No. 4-ranked UFC welterweight Tyron Woodley shot up the 170-pound rankings earlier this year after beating former interim champion Carlos Condit with an injury-marred TKO at March 15’s UFC 171.
“The Chosen One” rose to the occasion after campaigning heavily to UFC President Dana White for the bout, but his anticlimactic finish of “The Natural Born Killer” left several question marks. Many thought that Condit was beginning to find his range and timing against the much bulkier Woodley, and it was only a matter of time before the tide turned in his favor.
Regardless, Woodley won and instantly began running his mouth about a title shot. White said he needed to make fans want to see him fight for the title, so instead he was granted a fight against No. 2-ranked Rory MacDonald in the co-main event of June 14’s UFC 174, turning in a jaw-droppingly horrible performance in an absolutely dominant decision win by “Ares.”
White was quick to blast Woodley, noting that he ‘chokes in big fights’ and has a long way to go. Fortunately for “The Chosen One,” No. 6-ranked Hector Lombard was forced out of his UFC Fight Night 48 bout against No. 10-ranked Dong Hyun Kim this Saturday (August 23, 2014) from the CotaiArena in Macau, China. In stepped Woodley, granted yet another chance to prove his hype was justified.
The winner of four straight, “Stun Gun” was last seen knocking out John Hathaway with a “Knockout of the Year” candidate spinning back elbow at The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) China Finale on March 1. Kim is on a roll, and Woodley has to prove he can rise to the occasion against truly top-level opposition.
Since joining the UFC in early 2013, Woodley has gone 3-2 in the promotion, with finishes over Condit, Josh Koscheck, and Jay Hieron, while losing lackluster decisions to MacDonald and Jake Shields. It’s not hard to see that Koscheck and Hieron were in the twilight of their careers, and the win over Condit was indecisive.
However, it’s his two losses that are the true cause for alarm. He’s largely frozen up against top challengers, and while facing a stifling grappler like Shields could be to blame for one of those losses, his inability to mount any significant offense against MacDonald is a foreboding sign in what may be the most talented division in all of MMA.
That means Woodley has to win in Macao, and win big. A sloppy loss will almost certainly see him labeled a choke artist, the unfortunate byproduct of spewing forth a steady stream of trash talk and then failing to back it up. A two-time NCAA Division I All-American wrestler at noted powerhouse University of Missouri, Woodley no doubt has the skills to contend with the best.
Whether or not he actually does is up to him. Kim is going to bring the fight to “The Chosen One” this weekend, and he’ll have the full support of the raring Asian crowd behind him.
Can Woodley silence his critics by putting in a convincing bounce back performance, or will his hype train come crashing off the tracks just as fast as it began this spring?
Photo Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin