mma / Columns

Tyron Woodley: The Judge’s Chosen One

March 7, 2017 | Posted by Evan Zivin

If it’s any consolation to Khabib Nurmagomedov, he wasn’t missing much having to sit out UFC 209.

I mean, yeah, he did lose a reported $500,000 payout, which would surely have been the biggest of his career, along with the chance to proclaim himself the clear cut number one contender while winning a championship in the process (an interim championship but still the same gold belt all the other champions get) instead of being in the position he now finds himself in, where the UFC will always be hesitant to give him another big lightweight fight, not knowing if he’ll make it to the fight or end up bowing out due to injury or complications from his weight cut, but at least the show mostly sucked.

I’m totally sure that makes up for it.

It wasn’t UFC 208 bad, as there were a number of nice finishes throughout the show, but it felt like a lot of the fights were moving in slow motion. Plus, any show where both Mark Hunt and Rashad Evans lose is always going to put a damper on the rest of the evening.

Also, Lando Vannata lost to David Teymur. That’s right. Lando fell to the Dark Side, or the Dark Fight Shorts anyway. Why does that always happen? Where’s Chewbacca when you need him? I hope he didn’t sign a deal with Bellator…

Here’s the thing I don’t get about the show, though. It was a really bad time losing the Khabib vs. Tony Ferguson fight, especially since Tony wasn’t willing to take a replacement fight because UFC was going to offer him less money for it (always good to see UFC takes care of its boys…), but there was a simple solution to this problem:

Nate Diaz was in the audience.

You don’t think Nate would have stepped up if UFC sold the Tony fight to him the right way? A win would put him directly in line for another fight with Conor McGregor, who’s scheduled to return to MMA within the next 6-36 months, potential boxing megafight pending.

Nate recently said he’ll take a fight if it’s a relevant one. I think a fight with Tony would be considered relevant. Plus, it would solve Tony’s money issue because UFC could easily justify paying more if they were getting a Diaz to help bolster the buyrate.

This is all in addition to the fact the show was UFC 209. I can only imagine how many attempts UFC made to get either Nick or Nate on this card.

The card really could have a used a big announcement like that because the main event, the welterweight championship rematch between Tyron Woodley and Stephen Thompson, was something I don’t need to see happen ever again.

Not that I necessarily needed to see it happen a second time. I only wanted it to happen because I like Thompson and wanted to see him win the title, but I also knew that, for him to win the fight, he was going to employ the same strategy he used in the first fight, which really wasn’t all that exciting the first time around (the only times it was involved him getting punched in the face).

There was little question that both men’s strategies for the rematch were going to be similar to the first fight. Thompson was going to use distance to stay out of the pocket and avoid Tyron’s strikes while peppering him with jabs and kicks, while Woodley was going to try to get in close, where he could land his power right hand or force a takedown.

For the most part, Woodley allowed Thompson to play The Wonderboy Game, which seemed strange because his hesitancy gave Thompson rounds, or at least made the fight close enough that Thompson could win them.

The thing that worked in Woodley’s favor, though, was that Thompson’s strategy wasn’t really going to win him rounds by any definitive means as much as he would do enough to stay ahead and hope the judges knew what they were watching, understood how to score a fight, and hadn’t fallen asleep.

It’s a strategy we’ve seen other elite level fighters use, such as Lyoto Machida, whose fights were only ever entertaining when either he or his opponent was getting knocked unconscious, or Rory MacDonald, who inevitably got beat at his own game by Thompson, but it’s a dangerous strategy to use because it’s one that usually results in limited action and the possibility that any successful strike or takedown could tip the round in favor of the opponent whether or not it makes any rational sense when taking the rest of the round into account.

This was how Woodley won the fight. He took Round 3 by securing a takedown and working part of the round from top position. He took Round 5 by cracking Thompson with a right hand and laying into him for the last 20 seconds while Thompson struggled to survive.

The difference maker, for 2 of the judges at least, was Round 2 (the third scored the fight a draw). Now, was that a round that Woodley won? Was that a round that Thompson won? It’s hard to say because it was a close round, with “close” in this instance meaning “nothing goddamn happened in it.”

Watching it live, I gave the round to Thompson, as well as Rounds 1 and 4, but it’s hard to say that with any level of certainty. It sure seemed like he won those rounds, as he maintained the center of The Octagon and dictated the pace, but those are not the main criteria for determining a round winner. Effective striking is, and it’s hard to argue that either fighter was very effective in those rounds, or any of the rounds other than what Woodley did in the last half minute of the fight.

So, with that thinking in mind, Woodley didn’t win the fight, but neither did Thompson. They both lost, as did all of us, especially since we’re still stuck with a champion who will chase after money fights despite the fact that, up to this point, he has failed to prove he is a money fighter, all the while blaming his skin color as being the reason people don’t respect him and not the fact he whines and complains every time the UFC or anyone else says or does something he doesn’t agree with.

Man, what a disappointing fight. It was totally worth forcing Demian Maia to take another fight so that we could get a conclusion to this thrilling rivalry, wasn’t it?

But hey, at least Cynthia Cavillo looked good. Did you see her get that choke in on Amanda Cooper? That was pretty slick. It makes up for the fact that we’re in for at least another 4 months of headlines about Woodley complaining about his mistreatment, or his perceived lack of respect, or that the sky is blue, right? Right?

I blame Khabib for this.

Evan Zivin has been writing for 411 MMA since May of 2013. Evan loves the sport, and likes to takes a lighthearted look at the world of MMA in his writing…usually.

article topics :

Tyron Woodley, Evan Zivin

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