogun” Rua and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira compete in the co-main event, which will be a rematch of their 2015 bout in which Shogun won by unanimous decision in a Fight of the Night contest.
Another big fight sees the return of former light heavyweight title challenger Alexander Gustafsson. After retiring last summer following a loss to Anthony Smith, Gustafsson has decided to return to the octagon. But not only that, he will be returning as a heavyweight – and to take on former UFC heavyweight champion Fabricio Werdum.
The card also features fan favorites such as “Cowboy” Alex Oliveira, Carla Esparza, and Paul Craig. This is an unmissable card.
All odds taken from the DraftKings sportsbook.
|Fight Night Odds|
|Antonio Rogerio Rua||+155
Robert Whittaker has had quite the rollercoaster of a career since joining the UFC. After a nine-fight winning streak that saw him defeat the likes of Brad Tavares, Uriah Hall, Derek Brunson, Jacare Souza, and Yoel Romero twice (as well as being crowned the undisputed middleweight champion), Whittaker hit some bad luck. Set to defend his title against Kelvin Gastelum at UFC 234, Whittaker was forced to pull out just hours before the fight due to a hernia that required immediate surgery. He would return to face the interim champion at the time, Israel Adesanya, and would lose via second-round TKO – crowning Adesanya as the undisputed champion. He was then set to take on Jared Cannonier at UFC 248 earlier this year but opted to pull out of the fight due to family issues and what he called “burnout”. This will be “The Reaper’s” first fight of 2020.
The former champion stands at an even 6 ft. tall and has a reach of 73.5 inches. Born in New Zealand but residing in Australia, Whittaker has been fighting since 2009. He trains with coaches Henry Perez and Justin Fitzgerald and holds black belts in both hapkido and goju-ryu karate. He also boasts a brown belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu under Alex Prates and Mauricio Cavicchini. He is a former champion, Ultimate Fighter tournament winner, has seven post-fight performance bonuses, and is currently ranked as the number-one middleweight in the UFC behind the champion and the number-14 pound-for-pound fighter in the organization.
Going undefeated for years in the UFC welterweight division, Darren Till was eventually granted a title shot against the champion at the time Tyron Woodley at UFC 228 in late 2018. Till would be submitted by Woodley in the second round. He would look to bounce back against Jorge Masvidal in his next fight and, despite early success, Till was ultimately knocked out by Masvidal in what was the start of Masvidal’s meteoric rise as a superstar in the UFC.
Notorious for his troublesome weight cuts, Till opted to move up to the middleweight division and was immediately given a fight against the former title challenger Kelvin Gastelum. If he won, he’d immediately secure a spot in the top-five of the division – and he did. At UFC 244, in a close battle, Till would eke out the split-decision victory.
Standing equal to Whittaker, Darren Till comes into this fight with a one-inch reach advantage. The Brit, still just 27-years of age, has been fighting since 2013 and currently trains out of his home country with Team Kaobon. He also spends time in Brazil training with the Astra Fight Team. He is a southpaw fighter with ten knockouts on his record and is currently ranked as the fifth-best middleweight in the UFC.
Our Pick: Robert Whittaker via decision (-120)
Without question, Mauricio Rua will be in the UFC hall of fame when he retires. He has meant that much to the sport of mixed martial arts. Even in the twilight of his career, Rua has managed a 4-1-1 record in the UFC across the past five years. In his last fight in late 2019, Rua battled the gigantic Paul Craig (also on this card) to a split-draw. Prior to that, he had successfully defeated Tyson Pedro by TKO in late 2018, earning him a performance of the night bonus. He also holds recent wins over top-five light heavyweight Corey Anderson and his opponent this weekend, Rogerio Nogueira.
