Masvidal knocks Till out cold in UFC main event

It's been a dizzying fall for Darren Till, who just last September was undefeated going into a challenge for the UFC welterweight championship. Till lost on that night, and on Saturday he suffered a second straight defeat, knocked out by a devastating left hook from Jorge Masvidal in the main event of UFC Fight Night at O2 Arena in London.

The knockout came at 3 minutes, 5 seconds of Round 2.

Masvidal, who hadn't fought since November 2017, returned with a performance that should put him right back in the thick of things in the welterweight top 10. Till came in ranked No. 5 by ESPN.

Masvidal got a ringing endorsement from Ali Abdelaziz -- the manager of UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman -- who told ESPN after Saturday's fight that he believes Masvidal deserves the next title shot. UFC president Dana White already has announced that Usman's first title defense will come against Colby Covington.

"We think Jorge Masvidal deserves the next title shot, not Colby Covington," Abdelaziz said. "Colby is a terrible person and doesn't deserve it. Jorge just knocked out Darren Till like that? He should be next."

Masvidal later engaged in a second fight, this one backstage, where he got into a brief scuffle with co-main event winner Leon Edwards. The two exchanged words before it quickly escalated into punches being thrown, and security and members of both teams had to separate them.

Saturday's headliner began explosively by both fighters. Masvidal (33-13) came charging out of his corner and immediately tried to land a kick, but he caught Till in the groin, prompting a brief pause while Till recovered.

Moments later, Till connected with a straight left that put Masvidal on his back and sent the arena crowd into a frenzy. There was singing and chanting as the pride of Liverpool pounced.

But Masvidal survived and got the fight back to the feet, and the two men exchanged some sharp punches for the remainder of the opening five minutes. Both men felt the other's power.

Once the second round started, however, Masvidal was the sharper fighter, landing more in their exchanges while Till stalked but mostly didn't pull the trigger. Then, with the fighters at the center of the cage, Masvidal unleashed his big left hand, and he added another as Till was crashing backward onto the canvas, stiff and unconscious. Referee Marc Goddard jumped in to declare it a knockout.

Till (17-2-1) was taken to a London hospital for precautionary reasons and was discharged later Saturday. His coach, Colin Heron, said Till was "all good."

In his postfight interview in the Octagon, Masvidal encouraged the London crowd to continue supporting Till.

"He's only 24, England, he's got so much more to go," he told the crowd as he looked across the cage at Till, who is actually 26. "He's going to be a tiger one day. Right now, he's a young bull. He's going to be a tiger, so pick him up."

Masvidal, who came in having lost two in a row, spoiled the plans of Till as well as perhaps the UFC. The promotion had flown welterweight contender Ben Askren to London, ostensibly for a Q&A with fans but really so he could be cageside to watch Till, whom Askren had been calling out leading up to Saturday's fight.

In fact, Till even made a brief appearance during Askren's fan event on Friday, appearing from backstage just long enough to flash an obscene gesture in Askren's direction, drawing roars from the crowd.

Further complicating matters Saturday was the presence on the card of Edwards, a British welterweight who has become a rival of Till's. Edwards has been insisting for months that the London main event should have pitted Till against him, not Masvidal. Instead, Edwards fought in the co-main event and won his seventh straight bout, beating Gunnar Nelson by split decision in a performance that was about as dominant as a split decision can be.

Immediately after his fight, Edwards (17-3) let it be known what he wants next: "I want the winner of the main event," he said. "That should be my fight. I don't know why they've got Ben Askren here."

Askren might have been wondering the same after watching Till go crashing down to earth.