ANAHEIM, Calif. -- It didn’t take too long for a painful truth to become apparent for Demian Maia in his UFC welterweight title challenge against champion Tyron Woodley: His takedown attempts against the former University of Missouri wrestler weren’t going to work.
And with that, out the window went the game plan for the 39-year-old Brazilian jiu-jitsu whiz. Maia couldn’t outwrestle Woodley at UFC 214 and couldn’t outstrike him, giving him no path to set up his submission game.
Woodley played a smart defensive game that the crowd at Honda Center hated, retaining his title via unanimous decision. The judges’ scores were a 50-45 and a pair of 49-46s.
Woodley picked his spots in the opening stanza, effortlessly escaping takedown attempts and landing hard with the few punches he threw. In the second, Woodley scored a knockdown and landed several more hard shots, and he continued to frustrate Maia’s takedown attempts.
Before the third round, the doctor checked Maia’s eye and cleared him. The crowd grew restless as Woodley payed it safe in the third.
It got even worse in the fourth, as the pace slowed further. The crowd got a brief flash of excitement when it appeared Maia might succeed in a takedown attempt, but Woodley fought free and continued making Maia try to chase him.
Things fell apart in the fifth. The crowd did the wave between rounds. Then hundreds of fans started waving around the lights on their cell phones. Then the crowd started a giant “this is boring” chant. Little actually happened inside the cage of note over the final five minutes.
With the victory, Woodley (18-3-1), who has his first anniversary as champion on Sunday, scored his second straight win and improved to 5-0-1 in his past six fights. Maia (28-7), who turns 40 in November, had a seven-fight win streak snapped.