For King and Country

ufc-espn+5For the 20th time in the 25 years of the UFC, the octagon travelled to England showcasing some of the best British talent on the roster.

The UFC has always known that Britain is a major market that they needed to win over to a new style of fighting if they wanted to move beyond North America.

Britain has always had a fascination with combat sports but most of that fascination has been concentrated on boxing.

Still their history of combat sports makes them one of the central points for the UFC both in bringing cards to the region and in developing talent.

Yet for the first 25 years of the UFC, there has not been much success coming from the UK with the first British Champion coming in 2016 when Michael Bisping won the middleweight title.

Bisping was by far the biggest star in Britain over his 10 years and they honoured that with the announcement that he would enter the Hall of Fame this year but beyond Bisping, the stars were few and far between.

For a country with such a history they haven’t been able to match it in MMA but the UFC continues to try to build the sport and highlight great fighters from the region.

They will continue to go back to Britain regularly and every time they go back they will highlight British fighters.

That will only help to build the sport and that strategy has already built up a promising group of prospects who were all there to celebrate the 20th appearance of the octagon.

The evolution of the sport in Britain was on full display when the promotion went to London from the prelims to the main event.

To see how far the sport has come in the country one can just look to Molly McCann who fought for the second time in the UFC and took a big win.

It was a relatively small fight and wasn’t going to shift things in the flyweight division but for British fighting, it was a big step.

McCann became the first British woman to win in the UFC showing that the sport still has a lot of room to grow and providing the first potential female star for the region.

In contrast, the main event would feature the biggest name to come from Britain since Bisping arrived in the octagon.

There is no doubt that the growth from unknown fighter to potential star was all planned out by Darren Till.

The Liverpudlian fighter has always claimed to be the greatest middleweight in the world and his talk helped him get plenty of attention.

He followed through on that promise becoming one of the top prospects in a division full of promising fighters.

The plan went slightly awry when Till earned a title shot against Tyron Woodley and was shown to not be entirely ready for that spotlight.

Although he put on a good fight it wasn’t good enough to beat Woodley who took a submission win after locking in a D’Arce Choke in the second round.

Although Till wanted that shot it was clear that he wasn’t quite at the level of a fighter like Woodley.mma-sidebar.fw

So he went back to the drawing board to figure things out and see if he could find his way back and make good on that promise he has had.

The loss to Woodley was going to be a turning point for Till as he was going to take advantage of the loss or crumble after the loss.

If he could take what he learned with the loss to Woodley and apply it to his latest training camp he could begin his path back to the title.

If he stopped being himself after the loss because his confidence was shaken then he would be another fighter from Britain with great potential who could never get it done.

His chance came against Jorge Masvidal who was never going to be an easy fight and was going to make the climb back a challenge.

Till showed his strength right away hitting Masvidal with some big shots and looking to end the fight really early.

Masvidal is known for being tough though and he proved it once again getting through that early barrage and heading to the second round

He came back with his own power and shocked the entire stadium in the second round catching Till with an awkward left hand.

It was the end that Till never wanted to see as he was taken out for the second time in a row and for the second time was finished.

Meanwhile, Masvidal beat one of the top prospects in the division and immediately puts himself in the title conversation.

With Usman now on top there is a battle for who should be next and Till was a part of that fight but with the loss, Masvidal likely takes his spot.

Although he may not be right at the title shot he will probably only need another big win to get his spot in a title fight.

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