RESULTS | UFC Fight Island 3 – Whittaker edges Till in tense five-rounder
FIGHT ISLAND hosted its third and final UFC Fight Night on the weekend, with former middleweight champion Robert Whittaker taking out his headline dig against Darren Till via unanimous decision. The Australian returned to the winners list and halted Till’s run to the title all in one fell swoop, maintaining his number one contendership status in a tense main event which went the distance.
The 15-fight card equalled the promotion’s record for most bouts in a single event, matching the numbers put up all the way back in 1994 at UFC 2. Fearsome welterweight prospect Khamzat Chimaev ensured the records would keep on tumbling, as he completed the quickest turnaround victory in UFC history, defeating Rhys McKee just 10 days after his last outing in Abu Dhabi.
Catch up on all the results and more in our breakdown of the main card.
POTN Bonuses: Fabrício Werdum, Paul Craig, Khamzat Chimaev, Jesse Ronson, Tom Aspinall, Tanner Boser
Robert Whittaker  def. Darren Till  | Decision (unanimous) 48-47, 48-47, 48-47
Whittaker and Till ensured their war would live up to the hype, as the two delivered a high-level, strategic striking battle across what was a gripping 25 minutes. Nine months after he relinquished his middleweight title to Israel Adesanya, the Australian staked his claim for a rematch having earned the nod over his English counterpart.
The number one ranked contender came out looking relaxed, landing his jab well as Till entered within range. But it wouldn’t take long for the fan favourite Englishman to find his own range, dropping Whittaker with a nasty elbow in one of many powerful exchanges amid the early goings.
Whittaker would see out the first period, before scoring a knockdown of his own in the second stanza via a big overhand right. He would follow Till to the mat and land some punishing elbows from top position, with the damage not only worn on Till’s face, but also on the lead leg that Whittaker was chopping up.
With respect earned on either side, both men took a touch more caution in their respective approaches. Till had recovered and Whittaker began to look a little wild as his adversary slipped out of range with aplomb, but his work on Till’s compromised limb and ability to change levels had him ahead in terms of points.
That kind of work in terms of volume played a significant factor in Whittaker gaining the upper hand, as he managed to land a greater amount of blows in response to Till’s heavy, but sparing combinations and left-hand missiles.
Needing to up his output, the enigmatic scouser began to push the pace, fighting Round 5 on his terms. While he managed to open up a big cut on Whittaker’s ear, his efforts were met by a couple of late and definitive takedowns to see out proceedings, as the Australian simply found a way to win.
Shogun Rua def. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira | Decision (split) 29-28, 28-29, 29-28
Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua inflicted a shutout in his trilogy fight against fellow Brazilian legend, Antonio Rogeria Nogueira, sending the 44-year-old into retirement on an unfortunately sad note. The two men know each other incredibly well, and the respect between them was evident amid a patient start.
But as the pair found their rhythm, Little Nog’s powerful left hand emerged and Shogun’s brutal kicking game also came to the fore. The bout became more of a brawl as the action wore on, with both fighters looking dangerous on the feet.
Rua seemed to finish the better of the two as they mixed some grappling into the show, with the 38-year-old landing some heavy shots up top and collecting a 27th career victory.
Fabricio Werdum  def. Alexander Gustafsson | Submission (armbar) 2:30 Rd 1
The theme of Brazilian stalwarts turning back the clock neither started nor ended in the co-main event, with Fabricio Werdum defying odds and age to take out Alexander Gustafsson in Round 1.
Much was made of a small rivalry between the two which extended back to a sparring session around a decade ago, but former champion, Werdum ensured Gustafsson’s entrance to the heavyweight realm would be a quick and fruitless one.
The Swede looked light on his feet and pumped his jab early, but it took one desperate chain of takedown attempts for Werdum to spell the beginning of the end. Having dragged Gustafsson down to the mat via his back, the 14th ranked Brazilian stepped over and looked to snatch up an armbar in transition, working on the grip with his belly down.
