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Tyron Woodley says Sage Northcutt is 'better than expected,' admits he had to eat his own words

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Newly crowned Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) welterweight king Tyron Woodley will have his hands full when he meets confusing striker Stephen Thompson at UFC 205 on Nov. 12 from Madison Square Garden in New York City. In effort to familiarize himself with the Karate style of "Wonderboy," Woodley brought in mixed martial arts (MMA) youngster Sage Northcutt to help him train.

But before he felt Northcutt's talents firsthand, Woodley was among many who believed Northcutt was given royal treatment when he entered the Octagon for the first time at UFC 192 as a 19-year-old kid. An awkward sparring session, a removal from Tristar Gym and untimely excuses led more to believe "Super" wasn't exactly cut out for the big leagues.

"We've all had our comments about Sage as a fighter, I think," said Woodley earlier this week during UFC 205's conference call (audio replay here). "Some of the fighters were a bit envious of his entrance into the UFC, and some of the endorsements and some of the things that came with it, him being so young. We all had something to say, me included. And after training with him, I had to bite a couple of my words because he's way more well-rounded than what I expected, what I thought."

After suffering his first career loss at the hands of Bryan Barberena at UFC on FOX 18 earlier this year, Northcutt managed to get back into the UFC win column with a decisive victory over Enrique Marin at UFC 200. Marin has since been released from the promotion and Northcutt has been brought in by the UFC welterweight champion to mirror the most puzzling striker in the game today.

"He's strong, he's powerful, he's fast," added Woodley on Northcutt. "He's a great resource to train with, so I had to bite my own words, and I would think as long as he still focused and stays true to who he is -- because it sounded like everybody wants him to be somebody else -- as long as he can do that, I think he'll go a long way in this sport. He's young."

"We want to compare him to guys who are my age. He calls me Mr. Woodley and it feels so weird, but I'm like, man, this kid is [20] years old."

As Woodley gears up for his first 170-pound title defense at UFC 205, Northcutt will put his hair on the line and attempt to overthrow Mickey Gall at UFC on FOX 22 on Dec. 17.

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