He may have been chasing a ‘money fight’ with Georges St-Pierre or Nick Diaz ever since he won the title over Robbie Lawler last summer, but welterweight champion Tyron ‘The Chosen One’ Woodley had to settle for surging jiu-jitsu artist Demian Maia for the co-main event of tonight’s (Sat., July 29, 2017) UFC 214 from the Honda Center in Anaheim, California.
Although he may have been becoming more known for his claims of racism in the UFC rather than his performances as of late, where he had a tendency to alternate earth-shaking knockouts with tentative snoozefests, ‘The Chosen One’ was also quietly becoming one of few UFC champions who defended his belt against legitimately deserving top contenders throughout his reign. After a rollercoaster of a rivalry with Stephen Thompson where the fighters put on a “Fight of the Night”-winning brawl at last November’s UFC 205 before letting fans down with a letdown at UFC 209 this March, the Missouri native met up with Maia.
Often regarded as arguably the best jiu-jitsu practitioner to ever fight in mixed martial arts, Maia had won seven straight fights to finally earn another UFC title shot after failing in his bid against all-time great former middleweight champion Anderson Silva in an infamously bad bout in Abu Dhabi over seven years ago. Since then, the respectful grappling wiz had returned to his ground skill, submitting stalwarts Carlos Condit, Neil Magny, and Matt Brown during his streak.
The pivotal 170-pound bout began with Maia pressuring to the fence. He went for a takedown immediately but Woodley shucked it off to applause from the crowd. Maia was cut over his eye and was bleeding as he stalked for a takedown again. Woodley defended yet again and landed a strike. Maia shot from far away, grabbing a leg, but was again stifled.
Maia landed a stiff shot of his own, but his latest takedown attempt wouldn’t work. The two traded shots, with Maia landing a straight. A bit of a staring contest came until Woodley threw a lazy overhand and a hook that was blocked. “The Chosen One” sprawled out one more takedown, and the second half of the round featured a much slower pace than the grueling first half of the frame between two fighters not exactly known for their bottomless gas tanks.
In the second round, Maia came out pushing the pace, but Woodley struck back with a strong rushing punch. Maia responded with his straight left, but Woodley then knocked him down with a hard strike. Referee Herb Dean made Maia stand up, and Woodley began taunting him. The champ stalked the Brazilian down, landing a right as Maia shot for a sloppy takedown. Woodley worked the body and broke free of more grappling as he avoided his tenth takedown. Woodley landed again and defended a takedown. Maia was throwing wild straight shots, but the titleholder avoided them as the action once again slowed toward the end of the round.
The third round kicked off with a takedown that had no chance from Maia. Maia threw his left but ate a counter right followed by another from Woodley. He scored a punch to the body and went with a right hook upstairs. Woodley taunted to boos from the crowd. The champ rushed forward with two right hands, but more boos soon came when the action once again slowed a brutal pace. Woodley was landing, but sparingly. Maia landed a left and Woodley a counter. The champion threw some straight right shots and Maia scored an inside leg kick as the third round ended to a loud chorus of boos from the fans.
Maia was bloody and bruised to start the fourth frame, his eyes nearly swollen shut. Woodley landed a body punch and Maia shot again, once again unable to complete his takedown attempt. Maia transitioned his left hand to a takedown attempt and was deep on a single, but again the champ escaped. Woodley landed a body shot and threw a straight right. He followed with a good shot and Maia landed an inside leg kick. The boos came back and Woodley landed two rights that snapped Maia’s head back for a split second as the fourth round ended with even louder boos.
The final round kicked off with a deep double leg attempt from Maia. Woodley wasn’t having any of it again, marking an 0/17 rate for Maia. It was soon 0/18, 0/19, and 0/20 with a matter of seconds as the crowd chanted “boring.” Glancing strikes were traded with Maia landing his straight left. The crowd began waving their cell phone flashlights in the air due to boredom. Woodley sprawled one more takedown try. The champion scored a stiff right hand and Maia a left, but the title bout wore down with Maia missing his 24th takedown attempt as the crowd roared boos down on the men.
Final Result: Tyron Woodley def. Demian Maia via unanimous decision (50-45, 49-46, 49-46)