Tyron Woodley already has established himself as one of many best welterweights of all time. This weekend, he’ll attempt to show he is one of many best welterweights proper now.
Woodley (19-4-1, 9-3-1 within the UFC) will meet rising 170-pound contender Gilbert Burns (18-3, 11-Three UFC) in the primary occasion of Saturday’s UFC Battle Night time on the promotion’s Apex facility in Las Vegas. The occasion will air on ESPN+, with the primary card beginning at 9 p.m. ET, the prelims at 6 p.m.
For Woodley, 38, it should mark his first look since he surrendered the welterweight title to present champion Kamaru Usman at UFC 235 in March 2019. Woodley’s historic resume is ironclad. He gained the title in 2016 and retained it by means of 4 challenges. He’s on the brief listing of best welterweights of all time, maybe solely eclipsed by Georges St-Pierre.
However the reality is, Woodley has not gained a single spherical of an MMA struggle in over 20 months. He has suffered a number of hand and shoulder accidents throughout that point, and a few have questioned his dedication to the game resulting from a budding profession in music and leisure.
All of it results in a wide-ranging set of potential outcomes. If Woodley seems terrific on Saturday, it should really feel as if talks of his demise had been tremendously exaggerated, and he’ll discover himself proper again within the thick of title competition. If he loses, he’ll have quite a lot of floor to make as much as show that his finest days are usually not behind him.
And the 33-year-old Burns is extremely motivated to take Woodley’s torch. After making his UFC debut as a welterweight in 2014, Burns moved to light-weight for his subsequent bout and had an up-and-down run. He was on a two-fight win streak when he elected to maneuver again up in weight in 2019, and since then he has reeled off three extra consecutive wins. Saturday can be his first alternative to headline an occasion, and Woodley is by far the highest-ranked opponent he has ever confronted.
This predominant occasion will mark both the return of Woodley to welterweight greatness — truly, if he wins, he’ll possible say he was by no means gone within the first place — or the emergence of a brand new title among the many best of the division. Needs to be fascinating both manner.
By the numbers
5: Consecutive victories for Burns. (However see beneath.)
51.9: Share of serious strike makes an attempt landed by Burns throughout his win streak. That’s the second-highest within the UFC over that span (since Dec. 8, 2018) — and a 32% improve over Burns’ accuracy in his first 9 UFC fights (39.3%).
10: Knockdowns landed by Woodley, tying him with Stephen Thompson for probably the most amongst lively 170-pounders.
93.7: Share of opponent takedown makes an attempt efficiently defended by Woodley, the perfect all time amongst UFC welterweights and third-best amongst fighters in any division. That can turn out to be useful towards a four-time jiu-jitsu world champion like Burns. In a 2017 struggle towards one other Brazilian jiu-jitsu grasp, Woodley fended off all 21 takedown tries of Demian Maia.
0: Fights which have reached a fourth spherical throughout Burns’ 21-bout profession. Woodley, in contrast, has gone the space in a five-rounder 4 occasions.
Sources: ESPN Stats & Data and UFC Stats
A glance again
5 vs. 5
Tyron Woodley’s most up-to-date outcomes
Loss: Kamaru Usman (UD, March 2, 2019; watch on ESPN+)
Win: Darren Until (SUB2, Sept. 8, 2018; watch on ESPN+)
Win: Demian Maia (UD, July 29, 2017)
Win: Stephen Thompson (MD, March 4, 2017; watch on ESPN+)
Draw: Stephen Thompson (MD, Nov. 12, 2016; watch on ESPN+)
Gilbert Burns’ most up-to-date outcomes
Win: Demian Maia (TKO1, March 14, 2020; watch on ESPN+)
Win: Gunnar Nelson (UD, Sept. 28, 2019; watch on ESPN+)
Win: Aleksei Kunchenko (UD, Aug. 10, 2019; watch on ESPN+)
Win: Mike Davis (SUB2, April 27, 2019; watch on ESPN+)
Win: Olivier Aubin-Mercier (UD, Dec. 8, 2018)
Brett Okamoto’s prediction
It is powerful. I truthfully do not know what to anticipate from Woodley. We’re speaking about one of many all-time greats, however he is had a protracted profession, he is coming off a protracted layoff and this was an prolonged camp resulting from delays attributable to the coronavirus pandemic. Stylistically, I like Woodley right here. Burns can submit nearly anybody on the earth, however it will be actual onerous towards Woodley, one other bodily, gifted grappler. Woodley is also the larger man with energy and pace benefits, for my part. I’ll aspect with the previous champ, however Burns wouldn’t shock me within the slightest if he pulled off the upset. Woodley by way of TKO, second spherical.
