While it may have been light on thrills, Tyron Woodley’s third welterweight title defense was another success and he’s not apologizing to anybody for his careful approach.
“The Chosen One” took a commanding five-round unanimous decision win over Demian Maia in the co-main event of UFC 214 in Anaheim, Calif., on Saturday, and at the evening’s post-fight presser, he was clearly pleased with how he handled the Brazilian jiu-jitsu ace.
“I thought it was a great performance,” Woodley said. “You’ve got a guy on a seven-fight win streak, he’s taken out all seven opponents, world class guys, gotten on their backs, submitted them. Very resilient, very persistent on his attack - how many takedowns did he try? Twenty-four tried, 24 denied. So I think we need to look at the different stats.
“This is my fourth title fight in 12 months. He shot 24 times and think of how many different top class welterweights he would have been able to put on the ground. He was not able to do any of that on me. I felt good, I felt my conditioning was great. We accepted this fight four weeks ago and I felt amazing. Sometimes I think those shorter camps are better.”
Other than a few bursts of significant offense, Woodley and Maia looked like they were stuck in first gear, with the champion focusing on avoiding the challenger’s vaunted ground game. Woodley also pointed out that an early striking sequence aggravated an old shoulder injury, which limited his options and forced him to rely on his intelligence and wits.
“I felt like I was gonna finish him, I threw an overhand right - in the first or second round, my shoulder slipped out and I was like, ‘Oh, shit,’” Woodley said. “I can’t hit him with this overhand right, which is my moneymaker, so I had to throw straight punches. A couple of other times after that, I saw an opening and I had to throw it just out of reaction. I threw it again, it kind of slipped out, so two or three times I felt like my shoulder kind of slipped out.
“So I had to be really disciplined to use a lot of feints and if you guys saw me, a couple of times you saw me come forward and look like I was going to throw the right hand, and I had to really second guess whether I should throw it or not, or just proceed with pushing forward. That’s what champions do... I’m very happy with my conditioning, and very happy in my coaching and game plan. It’s just the mental toughness.”
Unfortunately for both fighters, their reluctance to engage drew the ire of the fans at the Honda Center, who jeered the lack of action and even pulled out their cell phones to simulate a sea of lights at a rock concert in an attempt to amuse themselves.
Asked if he noticed the antics during the fight, Woodley noted that he can’t be bothered to worry about crowd reactions when his biggest concerns are the opponents he has to deal with inside the cage.
“Nothing distracts me when I’m in there,” said Woodley. “You can boo. I’ve never seen a boo enter the Octagon and help my opponent double team me. I’ve never seen it help them get the victory. I’ve never seen it take me off my rocker. I’ve gotta be focused like flint, because this is the best division in the world.”
Most important for Woodley is knowing that at the end of the day, whether anyone likes it or not, he’s the man to beat at 170 pounds.
“I know our fans, they want to see blood, they want to see cuts, they want to see a back-and-forth exchange. You also have to recognize that I’m fighting specialists.
“Stephen Thompson, I’m not going to sit out there and try to out-spin-kick him,” Woodley said. “I’m not going to try to take down Demian Maia and prove that, ‘Hey, it’s time for me to get a black belt (in Brazilian jiu-jitsu), the brown belt is gonna to take you down and go for the submissions.’ So I felt like it was a very tactical fight, I felt like I did everything, stuck to the gameplan, and I walk around with my head up and the belt still around my waist.”