If everything goes according to plan for Jake Paul, he’ll soon be able to claim victory over a former UFC champion.
Paul has ventured into the world of boxing with calculating precision, selecting opponents whose names, fame, and reputations allow them to serve as intriguing B-sides to him as he looks to build a professional fighting resume while minimizing risk. Having just defeated a two-promotion MMA champion in Ben Askren, it’s only fitting that Paul picked Tyron Woodley next given that Woodley is not only a teammate of Askren’s but a man who actually won and defended a UFC belt.
We’ll find out Sunday if Paul is overreaching when the two meet in the headlining bout of a boxing event taking place at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse in Paul’s hometown of Cleveland. Paul clearly views Woodley as a name that will give him an instant boost of credibility should he beat him. On the other side of it, we have Woodley relishing what is sure to be a massive payday, not to mention the opportunity to possibly derail the Paul hype train.
Five years ago, if anyone suggested that Paul would beat Woodley in a fight they’d be met with raised eyebrows and likely a few deserved slaps in the face; but now, in the wacky world of 2021, anything seems possible, including a 24-year-old YouTuber leaving a decorated combat sports athlete out cold on the canvas.
It’s hard to envision an outcome that would truly shock any of us at this point, so let’s take a moment to consider how each fighter can get the job done on Sunday.
The case for Jake Paul
Jake Paul is serious about this whole boxing thing.
Now that statement may only hold true for as long as he’s able to handpick his matchups and—just as importantly—win them, but until we see otherwise, Paul seems to be in this combat sports game for the long haul and he’s already proven that he wears the prizefighter hat comfortably. He and his team have been smart about ramping his challenges up accordingly, going from a fellow YouTuber to a retired NBA player to a retired MMA champion.
In Tyron Woodley, he has an opponent who might be past his prime, but certainly doesn’t look like it on the surface. Even in the midst of his recent slump, Woodley has always said all the right things heading into his fights and as far as athleticism and physique go he doesn’t appear to have dropped off much. It’s when the time comes to actually perform that it becomes apparent just how much mileage Woodley has on him.
So there’s one major advantage for Paul, who at 24 is 15 years younger than Woodley. Those are 15 fighting years too, which means Paul will be the much fresher athlete heading into Sunday. As much as we can talk about experience and technique, there’s a lot to be said about Paul having the benefit of youth and good health. When it comes time to trade bombs in the ring, Paul’s chin will likely hold up better.
And Woodley is going to have to fight him. There will be no dancing around for eight rounds, Paul is simply too big and aggressive for this not to break down into a sloppy scrap at some point. Should that happen, it’s a scenario that favors the less disciplined Paul. Even in a more technical battle, does Woodley have the boxing fundamentals to beat an opponent who has the luxury of being able to dedicate seemingly infinite time and wealth to his development in the sport?
As unproven as Paul still is as a fighter, he has so many inherent advantages in this matchup that his status as a favorite is completely justified. He beats Woodley in pretty much every area on paper. Now he just has to do it in the ring.
The case for Tyron Woodley
Tyron Woodley isn’t Ben Askren.
Duh, right? But Jake Paul seems to think that Woodley is cut from the same weathered cloth as his longtime teammate and anyone who’s followed Woodley and Askren’s careers with the slightest scrutiny knows that’s not the case.
Woodley is a power puncher. He’s an explosive athlete. And no one would ever accuse him of rocking a dad bod like Askren. The former welterweight king still looks the part of an elite fighter and it’s not just cosmetic.
One need only look at Woodley’s recent fight against Vicente Luque to see that there’s still the hint of a spark of “The Chosen One” that was a top fighter at 170 pounds for years. His recent losses have been ugly, but look at the names he’s fallen to besides Luque: Colby Covington, Gilbert Burns, and Kamaru Usman. Those are three of the best in the world in one of the UFC’s most competitive weight classes. Compared to them, Paul barely measures up to a Contender Series reject.
There’s no substitute for experiencing a high-level, high-pressure fight, something that Woodley has repeatedly pointed out and something about which he’s 100 percent correct. Even Woodley’s losses have probably been more beneficial to him than whatever Paul could have possibly gained (aside from millions of dollars) from running through a retired NBA player and what was left of Askren.
Full disclosure, I picked Askren to beat Paul (and we know how that went), but I definitely underestimated the athleticism gap between the two and just how poor Askren’s boxing was. Woodley has at least shown competent hands in his fighting career even if it’s still a mystery how he will fare without being able to utilize his full arsenal of skills. You can picture Woodley landing a hammer that rocks Paul. The same can’t be said for Askren.
If you’re leaning towards Woodley, it’s because you’ve seen what the man can do at his best and you’re betting that a change of scenery and a drop down in competition will be enough to give him the edge. Paul has joked about choosing The Chosen One to be his next victim, but if the best version of Woodley shows up on Sunday, he might soon regret it.
My pick: Paul by third-round knockout.
Who wins tonight?
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