For 15 months, we’ve wondered which version of Tyron Woodley we would see after he was thoroughly dominated by Kamaru Usman to lose the welterweight championship.
It took just a few minutes for Gilbert Burns to let us know that the version that showed up at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas wasn’t the right one.
Burns (19-3) dominated the former champion from bell to bell, dropping Woodley (19-5-1) with crisp striking and overwhelming him on the canvas to earn an unanimous decision win (50-45, 50-44, 50-44). Afterwards, he called for a shot at the belt against Usman, his friend and training partner.
“I’m very happy. I trained so hard for this fight. I knew I could do it. I was calling this guy out for a reason,” he said in his post-fight interview. “My name now has got to be the No. 1 contender. I love the champ, my training partner Kamaru Usman, but c’mon – give me the shot. I’ve got a lot of love for you, but I’m next. I want to fight for the title. If they want to make the fight in July, I’m injury free. I want to fight for the title.”
— UFC (@ufc) May 31, 2020
Woodley, who won the welterweight title in July 2016 at UFC 201 in emphatic fashion in dispatching “Ruthless” Robbie Lawler by violent knockout, looked nothing like the monster that dominated the division for nearly three years. He seemed almost tentative after absorbing early damage from Burns, looking for one big punch that never materialized. Woodley also seems to have forgotten that he was a wrestling champion as well.
That’s not to take anything away from Gilbert Burns, who is now on a six-fight win streak and has earned his second straight Performance of the Night bonus. Burns, a Henri Hooft striking student, was the aggressor throughout the main event, even when he securely had the fight won he still pressed the action and made Woodley’s life miserable.
Now, the Brazilian turns his attention to, at the very least, another top 10 opponent. Whether that opponent is Usman will be up to Dana White.
Elite athletes are rewriting the rule book all the time when it comes to the battle between age and success. Tom Brady is still winning championships in the NFL. Bartolo Colon is fighting for a rotation spot in Major League Baseball at 47. Jaromír Jágr is currently participating in his 30th professional season of hockey.
Fighters, though, rarely go out on top.
More often than not, they give way to a younger crop of fighters, the victims of countless hours of training, numerous wars and Father Time. The mind is still sharp. It knows when it must punch and kick, and when to change levels and shoot for a takedown. Getting the body to respond to these commands becomes the real fight.
As for Woodley, it will take more than former championship gold, old highlights and grit if he’ll want to remain amongst the elite of the UFC welterweight division.
He’s one of the greatest welterweights to ever don a pair of four ounce gloves, but he’ll need to go back to the drawing board to find a new, new version of himself if he wants to continue down this dark and unknown road.
UFC on ESPN 9 Quick Results:
- Gilbert Burns def. Tyron Woodley via unanimous decision (50-45, 50-44, 50-44)
- Augusto Sakai def. Blagoy Ivanov via split decision (27-30, 29-28, 29-28)
- Billy Quarantillo def. Spike Carlyle via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
- Roosevelt Roberts def. Brok Weaver via submission (rear-naked choke) – Rd 2, 3:26
- Mackenzie Dern def. Hannah Cifers via submission (kneebar) – Rd 1, 2:36
- Katlyn Chookagian def. Antonina Shevchenko via unanimous decision (30-25, 30-25, 30-25)
- Daniel Rodriguez def. Gabriel Green via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
- Jamahal Hill def. Klidson Abreu via TKO (strikes) – Rd 1, 1:51
- Brandon Royval def. Tim Elliott via submission (arm triangle choke) – Rd 2, 3:18
- Casey Kenney def. Louis Smolka via submission (guillotine choke) – Rd 1, 3:03
- Chris Gutierrez def. Vince Morales via TKO (leg kicks) – Rd 2, 4:27
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