Liverpool’s Darren Till suffered a shock loss to Jorge Masvidal in the main event at UFC London in front of a sold-out crowd at the O2 Arena.
The American veteran produced a devastating knockout in the second round to inflict only the second defeat of Till’s UFC career.
Till, fighting for the first time since his title loss to Tyron Woodley in September, was heavily tipped to bounce back at the first time of asking and give himself another shot at the welterweight crown.
But, on a night that saw former champion Michael Bisping inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame, Till was dropped by a brutal left hand that will no doubt push him further down the pecking order for a fight against newly-crowned champion Kamaru Usman.
Returning to winning ways at the first attempt was always top of Till’s agenda against the dangerous Masvidal, after suffering the first loss of his UFC career to Woodley in Dallas.
Till raised the roof on his last appearance in the UK in his home city of Liverpool, and was again buoyed by English support in the capital as he guided the crowd through a rendition of Sweet Caroline on his arrival in the octagon.
But the home favourite’s relaxed demeanour only made the knockout more of a surprise.
Masvidal likes to play on the fact he loves “fighting in people’s backyards” and insisted beforehand he would have to finish the bout inside the distance rather than let it go to the judges.
And he kept to his word to end his own run of successive defeats, as well as play up to his own tagline.
“I got dropped in the first and that made me wake up,” said Masvidal after the fight. “I wanted to get him back immediately.
“I love the scrap – Darren is so tough. Before I dropped him I hit him with some bombs and the dude just smiled at me like, like I do to other people.
“The kid is headed far – he is going places for sure.
“I want to fight for the belt now. Darren only has one loss and that is to the champion. I’ve got a huge body of work in this division and this corporation. It’s my time and I need that belt.”
Till did not give any interviews after the fight, instead going to hospital for checks.
The bout started in frantic fashion as Masvidal came leaping towards Till and caught the English fighter with a low kick, for which he apologised, but it seemed to rattle Till.
However the Liverpudlian responded with some showmanship of his own, shrugging off a couple of attempted strikes from his opponent before the knockout blow landed.
Till has spoken about the pain of his second-round loss to Woodley, but the welterweight division has moved on swiftly in the past six months and Till’s position is now unclear.
Woodley has since lost the title to Usman and, with Woodley potentially set to face fellow American and former interim champion Colby Covington next, as the division’s number three Till hoped to step up his campaign to face the Nigerian newly-crowned champion.
But now he may have to look elsewhere for his next fight on the promotion, with Leon Edwards having a legitimate claim to facing his fellow countryman after beating Gunnar Nelson in the co-main event, while UFC newcomer Ben Askren will also be waiting in the wings after attending the event as guest fighter and engaging in a Twitter spat with Till in the build-up.