The Brazilian fighter, now 38-years-old, stands at 6 ft. 1 in. tall and has a reach of 76 inches. Known for his striking abilities in muay thai in which he holds a black prajied, Rua is also extremely dangerous when it comes to grappling, holding a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu under Antonio Schembri. Rua currently trains with both Kings MMA and the Universidade Da Luta. HE has been fighting professionally since 2002, is a former UFC light heavyweight champion and he won the 2005 PRIDE Middleweight Grand Prix.
A legend in his own right, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira has traded wins with losses over the past five years, going 2-3 since 2015 – which includes his loss to Rua. In 2018, Nogueira defeated Sam Alvey via TKO, earning himself a performance of the night bonus. However, he would lose his most recent fight against Ryan Spann. Spann knocked out Nogueira in the first round of their UFC 237 fight last May.
Standing at 6 ft. 2 in., Noguiera will have a one-inch height advantage. He will come up short by one inch, however, in the reach department. “Lil Nog” is also six years older than “Shogun”. Also born in Brazil, Nogueira has been fighting professionally since 2000, Nogueira has his own gym with his brother Rodrigo Nogueira and holds an astounding third-degree black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu.
Our Pick: Mauricio Rua via decision (-200)
After back-to-back wins in 2017, Fabricio Werdum suffered a knockout loss to Alexander Volkov in March of 2018. His bad luck would continue following the loss as Werdum was suspended by USADA for two years following a drug test that came back positive. He had it reduced to ten months and came back on May 9 of this year to fight Aleksei Oleynik at UFC 249. Unfortunately, Werdum lost that bout via split-decision.
The Brazilian jiu-jitsu wizard and former UFC heavyweight champion stands at 6 ft. 4 in. tall and has a reach of 77 inches. He trains out of Los Angeles, California with Kings MMA. Now 42-years-old, Werdum has been fighting since 2002. He holds black belts in judo and muay thai as well as a second-degree black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu under Octavio Couto. He is a four-time Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu World champion and is currently ranked as the 14th-best heavyweight in the UFC.
Alexander Gustafsson’s retirement didn’t last very long. The former three-time title challenger lost to Jon Jones in his third title shot via TKO in December of 2018. He returned to the octagon last June to take on another former title challenger in Anthony Smith. Smith would submit Gustafsson via rear-naked choke in the fourth round. Following the fight, in his post-fight interview, Gustafsson announced his retirement, telling the audience “the show is over” and leaving his gloves in the cage. He will have been out for only one year, five days when he steps in to face Werdum. This will be the first heavyweight bout of his MMA career.
Believe it or not, Gustafsson comes into this fight with Werdum as the taller man, standing one-inch taller. He will also hold a two-inch reach advantage in this fight. Born in Sweden, the 33-year-old fighter trains at the Allstars Training Center as well as with Alliance MMA. He has been fighting professionally since 2007 and holds a purple belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. He has fought for the light heavyweight title three times; twice against Jon Jones and once against Daniel Cormier. He is still ranked as the seventh-best light heavyweight in the UFC.
Our Pick: Fabricio Werdum via submission (+275)
Carla Esparza is currently riding the longest, and most impressive, a winning streak of her UFC career. After losing back-to-back fights in 2018, Esparza recovered first by defeating Virna Jandiroba by unanimous decision last spring. She followed that up with a majority decision victory over Alexa Grasso in September 2019. This year, she has fought once and earned, possibly, the biggest win of her career. At UFC 249, Esparza was awarded a split-decision victory over Michelle Waterson.
Now 32-years-old, “Cookie Monster” stands at 5 ft. 1 in. tall and fights with a 63-inch reach. Born in California, Esparza still trains out of her home state with Team Oyama. Fighting professionally since 2010, she holds a brown belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and also boasts NAIA wrestling credentials. The win over Waterson moved her into the number-seven ranking in the women’s strawweight division. She was the first-ever Invicta FC and UFC strawweight champion.