Saturday’s struggle card
ESPN/ESPN+, 9 p.m. ET
Tyron Woodley vs. Gilbert Burns | Welterweight
Blagoy Ivanov vs. Augusto Sakai | Heavyweight
Billy Quarantillo vs. Spike Carlyle | Catchweight (150 kilos)
Brok Weaver vs. Roosevelt Roberts | Light-weight
Mackenzie Dern vs. Hannah Cifers | Strawweight
ESPN/ESPN+, 6 p.m. ET
Katlyn Chookagian vs. Antonina Shevchenko | Ladies’s flyweight
Daniel Rodriguez vs. Gabe Inexperienced | Welterweight
Jamahal Hill vs. Klidson Abreu | Gentle heavyweight
Tim Elliott vs. Brandon Royval | Males’s flyweight
Louis Smolka vs. Casey Kenney | Males’s bantamweight
Chris Gutierrez vs. Vince Morales | Males’s featherweight
A small Octagon? No large issues
You may discover on Saturday that the fights are at a better stage than what’s normally seen on the Apex, dwelling of “Dana White’s Contender Sequence” and its weekly array of hopefuls. This week’s fighters have already made it to the UFC. However they’ll discover one thing completely different, too. The promotion can be utilizing its 25-foot cage, not its common 30-footer. Which means much less room to maneuver and nearer quarters for full-on engagement — an excellent factor for grapplers, specifically.
We requested among the fighters for his or her ideas:
Tyron Woodley, who should cope with a jiu-jitsu world champ in the primary occasion: “Extra angles, much less lateral movement. So just a few issues you have to work out. Mike Tyson did it for years within the boxing ring. He used angles to chop off [opponents], used his footwork. He had quite a lot of dominant performances.”
Gilbert Burns, that elite grappler opponent: “The most important [cage], the ginormous one the place they struggle for the title, that one is simply too large. However this one, yeah, it really works a bit bit to my benefit. I wish to grapple. That is the place I really feel most comfy. However a struggle is a struggle, you recognize?”
Mackenzie Dern, one other jiu-jitsu world champ: “I feel it is much less area for them to run away, you recognize? So I feel it is good for us. Largely the those who struggle me, their technique is to get in and get out, and preserve the area. So smaller Octagon, much less area to run round, and I can take you down. So I’m happier about that.”
Katlyn Chookagian, a striker who’ll have much less room for her footwork: “For my entire life, I’ve educated boxing, and the cage that I have been coaching in is smaller. So I am used to that. … I sort of prefer it. I feel it pushes the motion extra. I feel the smaller cage is best for the followers. … I can use my footwork and motion and all the things simply as nicely. And I feel I am only a higher fighter, so whether or not we struggle in a 30-foot Octagon or a 5-foot Octagon, I feel I’ll win regardless.”
Brok Weaver, a Contender Sequence alum whose final struggle, his UFC debut, was within the 30-foot Octagon: “The Contender cage and the UFC cage are completely different sizes?”
What else to search for … past the primary occasion
Will or not it’s mom’s day for Dern?
Final October, Mackenzie Dern suffered her first profession loss. She made no excuses, however she had a dwelling, respiration one napping at dwelling. Her unanimous-decision loss to Amanda Ribas got here simply 4 months after Dern gave delivery to her first youngster.
Now it’s time for Dern (7-1, 2-1 UFC) to get again on observe. And she or he is totally anticipated to by those that put their cash the place their mouth is, as Caesars Sportsbook lists her as the most important favourite on Saturday’s card, at -400 for her strawweight struggle with the tough-as-nails Hannah Cifers.
Dern, a multiple-time world jiu-jitsu champion, has 4 submission victories. Cifers (10-4, 2-2 UFC) has 5 wins by KO/TKO.
Spiking the punch with Carlyle
Spike Lee wrote and directed the groundbreaking movie exploration of racial tensions “Do the Proper Factor.” Spike Jonze made the quirkily ingenious “Being John Malkovich.” Spike Robinson performed bebop on tenor sax.
However amongst Spikes, the true Mr. Leisure may simply be Spike Carlyle.
The 27-year-old from San Diego made his UFC debut in February, and it was one thing to see — except you tuned in late. He knocked out Aalon Cruz in simply 85 seconds, throughout which era Carlyle managed to squeeze in 29 strikes (on 38 makes an attempt, for 76% accuracy).
Now “The Alpha Ginger” faces Billy Quarantillo (13-2), winner of six straight, most just lately his UFC debut in December (second-round submission of Jacob Kilburn). They’re featherweights, however they are going to compete at a 150-pound catchweight as a result of it’s a short-notice reserving.
Bits ‘n’ items
Augusto Sakai will face Blagoy Ivanov within the heavyweight co-main occasion. Sakai (14-1-1, 3-Zero UFC) has scored all however three of his wins by KO/TKO, and his present five-fight win streak options 4 finishes. Ivanov (18-3,1 NC), a former fight sambo world champ, has gone to choice in all 4 of his UFC bouts (he is 2-2).
Brok Weaver, who fights Roosevelt Roberts at light-weight, has gained eight in a row, together with his UFC debut in February. Weaver (15-4) has scored greater than half of his wins by choice, whereas Roberts (9-1, 3-1 UFC) has 4 submissions and three knockouts.