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Till loses bloody five-round battle while Ballymena's McKee suffers in short-notice UFC debut

The Antrim man made the step-up to fight Khamzat Chimaev at short notice.

Darren Till [file photo].
Darren Till [file photo].
Image: Jason Silva

ENGLAND’S DARREN TILL lost his UFC middleweight bout against former champion Rob Whittaker in a bloody five-round main event in Abu Dhabi, while Antrim native Rhys McKee also lost out on his UFC debut.

Making the step-up at short notice, McKee entered the octagon against Khamzat Chimaev of Chechnya, who also made his UFC debut 10 days ago.

Chimaev won that middleweight bout against John Phillips before dropping down to welterweight for this undercard meeting with McKee, where he defeated the Ballymena man by TKO in the third minute of the opening round.

Whittaker was fighting for the first time since losing his belt to current champion Israel Adesanya in Melbourne last year and managed to secure a unanimous decision of 48-47 from the three judges on Yas Island.

Whittaker landed a pair of early jabs in the first round before the Liverpudlian responded with a left elbow to the chin which dropped the Australian.

But Whittaker responded in the second round, his big right hand knocking the Englishman down before he leaned in to use a clubbing elbow on the man on the canvas.

The third round was a close affair, with Whittaker failing on a takedown but managing to land a left hook on the break.

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Till struggled to stay as quick on his feet during the final two rounds, with a highlight coming at the end of the fourth when a combination of punches snapped the Australian’s head back.

Whittaker continued to target Till’s lead leg and emerged victorious but not before a slicing elbow in the fifth round opened a huge gash on his head.

Afterwards, Whittaker told ESPN the fight “was so stressful”.

He said: “Honestly, I hope the fans and everybody can appreciate it. Cause that level for me, that was one of the most technical fights I’ve ever had to fight.”

Additional reporting by Sinead Farrell

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