UFC 244’s co-main event pits two former top welterweight contenders looking to climb the ranks at middleweight. For Kelvin Gastelum, still only 27 years old, it would be a climb back after losing a decision to now middleweight champion Israel Adesanya.
The 26-year-old Till has been finished in his last two fights and has subsequently decided to move up a class after hurting his body for years to make the welterweight limit.
Whether or not Till would even make it to the U.S. from his native England was itself a question as he faced visa issues. All that uncertainty and cutting weight throughout will certainly pose additional challenges to both men, but it seems possible that Gastelum is better suited to face them since he’s had to travel a bit less to get to UFC 244.
From the looks of him the past couple months it seems as though Till bulked up a great deal between fights so making the middleweight limit likely still involved no small amount of dehydration for him. For Gastelum’s part, he took almost all the time allotted to make weight so it might be safe to assume he still has a tough cut each time out, even at middleweight.
Gastelum, of course, is a power-hitter, and he’s capable of knocking out perfectly healthy opponents. Indeed, the striking battle on the feet could be an intriguing one.
Till is much taller than Gastelum and has a longer reach. That he kicks so well, and at all levels, in both linear and roundhouse fashions makes him even longer.
In order for Till to keep his reach advantage, however, he’ll need to fight long and use jabs and linear kicks to the legs to keep Gastelum at a safe distance. Till has a long cross, but when he throws punches in combination at opponents, he also tends to lunge in.
If he does this against Gastelum, he could very well give the shorter man the range he needs to connect with his own big punches as well as to fire off effective takedown attempts. Gastelum will also be looking to close the distance when he punches first.
Till has a habit of keeping his chin in the air, both when he strikes and when he defends. As for his lower body, the Brit also often backs straight up, with said chin yet in the air.
He’s so long and trusts his finely tuned sense of distance that the habit hasn’t always hurt him, but it certainly can. Gastelum closes distance incredibly fast and changes levels back and forth while doing so and throwing punches.
If Till simply backs up, especially with his chin up, he’ll eventually get caught by Gastelum with punches that could end the night.
Gastelum is such a threat because his takedown and punch combinations are often set up quite similarly to one another. When an opponent expects one offensive attack, they get the other.
Gastelum certainly has the ability to take Till down, but it won’t be easy keeping him there. Gastelum’s best chances at scoring takedowns may come from level changes and shots that are set up well.
Till is good in clinches, offensively and defensively, especially against the cage, and won’t be easy to put down from those positions. He is usually quick to get back to his feet once taken down, in any case, and Gastelum might be better suited looking for openings to take the back and/or land punches than to try and control and pin the larger man on his back for long stretches of time.
Mat submission wrestling is where Gastelum should have his biggest advantages in the fight. Till is savvy and tough to finish, but he’s least developed on the ground, compared to the rest of his game.
It takes a great grappler to beat him on the mat, but that’s precisely what Gastelum is. If Gastelum can find a way to repeatedly get inside on Till, he should be able to do damage with punches and scores takedowns.
If he gets repeated takedowns, he very well could compel Till to give up the back and/or neck.
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