When Tyron Woodley delivered a right hand that would have knocked out a mule to Darren Till on Saturday night, before locking in a sickening D’Arce choke to retain his UFC welterweight championship, it was another step towards greatness for ‘The Chosen One’.
However, seconds after Till tapped out to suffer defeat for the first time as a professional, Woodley was understated in his celebrations, simply walking away from the fallen Scouser, with no hint of cage climbing, somersaults or screaming as we’ve become accustomed to over from other fighters over the years.
Perhaps that’s because it was a case of business as usual for Woodley, who successfully defended his title for the fourth time, or perhaps it was because he knew that no matter what he did, he wouldn’t get the respect he deserves for his efforts.
Woodley remains unpopular as a champion, both with fans and for some reason, UFC President Dana White.
After the win over Till, ‘T-Wood’ was asked by Ariel Helwani what White said to him after his win, to which Woodley replied
I didn’t speak to him. I just won. That’s what champions do. They win, right?
It’s clear from that answer that Woodley has given up trying to win favour with the man who is essentially his boss. Hell, who wouldn’t after White refused to let Woodley fight Georges St Pierre when the Canadian returned to the Octagon in 2017. Instead he gave what would have been a huge payday to middleweight champion Michael Bisping. GSP submitted Bisping in the third round.
White’s reasoning behind that decision was that Woodley didn’t look impressive in his win over Demian Maia. That’s fair enough, but there’s two things people need to remember about that fight.
- Demian Maia is legitimately the greatest Brazilian Jiu Jitsu expert in ANY weight class in UFC today
- Tyron Woodley tore the labrum in his (stronger) right shoulder in the first round
Speaking after Woodley beat Maia by five-round majority decision, White said:
The guy [Maia] had one eye in the first round and you’re [Woodley] faster, you’re stronger, your hands are better, you’re explosive. I believe that Woodley could’ve finished that in the first round, and if not, he definitely could’ve finished it in the second round. If you had a remote control for that guy, he’s a freak of nature, he’d be an incredible fighter. Listen, it’s easy to say a win is a win but when you get booed out of an arena, that means people don’t want to watch you fight, you know. And that’s how you make a living. It’s not good if people don’t want to watch you fight.
Now then, any man who tries to actively finish a jiu jitsu expert with the use of only one working arm is either incredibly brave or incredibly stupid , and Woodley is certainly not the latter.
In fact, there’s a case that his intelligence is his biggest asset. His brain allowed him to stay away from the dangerous Till on Saturday night, and walk him straight onto a right hand that would have flattened most light-heavyweights.
His intelligence also allowed him to stay calm when he couldn’t finish Till off with vicious elbows on the ground, and instead wait for the Englishman to make a mistake – not defending against the D’Arce choke. After nine minutes of action, Woodley had seen off another challenger for his crown. A submission win – another string to the Woodley bow (he now has as many submission wins as KO’s in his MMA career).
Guess what? Intelligence is common theme among elite fighters. When Stipe Miocic fought Francis N’Gannou last year, did he launch into a toe-to-toe gun fight with the hardest puncher in UFC history? Nope, he moved around, used his wrestling and superior speed, then KO’d the giant Cameroonian when he got tired.
It’s no doubt that one of White’s most favoured fighters is Georges St Pierre. Guess what? GSP was another one who used his strategical strengths to win fights, rather than flat out brawn. In fact, the Canadian used his head so much he masterminded his way to NINE successful welterweight title defences, the joint most of any champion in UFC history. And he became widely regarded as the Greatest Of All Time – maybe that’s what Woodley is trying to do…
The 36-year-old Missouri native isn’t, and will never be, a fighter like Justin Gaethje or Donald Cerrone – fighters who risk their health, record and reputation in return for an all-out war with an opponent, no matter how much a crowd adores them in return.
But guess what? Gaethje and Cerrone will never win titles in the UFC. Woodley has, and will continue to reign for as long as he wants.