Robert Whittaker picked up a unanimous-decision win over Darren Till to close out the UFC's July schedule from Fight Island in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. The Reaper earned a 48-47 score on all three judges' cards for the hard-fought decision.
The first round featured a lot of feeling out from both fighters. Whittaker found some success with the lead hand, but Till adjusted well. The lone knockdown was the result of an elbow and shove from Till in a close first round:
The former champion answered back early in the second round with a knockdown of his own thanks to a strong right hand.
The third round saw the pace dip, and Whittaker put a little more work in on Till's lead leg. However, the fourth round saw Till fire back with a barrage of punches.
Till's takedown defense was on point throughout the fight. With Whittaker changing levels and hunting for takedowns throughout the five rounds, Till was largely successful in keeping him at bay. He even sliced him open with an elbow in the final round.
However, it wasn't enough to earn the win on the scorecards, as Whittaker's ability to land with more regularity carried the day and gave him a big win. It was his first time getting his hand raised since losing his middleweight title to Israel Adesanya.
- Robert Whittaker def. Darren Till via unanimous decision (48-47 x3)
- Mauricio "Shogun" Rua def. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira via split decision (29-28 x2, 28-29)
- Fabricio Werdum def. Alexander Gustafsson via submission (armbar) at 2:30 of Round 1
- Carla Esparza def. Marina Rodriguez via split decision (28-29, 29-28, 30-27)
- Paul Craig def. Gadzhimurad Antigulov via submission (triangle choke) at 2:06 of Round 1
- Alex Oliveira def. Peter Sobotta via unanimous decision (30-27 x3)
- Khamzat Chimaev def. Rhys McKee via TKO at 3:09 of Round 1
- Francisco Trinaldo defeated Jai Herbert via TKO at 1:30 of Round 3
- Jesse Ronson def. Nicolas Dalby via submission (rear-naked choke) at 2:48 of Round 1
- Tom Aspinall def. Jake Collier via TKO at 0:45 of Round 1
- Movsar Evloev def. Mike Grundy via unanimous decision (30-27 x2, 29-28)
- Tanner Boser def. Raphael Pessoa via TKO at 2:36 of Round 2
- Pannie Kianzad def. Bethe Correia via unanimous decision (30-27 x2, 29-28)
- Ramazan Emeev def. Niklas Stolze via unanimous decision (30-27 x2, 29-28)
- Nathaniel Wood def. John Castaneda via unanimous decision (30-27 x3)
Mauricio 'Shogun' Rua def. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira
Make it 3-0 for Shogun Rua. The former light heavyweight champion and Pride star completed the clean sweep over Antonio Rogerio Nogueira in the final fight of their 15-year rivalry.
At a combined 82 years old, neither of these guys was even close to being just "past their prime," but they put on yet another entertaining fight. In the first, it looked like Lil Nog might be able to exact revenge when he wobbled his rival with a straight left hand.
However, Rua weathered the storm and had some highlight-worthy moments in Round 3.
Rua first claimed victory via unanimous decision over Nogueira in 2005 when the two fought in Japan under the Pride banner. Shogun was victorious once again when he took another decision in 2015 at UFC 190.
For Nogueira, this is likely the end of the road. He's now 44 years old and has lost back-to-back bouts. While Shogun may continue to fight, there wasn't a whole lot here that would make someone believe he has much left in the tank to make a meaningful run.
Fabricio Werdum def. Alexander Gustafsson
Fabricio Werdum gave Alexander Gustafsson a rough welcome to the heavyweight division with a first-round submission win for Vai Cavalo.
Gustafsson, who weighed in at 240 pounds after fighting his entire career at 205 pounds, had some moments in the brief time the fight took place on the feet. However, once Werdum scored a takedown, the dynamic changed quickly.
Werdum lived up to his reputation as a jiu-jitsu master, taking Gustafsson's back and working his way to an armbar. The win gives the 42-year-old 12 submission wins in his career and his first win since November 2017.
This is a disappointing development for the former light heavyweight title challenger Gustafsson. The Swede was hoping a move to heavyweight would rejuvenate his career, but a quick submission loss like this puts a damper on the new division.
Carla Esparza def. Marina Rodriguez
Marina Rodriguez tasted defeat for the first time in her UFC career with Carla Esparza taking a split-decision win in a battle of ranked women's strawweights.
The tightly contested split decision came down to the value of Esparza's takedowns and top control against the damage of Rodriguez. Cookie Monster registered five takedowns over the three rounds, but Rodriguez was busy on the bottom with elbows and did damage on the feet.
Esparza's questionable decision-making made it an interesting fight as she gave up advantageous position to go for an ankle lock multiple times.
It's been five years since Esparza last fought for the strawweight title. With four wins in a row now, it's getting harder to ignore her as a potential contender soon. Her wrestling has proved to be an issue for anyone she fights, and Rodriguez was her latest victim.
For Rodriguez, this is a classic prospect loss. She has struggled against wrestlers in the past, and Esparza is the best one she has seen. She'll need to prove she can make adjustments to realize her potential.
Paul Craig def. Gadzhimurad Antigulov
Paul Craig was the epitome of making the best of a bad situation in his first-round submission victory over Gadzhimurad Antigulov.
With his opponent scoring a takedown against the fence, Craig went to work locking in the triangle choke that would eventually win him the fight. It didn't come without absorbing some punishment from Antigulov, but once the hold was tightened, he easily secured his 12th career submission win.
The Scottish submission specialist is no stranger to the triangle choke. He defeated Antigulov teammate Magomed Ankalaev and Kennedy Nzechukwu with the submission as well.
The loss marks the third consecutive fight in which Antigulov has lost in the first round. He was knocked out in his previous two fights. Craig got back in the win column after picking up a draw against Mauricio "Shogun" Rua in his last bout.
Alex Oliveira def. Peter Sobotta
Alex Oliveira took a clean sweep on all three judges' scorecards over Peter Sobotta to notch his 11th win under the UFC banner.
Cowboy showed off his veteran striking presence throughout the three-round fight. He controlled the tempo with his kicks and snuck in punches to add some power to the proceedings. Peter Sobotta didn't really have an answer and was nearly floored in the second round.
At this point, Oliveira is similar to fellow "Cowboy" Donald Cerrone. He's probably never going to elevate himself to legitimate title contender, but he's game and willing to throw hands with anyone. The win gives him two in a row after suffering a three-fight losing streak.
The hype around Sobotta continues to take a hit. After winning four of his first five fights with the organization, he has now dropped back-to-back fights against Leon Edwards and Oliveira.
Khamzat Chimaev def. Rhys McKee
Rhys McKee's UFC debut was unpleasant, painful and short. Taking a fight on seven days' notice against one of the top new prospects in the UFC went about as well one would expect.
Khamzat Chimaev wasted no time in dumping McKee to the mat, and from there it was like watching a lion play with its food. The 26-year-old attempted a few chokes before ultimately deciding to rain down punches and render McKee a defenseless fighter.
The whole proceeding took just over three minutes and was Chimaev's second win in just 10 days. His turnaround time was unprecedented as he picked up his first UFC win last week and fought in the next weight class up to pick up a second win before the UFC departs from Fight Island.
It hasn't been the best of competition, but Chimaev continues to build up a nice hype train. His obvious analog is Khabib Nurmagomedov, as the two fight with the same relentless pressure grappling style. While he has some time to go before he matches The Eagle's impressive resume, the potential is there for Chimaev to be a breakout star.