The UFC finally set up its main and co-main events for its eagerly anticipated annual Spring show in England, set for March 16 at the O2 Arena.
In the main event, recent UFC welterweight title challenger Darren Till will return for the first time since being crushed by Tyrone Woodley at UFC 228 against Jorge “Gamebred” Masvidal, the always tough Cuban-American who will be ending a seventeen month layoff.
Till (17-1-1, 5-1-1 UFC) rocketed to stardom in the past few years on the back of a crushing knockout of Donald Cerrone in October 2016 and a close win over Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson last May. It will be his first headlining fight in his home country of England and will be important in cementing Till as the new top UFC star in the country after the retirement of Michael Bisping.
The uber experienced Masvidal (32-13, 9-6 UFC) moved up to welterweight in July 2015 and stamped himself with a late 2016 run that saw him decision Ross Pearson and stop both Jake Ellenberger and Cowboy Cerrone. That earned Masvidal a virtual title eliminator fight against grappling extraordinary Demian Maia, but he lost a close split decision at UFC 211. He called out Wonderboy Thompson for a fight at UFC 217 at Madison Square Garden, but he couldn’t figure out the karate master’s style and lost a clear decision.
The massive welterweight Till reportedly had trouble finding a suitable opponent but Gamebred has never been one to turn down fights. Masvidal has been out healing from various injures, and he will hope to use his heavy boxing style to neutralize Till’s excellent Muay Thai. Those two styles have made for memorable fights in the past and fans will hope London will be no different.
The co-main will be welterweight dark horse Leon Edwards of England facing Iceland’s Gunni Nelson is a fight that is sure to be well received by the London crowd. It will pit two welterweights who can not afford a loss at this point in their careers.
The Jamaican-born Edwards has amassed six straight wins, the last beginning a main event victory over Cerrone last June in Singapore. Edwards remains the most overlooked fighter in a crowded 170 pound weight class, as he also has wins over the excellent Albert Tumenov, Vicente Luque, and Peter Sobotta.
Nelson, who also has a large following in the UK, thanks to his relationship with the SBG camp in Ireland, returned for a seventeen month layoff to choke out the red-hot Alex Oliveira last December in Toronto at UFC 231. His unique combination over karate style standup and excellent jiu-jitsu make him a tough out for anybody, and this is a highly interesting style matchup.
UFC London goes down March 16, on ESPN+.