Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Welterweight wrestlers Tyron Woodley and Kamaru Usman will collide this Saturday (March 2, 2019) at UFC 235 from inside T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Woodley captured the title in 2016 in very impressive fashion: a brutal first-round knockout victory. Unfortunately, his first three title defenses were either extremely competitive, dreadfully boring, or both! “T-Wood” righted the ship last time out though, flattening Darren Till within a couple rounds in an utterly dominant win. All the while, Usman has been dominating as well. “The Nigerian Nightmare” has yet to taste defeat inside the Octagon, going on a nine fight win streak since being picked up on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF). Usman is an extremely qualified contender and poses a definite threat to the champion.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
Key Wins: Robbie Lawler (UFC 201), Stephen Thompson (UFC 209, UFC 214), Demian Maia (UFC 214), Kelvin Gastelum (UFC 183), Darren Till (UFC 228)
Key Losses: Rory MacDonald (UFC 174), Jake Shields (UFC 161)
Keys to Victory: Woodley keeps things as simple as possible inside the cage. The extremely talented and explosive wrestler, circles the cage, waiting for a moment to explode forward with either a takedown, flurry or counter right hand.
It’s important to note that his right hand is immensely powerful.
In this bout, Woodley doesn’t have to worry about finding Usman. “Nigerian Nightmare” is a pressure fighter above all else, and he’s going to come at Woodley immediately. At some point, the counter right hand will be there, as that’s simply the nature of Usman’s pressure style.
One adjustment I’d really like to see Woodley make is to throw more low kicks. After Usman gets a taste of his power, there’s a fair chance that Usman will back off at least a bit. When that happens, Woodley does not want the fight to devolve into a staring match like some of his past battles. Instead, if Woodley were to take the initiative and blast his foe’s lead leg, it would only take a few to affect Usman’s movement.
Key Wins: Demian Maia (UFC Fight Night 129), Rafael dos Anjos (TUF 28 Finale), Leon Edwards (UFC on FOX 17), Sean Strickland (UFC 210), Warlley Alves (UFC Fight Night 100)
Key Losses: None
Keys to Victory: Usman is a special athlete. Throughout his nine victories inside the Octagon, Usman has shown not only tremendous physical strength but excellent conditioning as well, making him a remarkably difficult man to deal with across 15 minutes, let alone the full five rounds.
To win this bout, Usman has to make Tyron Woodley work constantly without getting knocked out in the process. Woodley absolutely does fatigue in fights or take rounds off to recover, but he’s able to get away with it because opponents are justifiably scared of forcing the issue and eating a massive right hand.
The difference between Usman and most of Woodley’s past foes is that Usman can wrestle with Woodley for an extended period of time. Usman may not unable to complete takedowns early in the fight, but getting into the clinch and jamming Woodley in the fence is enough.
From that position, Woodley cannot land his blistering right hand. Furthermore, he’ll be forced to constantly fight off Usman’s takedown attempts, which will drain his energy. It may be boring, but Usman’s strategy of grinding for takedowns should pay off later in the fight.
Bottom Line: This is an interesting new style clash for the long-time Welterweight champion.
Woodley is a man who has been consistently doubted, but four title defenses is a remarkable accomplishment. He deserves to be a larger favorite than the current odds of -165, which is not very significant in mixed martial arts (MMA). At the same time, it’s also the first time he’s faced a committed grinder since 2013, when he brutally knocked out Josh Koscheck, but lost a decision to Jake Shields’ endless takedown attempts.
One of those outcomes is likely for Saturday, but it’s hard to say which.
Meanwhile, Usman went to extraordinary lengths to secure this title shot. Winning nine straight fights is incredible, and even then it was still up in the air regarding whether he or Colby Covington would receive this opportunity (more on that here). It’s all built up to this moment for Usman, who seems poised to be a rather dominant champion if victorious.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 235 fight card, starting with the Fight Pass “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on ESPN at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET.
To check out the latest and greatest UFC 235: “Jones vs. Smith” fight card and rumors click here.
At UFC 235, Tyron Woodley and Colby Covington will throw down in the co-main event. Which man will leave with gold strapped to his waist?