Photo Credit: MyMMANews

FSM Essential Recap: UFC on ESPN Fight Island 3



The UFC has now wrapped up its run in Abu Dhabi on Fight Island as UFC on ESPN comes to a close. The main event saw former Middleweight champion Robert Whittaker (21-5) defeat Darren Till (18-3) via decision, 48-47 across the board.


The main event was an exciting clash between two top contenders at 185 lbs as both men would look to inflict their will early on in the bout. Coming forward right away, Till was looking to see if he could get inside on the former champion but was regularly meet with counter jabs. This put a halt to his lunging attack and made the British fighter take more of a calm and methodical approach.


Photo Credit: Bloody Elbow

While Till was looking to get inside, Whittaker was looking to come in himself with short bursts to land the overhand right. At one point in the first round, both men moved in, and Till would land a sharp elbow that dropped Whittaker. It was a flash knockdown as Whittaker got back to his feet promptly, but it did seem to wake him up and force him to adjust his gameplay. Going forward, Whittaker would look to attack the lead leg of Till with vicious kicks. Looking to slow Till’s movement, Whittaker would use this attack to set up one-two punches, coming in and out as he continued to chip away at his opponent’s lead leg.

Mostly, when a fighter is getting his leg attacked, they choose to switch stances or become lighter on the leg and change their attacking style. But Till held steady as he was looking to move in still and land his big left hand. Both men would throw multiple head kicks, but neither landed a significant one as both showed off some great defensive movement to avoid any strikes that could change the momentum or possibly end the fight.

The two warriors would show just how engaged you have to be both physically and mentally when you step inside the octagon. With faints, setups, and setting traps, both men looked to lure the other in for the kill, but to both fighters credit, neither took the bait. Whittaker would remain outside. Anytime Till looked to get in range, he’d fire off a straight down the middle of the southpaw’s stance and circle out.


Photo Credit: Yahoo Sports

In the final round, Till would land a short elbow that cut Whittaker’s ear. Still, it looked worse than it was the Aussie fighter would end the round with a couple of takedowns to ensure his victory and not allow Till to make any last-second comeback.

Both performed with toughness, grit, and smarts showing that while fun to watch, every good fight doesn’t have to be like Rock ’em Sock ’em Robots. Both landed hard stiff blows, each had their moments, but on this night, the former champion was the better fighter.

So what’s next? Whittaker, of course, wants to get another title shot, but he may need another win to be in that conversation. A matchup against last week’s winner Jack Hermansson could be in order as Hermansson made it clear he wanted to fight the winner of this bout. For Till, it was only his second showing at 185lbs, and it wasn’t a beat down, so this won’t help him much in the rankings. He may need to wait for some clarity from future bouts as most of the division’s top contenders are already booked. The waiting game could be in line for the Brit.


In the night’s co-main event, a trilogy between two Brazilian legends took place as Maurício ‘Shogun” Rua (27-11) ended his feud with Antônio ‘Lil Nog’ Nogueira (23-10) with a decision victory and finishing 3-0 in their matchups.


Buy some coincidence in the universe; all three bouts between these two nearly went the same in the beginning. Shogun, with his heavy kicks and fierce strikes, looks to move in while Lil Nog and his boxing look to counter with a left. A few shots from Shogun then bam, Lil Nog stuns the former Pride and UFC champion, and the two exchange blows back and forth.


Photo Credit: Bloody Elbow

Styles make fights, and these two have styles that go perfectly with one another. Sadly for Lil Nog, just like the two previous matchups, Shogun would show to be just a bit much and would earn another decision victory. This was the end for the 44-year old Brazilian as he felt he had done enough in the sport and, at his age, was time to hang up the gloves and call it a career.

Being an active fighter since 2001, Lil Nog has been in the ring/cage with some of the sports best fighters in both the states and Japan. He was accumulating victories over opponents such as Guy Mezger, Alistair Overeem (twice), UFC Hall of Famer Kazushi Sakuraba, Dan Henderson, former UFC champions and Hall of Famers Tito Ortiz and Rashad Evans. Lil Nog has shown throughout his career that despite never winning a title, he was one the sports toughest fighters and was a trailblazer of his time.

Former UFC fighter turned commentator Dan Hardy echoed Lil Nogs’ praise in the post-fight interview thanking him for being an inspiration to him and many other young fighters for what he did in the sport. One to always be on the lookout for when you saw him on a fight card has called it quits, and we are all thankful for the memories he gave us.


We were able to see why Fabricio Werdum (24-9, 12 SUBs) is considered one of the greatest grapplers in MMA history, as for former heavyweight champion got a first-round armbar submission victory of former light heavyweight contender turned heavyweight Alexander Gustafsson (18-7).


This was an exciting match up as many were pumped to see how Gustafsson would look in his new division, and if his movement, speed, and power would translate now that he’s taking on bigger opponents. As Gus would show his trademark, light on his feet bouncing in and out approach, Werdum was waiting for an opening to get ahold of his foe and take him into his world on the mat. Once down, the two-time ADCC (submission wrestling world championship) champion showed off his impressive Jiu-Jitsu with multiple transitions until he grabbed ahold of the arm and forced a tap.


Photo Credit: Bloody Elbow

With his impressive showing, Werdum showed he’s still a force to be reckoned with at heavyweight, but given his contract situation, possibly moving on from the UFC to another promotion could be in his cards. Or he could be back in the octagon in hopes of making one more title run. For Gus, this was his first showing, and by all accounts, he felt good, looked good, and even his opponent said he hit hard. So, despite the stumbling out the gates, we could see Gustafsson back again against a lower-tier opponent to know if he truly has what it takes to run with the big boys.

Also, with an impressive showing in the main cards, the opening bout was a look at Khamzat Chimaev (8-0, 4KOs  4SUBs). He set a record with the fastest turn around victory in the UFC, picking up two wins in eleven days in two different divisions (Middleweight and Welterweight) by earning a first-round TKO win over Rhys McKee. Talk about impressive, in his two bouts in the UFC, not only were they within eleven days of each other, not only were they at two different weight classes but in his 4 minutes and 21 seconds of octagon time, he’s only been hit twice. Yes, TWICE!


In two fights, Chimaev has outlanded his opponents 192-2, which is just unreal at any level, let alone the world’s top promotion. The Swede has claimed if given an hour; he could’ve come back out later in the night for another fight in case anyone fell out. He’s looking to smash through the divisions and one day hopefully see his name as UFC champion. With showings like this, he certainly is on the right track and is someone to keep an eye out for in the future.

UFC on ESPN from Fight Island ended nicely as there were excellent performances throughout the card. The return of a former champion, the ending of a legendary career, the look of a possible future star, and much more.



The UFC will be back on Fight Island as Dana White said he wants to make this a place for big events in the future. So this isn’t a goodbye to Fight Island but rather a see you later. Next up is another UFC Fight Night next weekend from Las Vegas, be sure to check back for more information and for Las Vegas sports news go to franchisesportsmedia.com.

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-Kalani Lua – Franchise Sports Media