This weekend’s UFC event headlined by the Middleweight bout between Robert Whittaker and Darren Till will be a classic fight between two brawlers.

The importance of this fight cannot be understated, as the headline to this article could show. But therein lies the question…

Will this fight determine the number one contender for Israel Adesanya’s Middleweight Championship?

As it currently stands, Israel Adesanya does have his next opponent scheduled. Adesanya’s next defense will be against his rival Paulo Costa in the near future.

Photo: UFC

But assuming Adesanya wins that fight, who is next to challenge for his championship?

The top five in the Middleweight division are currently Robert Whittaker, whom Adesanya won his championship from, Paulo Costa, Jared Cannonier, Yoel Romero, whom Adesanya last defeated, and Darren Till in that order. With Costa being up next, and Romero being the last one to challenge Adesanya, that leaves Whittaker, Cannonier, and Till as the next most likely opponents as it is unlikely that the UFC would choose someone outside of the top five to be next.

Cannonier seems like a potential next opponent as he has strung together a three-fight win streak to land him the third spot in the Middleweight rankings. However, he has not fought since September of last year and would most likely need another win to prove he is worthy of challenging for the championship. That leaves us with the two men fighting this weekend: Robert Whittaker and Darren Till.

Robert Whittaker

Beginning first with Robert Whittaker as his path is more clear, Whittaker has not fought since being defeated by Adesanya for the Middleweight Championship. Whittaker has been unable to fight due to some issues in his personal and family life that he has chosen to remain quiet about. However, he has recognized that Adesanya finished him in their first bout via a second-round knockout.

A definitive stamp on the feud means Whittaker will still need another win before being able to challenge Adesanya again. Whittaker has had some fights canceled this year due to his outside issues but is ready to prove that he still the cream of the crop in the UFC’s Middleweight division. A win over Darren Till will put him right into the title picture following the Adesanya-Costa fight.

Darren Till

Darren Till on the other hand does not have as clear of a path. Till has only one win since challenging for the Welterweight Championship almost two years ago. Till was submitted via a D’Arce choke by then Champion Tyron Woodley. In what was thought to be a bounce-back fight for Till, he was pitted with now-superstar Jorge Masvidal in a fight Till was supposed to win. Till was brutally knocked out by Masvidal in the second round.

At this point, there was a proverbial crossroads for Till. Till could either stay at Welterweight were was clearly over-sized, cutting way too much weight, and fighting depleted, or he could bump up to Middleweight where he could contend at a weight class more suited for his frame. Till chose the second option and was immediately pitted against a perennial top contender in the Middleweight division, Kelvin Gastelum. Till won this fight via decision and it appeared as though the bump up in weight classes was beginning to pay off for him. Till must now make a statement: beat the man who once held the belt I’m after. Till will let us know if he deserves a title fight this weekend if he can beat the former champ.

If Till were to win this weekend, it is still possible he would need another win before challenging for the Middleweight Championship. A possible match-up with Jared Cannonier would be a definitive number one contender fight, no question about it. A win over Whittaker may do the job itself, but a win over Whittaker followed by a win over Cannonier would be all the UFC needs to give Till a championship fight.

The stakes are certainly high for this fight. Both Whittaker and Till are eager to challenge for Adesanya’s Middleweight Championship and are hoping a win this weekend will grant them such an opportunity.

Who do you think will win this weekend?

Featured Image: UFC
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