Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Welterweight contenders Tyron Woodley and Gilbert Burns will clash TONIGHT (May 30, 2020) from inside UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Tyron Woodley reigned over the Welterweight division for almost three years, yet it seems like his back is to the wall just one fight removed from his title loss. Perhaps that feeling is because of just how dominantly Kamaru Usman stole the belt. Maybe it’s because Woodley is now 38 years old.
Either way, pressure is on for “T-Wood.”
The former champion has a dangerous task ahead of him in Burns, who has picked up five victories in less than two years. Burns is on fire, coming into his own and firing on all cylinders, and he’ll be looking to make a statement opposite Woodley.
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: Kamaru Usman (UFC 235), Rory MacDonald (UFC 174), Jake Shields (UFC 161)
Keys to Victory: A highly decorated wrestler with a thunderous right hand, Woodley is not an opponent to be taken lightly. Woodley is a highly tactical fighter, one who manages his reactions and energy carefully to remain dangerous and effective deep into long fights.
Woodley is at his best when countering opponents. From Josh Koscheck to Darren Till, a majority of his biggest strikes are landed when Woodley’s opponents are coming at him. Really, Woodley’s only boring fights are those against foes who refuse to engage fully.
He’s not likely to have that issue against Gilbert Burns.
As such, I’d like to see Woodley evasive early. Against Till, his early footwork really flustered his opponent even with Till’s reach advantage. If Woodley can convince Burns to load up early, that may be the only opportunity he requires to return to the win column.
Key Wins: Demian Maia (UFC Fight Night 170), Gunnar Nelson (UFC Fight Night 160), Alexey Kunchenko (UFC Fight Night 156), Alex Oliveira (UFC Fight Night 62), Olivier Aubin-Mercier (UFC 231)
Key Losses: Dan Hooker (UFC 226), Michel Prazeres (UFC Fight Night 95), Rashid Magomedov (UFC Fight Night 77)
Keys to Victory: Burns is something of a powerhouse himself. The Brazilian has come into his power in the last few years, and the results were immediate, as fighters started falling over when “Durinho” hit them. In addition, Burns is one of the most decorated grapplers on the roster.
Against Woodley, measured aggression is the name of the game. Woodley struggles most with opponents who can consistently pressure him without over-extending. To elaborate further, there have been two successful methods of really nullifying Woodley’s power: masterful range control (Rory MacDonald) and clinch work (Usman and Jake Shields).
Between those two options, Burns seems to fit more into the pressure-and-clinch strategy. As Shields proved, a completed takedown isn’t even required! Woodley walks himself into the fence, so jamming him into the cage and racking up control time isn’t impossible.
Fortunately for viewers, Burns is a good deal stronger and more offensive than Shields. Once in the clinch, Burns can do damage with tight punches while he pushes the pace.
One of these men will enter the immediate title mix at 170 pounds.
Hell, the division is in a weird place right now. Jorge Masvidal seemed like the No. 1 contender, but now he might be fighting Nate Diaz again? If that’s the case, the winner here could find himself as a title option in the next couple months, particularly if it’s an impressive performance.
In times of unknown, big victories are especially helpful.
As such, the stakes are quite high here. It’s worth asking if Woodley can recover from a loss? To regain the title after consecutive defeats with require a multi-fight win streak, similar to the one which first earned him his title shot. At 38 years old, that’s a difficult ask. While Burns is a newer face to the Top 10, it’s also worth mentioning that the Brazilian has been fighting for eight years and is 33 himself. He’s now in his prime and riding a significant wave of momentum, which means Burns is also in a poor position for a setback.
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At UFC on ESPN 9, Tyron Woodley and Gilbert Burns will go to war in the main event. Which man will have his hand raised?