Currently, the UFC’s most consistently stacked division is the 170-pound welterweight division which houses a multitude of great talents and varied skillsets among its athletes. Because of this, one would imagine that it wouldn’t be an issue to set up fights among the weight classes’ peak. Well, that’s actually exactly where the issues happen to lay as we kick off 2019.
Since July 2016, Tyron “The Chosen One” Woodley has been the UFC welterweight champion. He earned the title by knocking out Robbie Lawler in a single round and has defended it three times in the time that has followed (four if counting the draw with Stephen Thompson).
Having fought all five of those fights in the span of three years with two in 2016 and 2017, Woodley missed close to a year of action after shoulder surgery before returning to face Darren Till in September 2018.
This came as a big surprise due to the fact that in the meantime, an interim title was introduced, which was surprising in its own right.
That title would end up being fought for at UFC 225 in June between the likes of the rising contender Colby “Chaos” Covington and the former lightweight champion Rafael Dos Anjos. Covington would walk away as the winner by unanimous decision.
Thus, presumably setting him up for the next title shot… As interim titles generally do.
However, the UFC’s continued trend of impatience led to the making of Woodley vs Till at the September pay-per-view date for UFC 228, a time that Covington wouldn’t be fully recovered for as he hoped to come back in November at UFC 230.
Which brings us to now. A time where we are for some reason still quite confused as to what will happen in regards to who will be in the next welterweight title fight. But whether you love him or hate him, Covington deserves the next crack at undisputed gold.
He actually earned it… Literally
The debate right now is between Covington and Kamaru Usman for who will get the next title shot. And seemingly at this moment, Usman will at the very least be one half of that bout… Whether it’s against Woodley or Covington. That, however, does not mean that Usman is rightfully deserving of potentially getting it over Covington.
Ironically, both men are 14-1 with both of their last two wins coming in dominant fashions over the likes of Demian Maia and the previously mentioned Dos Anjos.
If we want to look at rankings, prior to those two wins, Usman has no other top 15 wins despite his longer winning streak whereas Covington has one more with his win over Dong Hyun Kim.
With such a close and similar track record accompanied by common opponents, it’s fair to break everything down to the finest of increments when comparing the two. Look specifically at the win streak difference, Covington currently rides six-straight while Usman is at 13. Obviously, that right there gives it to Usman. The only problem is… Covington has literally been granted his title shot already without actually getting it.
No matter what the UFC says or does, or however many they hand out, history shows that an interim title equals a guaranteed title shot. That’s the whole point of it after all. They are (generally…) made to serve the purpose of finding the top contender who will face the champion once the champion returns from whatever the reason may be that they’re gone for. Covington did just that by defeating Dos Anjos and all by the UFC’s decree.
But now, we have some blurriness again.
Covington continues to parade around as the interim, or as he says “real” champion, but that doesn’t seem like the case. Having heard nothing in regards to if he still is actually the interim champion and considering how Usman is getting more attention from the boss when it comes to the next title shot, he could have very well been stripped without even knowing it.
Hell, the UFC doesn’t even list him as the interim champion in their rankings anymore which isn’t a great sign.
But because of all this nonsense that the UFC creates nowadays, whether intentional or not, it has created an even bigger reason that he deserves to be in the next title fight.
Drama equals dollar signs
There is no in between with Covington. He’s MMA’s ultimate villain and he embraces and thrives in that role more than anyone in the sport right now. He gets a reaction with no matter what he says, whether it’s a good or bad one. He knows where the line is and he teases it at every possible opportunity.
In the current day and age of sports entertainment, this is exactly the kind of thing the UFC loves. If we didn’t know any better, we could say that controversy may be their favorite thing… And in terms of controversy and drama alone, Covington has more than earned the shot at gold.
Covington has already gotten himself so far under Woodley’s skin that the rivalry has become must see for the fans, and it’s only evidenced by almost any public poll seen on any MMA outlet or social media account.
Woodley wants to kick Covington’s ass and Covington wants to kick Woodley’s. The rivalry between former teammates has marinated for over a year now and when it comes to a money making fight, as the WME era UFC seeks, this is as good as it possibly gets right now at 170-pounds.
- Read the other side of the story: Why Kamaru Usman deserves the next shot at Tyron Woodley
Drake Riggs is an MMA writer who specializes in feature pieces, the women's fight scene, lists, and rankings. He has been a passionate fan of MMA ever since 2009. Drake also currently writes for BJPenn.com, Fansided MMA, Cageside Press, and is a former contributor to Sherdog and MMA Today. He is also a die-hard fan of the NFL's Green Bay Packers and Jacksonville Jaguars.