mma / Columns

Tyron Woodley: When Winning Isn’t Enough

August 8, 2017 | Posted by Evan Zivin
Tyron Woodley

You UFC fans just aren’t ever satisfied.

At UFC 214, you got to witness greatness.

It was the night Jon “Bones” Jones completed his babyface turn and took back control of the light heavyweight division, just in time to abandon it again for a money fight against a 40 year old pro wrestling champion, maybe at next year’s Wrestlemania…?

Get on that, Meltzer.

It was the night Cris Cyborg committed some form of war crime on Tonya Evinger’s face. Seriously, talk about your international incidents…

More importantly, though, it was the night Tyron Woodley successfully defended his UFC Welterweight Championship for a precedented third time.

And it was no easy defense, as Woodley, the man who knocked out Robbie Lawler, the man who went 10 rounds against Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson and came out ahead in the end (or close enough), faced the deadly submission mastery of 4th degree Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt Demian Maia, who put his impressive 7 fight win streak on the line for a long awaited shot at UFC gold.

If Woodley was going to walk out of the Honda Center in Anaheim, CA as champion, he was going to have to thwart the relentless takedowns of the former UFC Middleweight title challenger and impose his own game. And that is exactly what he did.

Over 5 rounds, Maia tried to shoot in on Woodley, and Woodley stopped him.

All 21 times.

But it wasn’t enough for you people, was it.

No, you couldn’t be impressed by the display of technical, defensive technique that our UFC Champion, the greatest welterweight in UFC history…by default…put on display for us.

You couldn’t care less about how successfully Woodley was able to shut down Maia’s game, all because he wasn’t willing to take any risks and try to knock out one of the most dangerous opponents he has faced.

You people and your knockouts…all you care about is seeing fighters get beat up and concussed. How bloodthirsty can you be? I thought the “Just Bleed” and “human cockfighting” days of the sport were over?

Was I wrong?


Also, does anyone remember what actually happened in the Woodley-Maia fight? I slept through most of it…

It’s never a surprise to see the MMA faithful show their displeasure when a fight doesn’t entertain the way they’d like it to. Or at all.

I mean, we’ve seen some boring fights, but we don’t always get to see record-breaking boring fights, as the Woodley-Maia co-main event set the record for least amount of strikes thrown in a 5 round fight.

That’s impressive. I’m sure it takes more effort than any of us realize to do so little in a fight. Just ask Bob Sapp.

Of course, that’s not something that’s being celebrated. None other than UFC President Dana White decried the fight at the post fight press conference, criticizing Woodley for not ending the fight with strikes when he had opportunities to do so. He even announced that he was taking away the Georges St-Pierre fight that we all know was toootally going to Woodley and not to Michael Bisping like it was always planned to.

At least Woodley knew Dana was just talking out of his ass. He knew he wasn’t getting that fight. Even if he didn’t, it wouldn’t have changed his performance in the Maia fight, as he did what he needed to notch up another win for his title reign, which is all that should really matter, right?

But yet we aren’t happy for him. Why? Because he didn’t want to risk taking damage when he didn’t need to? Because he chose to respect his opponent’s game and stick to the strategy that would ensure the greatest likelihood of victory? For understanding that any mistakes made could cost him the only reason anyone cares about him to begin with, the only reason he’s managing to make any money working for the richest, stingiest, sports promotion in the world?

Also, why is Tyron the only one getting hate for the fight and not Demian? That man has now been in two UFC title fights, both of which are etched in the annals of MMA history for being godawful pieces of crap.

Why is this a story about what Tyron didn’t do and not a story about what Demian didn’t do? If Woodley was taking few risks, Demian was taking even fewer, not willing to mix it up with his hands when it was clear that Woodley wasn’t looking to headhunt, most likely due to the torn labrum he suffered early in the fight, and just chose to keep shooting for takedowns that he was having zero success with.

Would it be different if Maia had won but done it in the same, boring manner as Woodley? It’s possible, especially since the fans like Maia and don’t like Woodley, which is baffling in some respects, as he’s one of the few fighters in the company attempting to show personality and give the fans a reason to care about his fights, but isn’t in others, since he’s the UFC Champ that Cried Racism. He’s also the UFC Champ who asked for fights with St-Pierre and Nick Diaz when he had done nothing to earn those kinds of fights. You don’t get to ask for money fights before you can prove you’re a money fighter, right?

Regardless of my opinions of Woodley as a fighter and as a person, I don’t think it was fair for him to take all that flack, especially if he was injured during the fight, which seems to be supported by the California State Athletic Commission issuing a 180 day medical suspension after the event. The fact that he won as convincingly as he did is impressive in comparison to the severity of the injury.

Y’know, it’s fights like the Woodley-Maia fight that makes one wonder what MMA fans really want out of MMA. Do we actually want a legitimate sport where the best athletes in the world compete in a battle of skill and technique to see who is better or do we just want live action Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots?

I mean, it is called “fighting,” right? Not “Stand in front of your opponent and do little more than engage in a professional staring contest-ing”?

The goal of any sport is to win. That’s the bottom line.


Would it have been nice for Woodley if he knocked Maia out? Sure, but it’s not a mandatory means to an end. In any sport, winning is what matters above all else. Being in memorable fights can be important but, over time, whatever glory is attained through those fights fades, especially if those memorable fights never resulted in victories or never led to championships.

Tyron knows what ultimately matters. He knows what’s going to put food on his kid’s table and send him down the path towards a Hall of Fame worthy career. Many fighters who are classified as “boring” do.

Granted, the argument can be made those fighters are the type who need to fight safe because they aren’t good enough to finish top fighters, or they’re capable of doing more but choose not to because they know they’ll probably be shown the door if they don’t maintain a win streak, but, in a sport where very few fighters ever truly attain legendary status, where wins and losses no longer matter to their legacy or the way they are perceived by the fanbase, Woodley is doing what he needs to stay in the conversation. You have to respect that.

Although, on the other hand, BOOOO!!!!!!



So anyway, what’s Chris Leben doing these days? Can’t we just watch him give himself more brain damage? At least that’s entertaining, right?


Seriously, the line between sport and spectacle, between respecting the health and safety of the athletes and wanted something violent to pass the time in between John Wick movies, is a hard one to maintain. Everyone trips over it constantly, from the casual to the hardcore among us. It doesn’t always make us hypocritical (sometimes it does) but maybe if we’re cognizant of it, we can be smarter as fans and appreciate the technical displays these top fighters give us on a consistent basis.

Or we can just say Tyron sucks and is desperately clinging to his belt, waiting to see how long he can hold it until someone takes it from him. I’m okay with that too.

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.

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Tyron Woodley, Evan Zivin