Marina Rodriguez is undefeated in the UFC after four fights, but two of those fights were declared draws, so her UFC record can be deceiving. After appearing on the Dana White Contender Series, Rodriguez debuted for the UFC in 2018, battling Randa Markos to a majority draw. She won her next two fights by unanimous decision until battling to a draw once again – this time against Cynthia Calvillo last December. This will be her first fight of 2020.
Marina Rodriguez will be physically larger than Esparza, standing six-inches taller than her opponent and having a reach four-inches longer. She is one-year older than Esparza. The Brazilian fighter trains with Thai Brasil and AS Team when it comes to jiu-jitsu, in which she holds a blue belt. She also holds a dark blue with a black tip belt in muay thai. She has been fighting since 2015 and is currently ranked as the ninth-best strawweight in the division.
Our Pick: Marina Rodriguez via decision, possibly majority (-167)
What’s not to love about “Bearjew”? He is a beast of a man who comes to fight every time. He may only be 4-4 in the UFC with one draw, but each of his four wins came with a post-fight performance bonus. In late 2019, Paul Craig submitted ViniciusMoreira in the first round. He then took a step up in competition to finish off the year by facing Mauricio Rua. As mentioned earlier, the fight ended as a split-decision draw. This will be Craig’s first fight of 2020.
Standing at an intimidating 6 ft. 3.5 in., Craig has a reach of 76 inches. The Scottish fighter trains in the town of Coatbridge with the Scottish Hit Squad. The big man has a brown belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu under Marcos Nardini. He has been fighting since 2013 and is a former BAMMA Light Heavyweight champion.
After winning his first two fights under the UFC banner, Gadzhimurad Antigulov now finds himself amidst a two-fight losing streak. He suffered a first-round TKO loss to Ion Cutelaba in 2018 and followed that performance with a first-round KO loss to Michal Oleksiejczuk last April.
Gadzhimurad will be at a noticeable four-inch height disadvantage and will have an even more unfortunate six-inch reach disadvantage against Craig. The Dagestani fighter specializes in sambo and freestyle wrestling, in which he has an international master of sport, and trains with the American Top Team gym. Fighting since 2009, he is a former two-time Absolute Championship Berkut light heavyweight champion.
Our Pick: Paul Craig via submission (-112)
Win, lose, or draw, Alex Oliveira has always been one of the most entertaining fighters on the UFC roster. His wins are spectacular, his losses are spectacular, and he’s no stranger to post-fight performance bonuses. Oliveira hasn’t had the best record over the past few years as he lost to Gunnar Nelson in late 2018 and lost both of his fights in 2019 – one to Mike Perry and the other to Nicolas Dalby.
He did get his 2020 off to a good start, however. He took on Max Griffin earlier this year at UFC 248 and managed to walk away with the split-decision victory. This fight will be the second of the year.
The Brazilian fighter stands at 5 ft. 11 in. tall and has a reach of 76 inches. Known mostly for his muay thai prowess, in which he holds a dark blue prajied, Oliveira has also proven to be very dangerous when grappling, possessing a blue belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu as well. Fighting since 2011, Oliveira trains with coach Andre Tadeu and the ATS team in Rio. The 32-year-old is a former UFC lightweight and is currently unranked in the welterweight division.
Peter Sobotta is one of those fighters casual fans may have never seen before as he is limited strictly to UFC cards held overseas. He has yet to have a professional fight in North America. But he is worth watching. Sobotta was riding a two-fight winnings streak through 2017, defeating both Nicolas Dalby and Ben Saunders. His last fight was back in March of 2018, where that two-fight streak would be snapped by rising star Leon Edwards. The fight was stopped via TKO with just one second left. Undisclosed injuries hindered Sobotta from competing in 2019.
Standing one-inch taller than his opponent, Sobotta will be at a one-inch reach disadvantage in the fight. Born in Poland, Sobotta lives and trains in Germany with coach Dean Lister and the Planet Eater team. He holds a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu under Lister. At 33-years-old, Sobotta has been fighting professionally since 2004.
Our Pick: Alex Oliveira via TKO (-177)
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