Tyron Woodley’s rise to stardom in the UFC has been a double-edged sword as of late. Fight after fight, he’s defending his title against the consensus #1 contenders and leaving his competition in the dust. From Demian Maia’s elite grappling to Stephen Thompson’s unique striking, “The Chosen One” has thwarted all challengers with relative ease. But for some reason, it’s never good enough to make him a top priority within the UFC.
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Since November 2016, Tyron Woodley has competed in five title fights. No other fighter in the UFC has been able to compete in more than four title fights in the past two years, let alone remain unbeaten.
With Tyron Woodley slated to face Kamaru Usman at UFC 235, the stage is set for his sixth title defense. Time after time, Woodley has put his legacy on the line to take on the absolute best opponent in his division. In an era of rushed title fights and botched last-minute changes, Woodley’s reign at 170-pounds has set him apart from the pack. With a win over Kamaru Usman in March, his case for a shot at double champion glory is basically a no-brainer.
Aside from Colby Covington, there is no other contender at welterweight that truly merits a shot at the title for now.
And it looks like Woodley wants to use this opportunity to challenge Robert Whittaker, who is at the height of his powers in the UFC’s middleweight division.
Woodley announced on Ariel Helwani’s MMA Show today that he was interested in ‘sliding up’ to the middleweight division by the end of the year.
“I’ll wipe out the division clean at welterweight and go up there and either beat (Kelvin) Gastelum up again or take out Robert Whittaker. They are both welterweights anyways. They just don’t know how to cut weight.”
Conor McGregor, Amanda Nunes, Daniel Cormier, and TJ Dillashaw have all had opportunities for double-champion glory.
If Woodley doesn’t merit himself a shot after six defenses, what will?
One of a kind
It’s hard to find a resumé more stacked than Tyron Woodley’s. At just three pro fights, he was fighting high-level competitors under the Strikeforce banner. His path to the title in the UFC was no cake walk either. At every point, Woodley has always pitted himself with the best man he can possibly face. The lessons he took in losses to Jake Shields and Rory MacDonald only made him better. With each fight, his depth of knowledge grew exponentially and the pieces all came together against Robbie Lawler.
Since then, his exhibition of skill with each title fight only makes his case stronger. Woodley has an uncanny ability to strike fear in his opponents from any angle. His combination of blinding speed and devastating power have put many fighters on wobbly feet. Woodley’s best attribute is taking his opponent’s strengths and neutralizing them completely, which is a testament to his game.
In his six years with the UFC, Tyron Woodley has made a mockery of the ‘murderer’s row’ at welterweight and turned it into his personal gift shop. Regardless of the lack of casual fan interest, or lack of push from the UFC, he remains his own biggest advocate and speaks with actions rather than words. His professionalism is unparalleled, and his reign in the UFC is the last bit of normalcy that’s left from a different era.
Job to be done
Even still, the delusions of grandeur are purely speculative for Woodley and his team. The task at hand remains firmly on UFC 235, and no one can afford taking Kamaru Usman lightly. While Woodley most likely retains an advantage in experience and technique, he hasn’t always been durable in his title fights. On two occasions, Woodley suffered accumulative injuries that impacted his output on opponents. If a similar situation occurs against Usman, his ability to grind opponents down with wrestling may come into play.
With all factors neutral, Woodley remains a solid favorite over a still-developing Usman. If he can realize his sixth title defense, it only makes sense to use that platform to go for more even more glory. Whether it’s a rematch with Kelvin Gastelum or a faceoff against Robert Whittaker. Woodley is realizing his full potential as a superstar, and the future’s always brighter with two belts on.
English Student at Rollins College with a passion for all things combat sports. Mixed martial arts isn't just entertainment; it's an art form.