The UFC hosted their fourth and final fight card from Fight Island tonight. In the main event of the evening, middleweights Robert Whittaker (20-5) and Darren Till (18-2-1) went head-to-head. The card was filled with action from start to finish.
Whittaker takes first step back to UFC gold
The main event of the evening was going to likely determine who would face the winner of the Israel Adesanya – Paulo Costa UFC title fight in September. Former champion Robert Whittaker took on Darren “The Gorilla” Till.
As the first round began, Till charged in and was met with a sharp shot from Whittaker. Whittaker also landed a stiff jab after that. Till seemed extremely aggressive early on. Both men charged at each other and Whittaker was floored by a clean elbow from Till.
Till started finding a home for his crisp left hand after he hurt Whittaker. Whittaker began reaching with his shots which is what hurt him in the Adesanya fight. Till pressed Whittaker back late in the first continuing to land shots.
Whittaker’s confidence seemed to be shaken a bit in the first. However, late in the round, Whittaker seemed to get his legs back and get more comfortable in the exchanges. Great opening round for Till.
Both men came out very light on their feet to start the second round. Whittaker landed a massive left hook as Till was off balanced. Whittaker seemed much fresher and confident early in the second.
Bobby Knuckles stormed forward with an overhand right that floored Till about a minute into the round. Bobby Knuckles landed some good elbows from top position. Till looked to be trying to regain his composure from the bottom.
Till was able to get back to his feet with about two minutes left in the round. Whittaker started peppering Till’s lead leg with solid kicks. Till seemed tentative still trying to regain some confidence. Dominant second round for the former UFC champ.
Both men touched gloves to start the third round, and then Whittaker landed another big leg kick. The two seemed to be a little more patient. Till kept looking for the left while Whittaker kept looking to blitz.
Neither man was landing anything clean for the majority of the third round. They would throw big shots from distance, but neither were connecting. An uneventful round, but I lean Whittaker in the third.
Entering the main event rounds, Whittaker seemed to have a little more bounce in his step. Till was able to step in with a big left hand early on. Whittaker continued to throw big calf kicks which seemed to be bothering Till.
Till landed a few big shots which seemed to wobble Whittaker momentarily. However, Whittaker seemed to get his legs back underneath him very quickly. The two men resumed trying to read each other after the big exchange.
Till began finding his left more in the fourth round. Whittaker tried for a couple of takedowns late in the round, but wasn’t able to land either. A close round four, but I lean Till due to the bigger shots.
Both men seemed to have good bounce to start the fifth. Till landed a big shot in the first exchange. Whittaker again tried for a takedown, but was unsuccessful. Till looked very aggressive to start the fifth round.
Till landed a solid 1-2 at the two minute mark in the round. Whittaker continued to look for calf kicks throughout the round. Whittaker looked for another takedown, but again, it was unsuccessful. Till landed another crisp left after Whittaker shot.
Till landed a massive elbow with about a minute left in the round which opened a massive gash on Whittaker. Whittaker was able to land a couple of takedowns late, but Till continued to bounce right back up. Close round, but I give Till the final round due to damage.
A razor close fight, but I lean Till 48-47. After the close fight, the judges were unanimous giving the fight to Whittaker (48-47, 48-47, 48-47).
Shogun completes the sweep against Little Nog
The co-main event of the evening featured a battle of Brazilian legends as former UFC light heavyweight champion Shogun Rua (27-11-1) took on Antonio Rogerio Nogueira (23-10) for the third time.
As the first round began, both men tentatively took the center just feeling the other out. Nogueira circled the outside as Shogun started to pepper Nogueira’s leg with kicks. Shogun pressed forward to engage a clinch about two minutes into the round.
After little action, Shogun backed away with about half of the round remaining. Nogueira landed a massive left as the two began to strike. Both men really began to open up about four minutes into the round.
Nogueira began to press forward after he sensed that he was getting the better of the exchanges. Nogueira landed three massive lefts that wobbled Shogun. Shogun shot in and secured a late takedown before the bell. Close round that I gave to Nogueira.
Shogun opened the second round very aggressive pushing forward. Shogun landed a couple of big kicks to open the round. Nogueira seemed very patient looking to land his left hand. Everytime the former UFC champion stormed in, Nogueira was looking to counter with a left.
Nogueira stormed forward with big shots which forced another shot from Shogun. Shogun slipped which allowed Nogueira to end up on the top. Shogun was able to get back to his feet with two minutes left in the round.
Nogueira was getting clipped a little more in this round compared to the first. Shogun was doing a good job of slipping and countering the aggressive Nogueira attacks. A close round two, but due to the top control, I lean Nogueira.
The final round started with Shogun moving forward. Shogun landed a massive leg kick that buckled Nogueira early in the third. Neither man landed anything significant after that until about the halfway mark.
Shogun landed a big body kick and continued to stalk Nogueira. After that kick, the two men began to trade big shots. Shogun was able to land a couple of really good straight shots that backed Nogueira against the cage. He transitioned that into a takedown.
Shogun controlled the remainder of the round from the top position. To me, the clearest round to score of the fight. I gave the final round to Shogun but the fight to Nogueira 29-28. The judges were split but gave the fight to Shogun (29-28, 28-29, 29-28).
Werdum subs Gustafsson early in the first
The fifth fight of the main card featured the heavyweight debut of Alexander Gustafsson (18-7). In his debut he was taking on former UFC heavyweight champion, Fabricio Werdum (24-9-1).
Gustafsson started the first round very light on his feet. Werdum landed a massive leg kick in the opening seconds which Gus acknowledged. Gustafsson landed a good combination, but Werdum shot in for the takedown.
