Post-Fight Thoughts: Tyron Woodley -vs- Kamaru Usman
Well, this fight could not have gone any more counter to my expectations. While it was always possible that Kamaru Usman could implement his wrestling-heavy gameplan, I figured Woodley would be able to stave off this line of attack for at least a portion of the fight. No, instead, within 2 minutes, it seemed as though this fight was a foregone conclusion, and things only got more dire as the rounds progressed. Kamaru Usman was perfectly on point, neutralising Woodley and rendering him completely unable to do anything but defend himself from the bottom position and the numerous clinches against the cage.
Even by Woodley's usual standards, this was an extremely low-output fight for him; Woodley did almost nothing for the whole 25 minutes the fight lasted. The fact there was only a single 10-8 round reflects poorly on the judges rather than the reality of the fight. I expected Woodley to be more successful with his striking and, above all else, the last thing I foresaw was him jumping guard to attempt guillotine chokes — who even does that in 2019?! Usman's wrestling was also too much for the defending champion, which surprised me; it wasn't just the relentless pressure, his technique and attempts were all excellent.
This fight could not have gone worse for Woodley, as his repeated clashes with UFC management all but ensure he won't be seeing the rematch he asked for — not that anything in this fight made a case for them to run things back. Usman did everything I figured he could do, and Woodley did nothing I expected of him. It was a strange fight in that regard, but all credit to Usman for making the absolute most of the opportunity in front of him. I was also impressed with the improvements Usman made to his striking, and his focus on body shots. I am sure the takedowns and smothering top control were draining enough, but Usman also landed about 100 body shots which further drained Woodley's energy.
I was and also wasn't surprised that Woodley's corner sent him out for the final round; there was really no hope of him winning — an eleventh hour KO seemed well beyond the exhausted champion. But this is MMA, so of course Woodley got sent out to take another 5 minutes of punishment en route to losing his title. There really isn't much else to say about this fight, as good as Usman's performance was, Woodley's was equally ineffective and passive. I don't know if things would turn out much different if they did rematch, but that's not a fight I want to see any time soon. Usman likely has a date with Colby Covington, and I expect him similarly ragdoll Diet Chael Sonnen if that ends up being the case.
I'm not immediately sure who Woodley should fight next. Even though he did seem off his game, he was completely demolished and will need to string together a few high-profile wins — and probably impressive wins at that — to get back into title contention. I could see Woodley paired up with Rafael Dos Anjos, although I'd really like to see the latter get a fight that isn't against another wrestle-boxer. I guess there's also the possibility of a rematch with Robbie Lawler, but I don't know how eager Tyron would be for that...
It's too soon to tell if we've seen the beginning of a new era in the welterweight division, but it certainly seems that way. Despite lacking a highlight reel of finishes, and with his title win serving as his first real signature victory, Kamaru Usman casts an imposing shadow over the 170-pound division. He may not be the most exciting fighter on the roster, but he is oppressively gifted at winning MMA fights. As long as he keeps turning in performances like this, it's going to take an incredible effort and gameplan to wrest the title from Usman.
Published: March 3rd, 2019.