UFC Fight Island 3 Preview: Whittaker and Till look to cement top contender status

The UFC will be hosting it’s last event on Fight Island in the month of July tomorrow night on Yas Island. The main event features former UFC middleweight champion, Robert Whittaker (20-5), and former title challenger, Darren Till (18-2-1).

The UFC has put forward a card that ties the record for the most fights on a single card with 15. The main card that kicks off at 8:00 ET features seven fights.

For this fight card, we are going to break down the top four fights of the evening. The UFC is leaving Fight Island with a bang.

Whittaker and Till battle for the next UFC title shot

The main event of the evening will likely determine who will get the winner of the Israel Adesanya – Paulo Costa fight as Robert Whittaker takes on Darren Till.

Whittaker could not have drawn up a better start to his middleweight career after leaving the UFC‘s welterweight division. Whittaker moved up and promptly went 9-0 capturing the middleweight title.

Bobby Knuckles combines elite striking and speed with incredible toughness and determination. He is susceptible to getting rocked but one of his trademarks is his heart to fight through it.

He was able to fight through it against Yoel Romero, but it finally caught up to him against Adesanya. Stylebender was able to finish Whittaker in the second round of their fight.

This is a massive fight for Whittaker as he looks to try to climb back towards the UFC middleweight title.

Darren Till was being built up as the next superstar just a couple of years ago. The UFC fast-tracked him to a title shot against Tyron Woodley.

That shot came back at UFC 228. The English born Till was actually the massive fan favorite at the Dallas event. However, Woodley put an end to the run with a second round submission victory.

Immediately following that loss, Till was knocked out by Jorge Masvidal prompting his move to the middleweight division.

Till made his UFC middleweight debut against Kelvin Gastelum back in November. In a fight that left a lot to be desired, Till walked away with a decision victory.

Till’s elite Muy Thai skills have brought him to the dance. He has a great way of closing distance very quickly and he’s got power that catches people off guard.

I’m expecting this fight to be contested on the feet, but I’m not sure it’s going to be as action packed as some want. I think this fight will start slow, but will pick up in the middle rounds.

Once they really get going, I think Bobby Knuckles is going to catch Till was something big. I expect Till to have big moments because he is an elite striker, but I think Whittaker is just on a higher level overall as a fighter.

Prediction: Robert Whittaker by TKO – Round 4

Shogun Rua vs Antonio Rogerio Nogueira

The co-main event of the evening features a contest between two legends of the sport from Brazil as Shogun Rua (26-11-1) takes on Antonio Rogerio Nogueira (23-9).

Nogueira enters this fight just after turning 44-years old. We haven’t seen Nogueira since UFC 237 where he was knocked out by Ryan Spann. Nogueira has been dealing with a nagging back injury.

Nogueira throughout his career has been known for his crisp boxing and his elite skills on the ground. He has very good pop in his shots, and is deceptively accurate with his strikes.

The problem is that we really don’t know what kind of Nogueira we are going to see. He didn’t look great in his last fight, and he’s been dealing with back issues. Combine that with his age and there are a ton of question marks.

Shogun Rua has fought just six times in the last five years. However, he has gone 4-1-1 in those six fights with wins over Corey Anderson and Nogueira.

Shogun is a former UFC light heavyweight champion who is also nearing the end of his career. He has been known in his career for his solid overall game and his spurts that often catch fighters off guard.

Shogun has made a career on rocking or finishing opponents with sudden spurts that fighters are not ready for. In his last contest, Shogun fought to a draw with Paul Craig.

These two men have fought each other twice, and Shogun has won both. With all of the question marks surrounding Nogueira, I don’t see how the result will change in this third fight.

Prediction: Shogun Rua by TKO – Round 2

Alexander Gustaffson vs Fabricio Werdum

The fifth fight on the main card features former UFC heavyweight champion Fabricio Werdum (23-9-1) welcoming Alexander Gustaffson (18-6) to the heavyweight division.

Just a few years ago, people were making the argument that Werdum was the greatest heavyweight in history. Those talks of course coming after wins over guys like Fedor Emelianenko and Cain Velasquez.

Of course, Werdum would go on to be knocked out and lose his heavyweight title to Stipe Miocic which halted those talks. Since that loss, Werdum has gone 3-3.

Werdum showed off improved striking a few years ago to go with his world class ground game. Werdum might be the best Jiu Jitsu practitioner in heavyweight history. However, Werdum looked horrendous in his last fight where he lost to Alexey Oleynik.

Alexander Gustaffson will be making his heavyweight debut tomorrow night. Gustaffson retired just over a year ago after he lost to Anthony Smith in Sweden.

Of course that retirement was short-lived. Gustaffson is one of the better fighters over the last few years who hasn’t won a UFC title. He’s fought for the title three times, coming up short each time. Two of those fights were razor close.

Gustaffson has built his career on his elite boxing skills, good footwork, and solid takedown defense. All of these are going to give him an advantage tomorrow night.

For Werdum to win this fight, he’s going to have to get the fight to the ground. There is no way that Werdum can win a stand up fight with Alexander Gustaffson. Werdum looked slow in his last fight, and he doesn’t have great takedowns.

I believe that for those reasons, the fight is going to stay on the feet. I fully expect Gustaffson to light Werdum up in this contest. Not 100% convinced he’s going to get a finish, but I don’t see this fight being close.

Prediction: Alexander Gustaffson by TKO – Round 3

Marina Rodriguez vs Carla Esparza

The fourth fight on the main card features a matchup between two top ten UFC strawweights in Carla Esparza (16-6) and Marina Rodriguez (12-0-2).

Esparza burst onto the UFC scene back in 2014 when she became the promotions first strawweight champion. Since winning the title, Esparza has gone 6-4 in the UFC.

The good news for Esparza is the fact that she’s on a three fight winning streak. Esparza has some of the best wrestling in the division. She has decent striking, but it’s mainly used as a way to setup her dynamic wrestling attack.

Marina Rodriguez is one of the brighter prospects in the strawweight division. While she’s actually older than Esparza, many consider her to be more of a prospect given her experience.

She’s fought four times in the UFC to a record of 2-0-2. Her last fight she fought to a draw with Cynthia Calvillo. Rodriguez has really good striking and good pop for the division.

She also does a really good job at striking at a high volume. Her cardio does hinder her later in fights and her wrestling defense is not great which could hurt her in this matchup.

The first round is going to decide the fight for me. If Esparza can come right out and take Rodriguez down, she’s going to march to a decision victory. However, if Rodriguez can keep it standing for a while, I can’t see her getting beat by Esparza.

This fight is going to be very close. I believe that Esparza will win the third round, but I think Rodriguez’s striking will also gain her a round. This is going to be a split decision that I think will go to Rodriguez with her high striking output.

Prediction: Marina Rodriguez by Split Decision

UFC Fight Island 3 Outlook

The UFC is leaving Fight Island with a massive card. The card has former champions and top contenders up and down the card. A record 15 fights will have fight fans glued to their TVs tomorrow night.