It took some adjustment, but Werdum was able to roll, extend his leg across Gustafsson’s face, pry his arm free and yield the tap in an impressive 2:30 performance. He’s simply world class on the ground.
Carla Esparza  def. Marina Rodriguez  | Decision (split) 28-29, 29-28, 30-27
Another former champion, Carla Esparza got the nod over Marina Rodriguez in their ranked strawweight bout, enforcing her strong wrestling game on the Brazilian to push further towards the top five.
Rodriguez looked the more potent of the pair on the feet, prompting Esparza to quickly shoot in on a beautiful takedown entry and eventually land in top position. While she could not quite find the distance to land damaging ground-and-pound, the American remained busy as her opponent looked to throw her legs up from guard.
Esparza made the near-costly mistake of looking for a submission late in the first two rounds having controlled them both, with Rodriguez using the scramble to get on top and cut her up with some nasty elbows.
The seventh-ranked contender survived, managing to frustrate and tire Rodriguez with her smothering grappling to see out another tight decision victory.
Paul Craig def. Gadzhimurad Antigulov | Submission (triangle choke) 2:06 Rd 1
Journeyman Scot Paul Craig made a claim for ranked status at light heavyweight, submitting Gadzhimurad Antigulov in just over two minutes. Craig managed to suck the Russian into his realm, accepting an early takedown and immediately getting to work from the bottom.
The 32-year-old threw up a triangle and despite eating some big shots for his trouble, managed to inch the choke in tighter and eventually yield the tap. It was a case of Antigulov opting to punch his way out, rather than fighting the position.
Alex Oliveira def. Peter Sobotta | Decision (unanimous) 30-27, 30-27, 30-27
‘Cowboy’ Alex Oliveira looked as good as ever in his unanimous decision victory over Peter Sobotta, putting on a ruthless kicking display to dominate the three rounds. The Brazilian veteran landed repeated blows to his opponent’s body, turning his midsection red as the colour of his glove tape.
With Oliveira working so well at kicking distance, Sobotta could not quite muster up the right form of attack to get within range, with the 32-year-old controlling the action on the feet. He would drop Sobotta right before the Round 2 bell, and looked sharp across the full 15 minutes.
Khamzat Chimaev def. Rhys McKee | TKO (punches) 3:09 Rd 1
The UFC’s quickest turnaround victory was earned in brutal fashion, as Chimaev made it two wins in 10 days to improve to 2-0 in the UFC. Having made his debut at middleweight, the Swedish representative cut back down to the welterweight limit and put a swift beating on promotional newcomer, McKee.
McKee came in as Europe’s top prospect outside the UFC and was game to the task, but simply has no answer to Chimaev’s blanketing grappling and strength on the mat. The Northern Irishman struggled between full mount and back mount as his opponent reigned down unanswered hammer fists, eventually having the referee intervene at just over three minutes in to the bout.
Now at 8-0, Chimaev again took no damage en route to landing 68 total strikes to nil, taking his overall differential to 192-2 in his first two UFC digs. Welterweights beware.
Francisco Trinaldo def. Jai Herbert | TKO (punches) 1:30 Rd 3
Jesse Ronson def. Nicolas Dalby | Submission (rear-naked choke) 2:48 Rd 1
Tom Aspinall def. Jake Collier | TKO (punches) 0:45 Rd 1
Movsar Evloev def. Mike Grundy | Decision (unanimous) 30-27, 30-27, 29-28
Tanner Boser def. Raphael Pessoa | TKO (punches) 2:36 Rd 2
Pannie Kianzad def. Bethe Correia | Decision (unanimous) 30-27, 30-27, 29-28
Ramazan Emeev def. Niklas Stolze | Decision (unanimous) 30-27, 30-27, 29-28
Nathaniel Wood def. John Castaneda | Decision (unanimous) 30-27, 30-27, 20-27