After initially missing on it, Werdum tripped Gustafsson and got his back immediately. Werdum tried for the rear-naked choke, but Werdum immediately transitioned to an arm bar. The ground wizard got Gustafsson to tap very early in the first. Very impressive from the former heavyweight champion.
Carla Esparza edges Marina Rodriguez
The fourth fight of the main card featured a strawweight contest between former UFC champ, Carla Esparza (16-6) and Marina Rodriguez (12-0-2). A win for either lady would get them close to a shot at the strawweight title.
To start the first round, Rodriguez was really heavy on her front leg expecting a shot from Esparza. After Rodriguez through a couple of big shots, Esparza shot in for a takedown and secured it.
Esparza had really heavy top control in the first. She did a very good job of picking and choosing spots to posture up and land good shots. Rodriguez did land a massive elbow from the bottom which cut Esparza.
Esparza made the odd decision to try to go for an ankle lock which resulted in her being on the bottom. Rodriguez landed some good shots before Esparza got back to her feet. Rodriguez landed some good shots before Esparza shot in for another takedown at the end of the first. Close round that I’d give to Rodriguez due to the damage.
As the second round started, Rodriguez appeared to be stalking Esparza. She didn’t look comfortable at all on the feet. Esparza shot in for a takedown two minutes into the round, and she was able to get Rodriguez down.
Esparza was able to land some pretty good shots from the ground after the takedown. Just like she did in the first, Esparza went for another bizarre leg lock. It resulted in her just taking massive shots from Rodriguez. Close round due to a massive flurry at the end, but I lean Esparza.
The final round started with Rodriguez continuing to stalk Esparza. Esparza tried for some sloppy shots early as Rodriguez landed some decent shots. About halfway through the round, Esparza was able to land a takedown.
The rest of the round consisted of solid top control for Esparza. Esparza landed some decent shots, but Rodriguez did really nothing in the final round. She was able to get up for a second before being taken right back down.
Nothing desirable in this fight, but I lean Esparza 29-28. The judges gave Esparza the fight by split decision (29-28, 28-29, 30-27).
Craig triangles Antigulov in the first
The third fight of the evening featured a UFC light heavyweight contest between Paul Craig (12-4-1) and Gadzhimurad Antigulov (20-6).
Craig immediately ran across the octagon to meet Antigulov. About thirty seconds into the round, Antigulov was able to secure a takedown. Craig tried to secure a guillotine, but he was unsuccessful.
However, about a minute later, Craig through up a triangle choke. Antigulov threw some bombs to try to get out of it, but he was in massive trouble. After Antigulov fought hard for a few seconds, Craig locked in the choke deeper.
Craig was able to secure the tap from Antigulov and get the win via triangle choke. Antigulov fought hard, but Craig was too much from that position. Great win for the Scottish fighter.
Oliveira kicks his way past Peter Sobotta
The second fight of the main card featured “Cowboy” Alex Oliveira (21-8-1, 2 NC) taking on German standout, Peter Sobotta (17-6-1).
Both men immediately took the center of the octagon looking to strike. Oliveira landed a massive body kick to start the striking. Sobotta answered with a big kick of his own about a minute into the round.
Oliveira hurt Sobotta bad with a front kick right to the liver about two minutes into the round. Sobotta was able to land a few shots to keep Oliveira off of him. Both men had some decent exchanges late in the round.
Sobotta appeared to have injured his arm blocking a kick late in the round. Decent first round that goes to Oliveira.
As the second round started, Sobotta shot in for a takedown. Oliveira was able to defend the takedown, but it appeared that Sobotta was switching up his strategy. Oliveira was able to land some elbows in the clinch which cut Sobotta.
The two men separated and Oliveira immediately landed a big body kick. Oliveira was looking extremely crisp on the feet. About halfway through the round one of Oliveira’s kicks went low which caused a break in the action.
Once the action resumed, Oliveira continued to look to land kicks. In the final minute, Oliveira extended his hands which poked Sobotta in the eye which caused another break. After they continued the fight, Oliveira landed a massive right hand that floored Sobotta at the end of the first. 2-0 for Oliveira after two rounds.
As the final round started, Oliveira continued to look aggressive in the striking. Sobotta shot in for another takedown, but he wasn’t able to get Oliveira down. About halfway through the round, Oliveira hurt Sobotta again with a body kick.
Sobotta just seemed extremely uncomfortable in the striking exchanges. He would throw shots, but he was throwing from Oliveira’s range. Oliveira continued to land some decent kicks as the final round came to a close.
Great performance for Oliveira who takes it 30-27 on my scorecard. The judges agreed unanimously giving the fight to Cowboy Oliveira (30-27, 30-27, 30-27).
Khamzat Chimaev wins second UFC fight in 10 days
The opening fight of the main card featured dominant wrestling sensation Khamzat Chimaev (8-0) taking on UFC newcomer, Rhys McKee (10-3-1). Chimaev was looking for his second win on Fight Island.
Within five seconds of the first round, Chimaev immediately shot in for a takedown. Chimaev carried McKee over to his own corner to clearly hear instructions from his corner. Chimaev was able to get the mount position within 20 seconds of having top position.
McKee kept trying to explode out of the position, but Chimaev’s top control was incredibly impressive. Chimaev was just relentless with his ground and pound. With two minutes left in the round, the striking numbers were 43-0 for Chimaev.
Chimaev postured up and started raining down monster shots. The referee mercifully stopped the fight at 3:09 of the first round. There is no question that Chimaev will be a top contender in the welterweight division before long.
UFC Fight Island 3 Final Takeaways
The UFC closed it’s first stint on Fight Island this evening. Bobby Knuckles closes out Fight Island with a big win over Darren Till. Whittaker will now likely be next in line for a shot at the middleweight crown.
The last month has been filled with exciting fights and incredible story lines. Now, the UFC will come back stateside with a massive schedule in August.