Legendary boxing analyst Teddy Atlas would like to have seen a little more out of Tyron Woodley in his boxing debut.
The former UFC welterweight champion lost a split decision to Jake Paul in the main event of Sunday’s show at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in Cleveland, an outcome that Atlas thinks could have been different if Woodley was more willing to pull the trigger in the ring.
Though he expected Paul to win, as the fight unfolded Atlas saw that Woodley had a path to victory, even if the judges’ decision didn’t go his way in the end.
“No way am I knocking the greatest welterweight champion in UFC history, that would be blasphemy, I’m not doing that at all,” Atlas said on The MMA Hour on Monday. “I’m just pointing things out from my perspective and my world and my experience. I saw is what he’s been doing just he’s lost four fights in a row for a reason. Obviously, he’s gotten older, okay, we understand that, he’s 39 years old. But his demeanor has become more passive and that’s probably a word I shouldn’t use in UFC, but there’s degrees of passiveness and he has just gotten more cautious and it’s caused him to lose fights. That remained with him and he made a decision to continue to be cautious rather than be vulnerable. I think it allowed him to be able to go the rounds and be competitive, but it stopped him from having the chance to win and that’s the truth.
“Maybe at 39 he’s not able to run the engine faster than that anymore, maybe, but sticking to that analogy of a car and an engine, he spent too much time revving the engine in the driveway. He didn’t get it out on the road because yeah he applied pressure, but with no punches to speak of. Only in spots, the fourth round and the eighth round. But he didn’t punch enough.”
.@TeddyAtlasReal joins @arielhelwani to give his reaction to #PaulWoodley:— MMAFighting.com (@MMAFighting) August 30, 2021
"[Tyron Woodley] has lost four fights in a row for a reason. … He's just gotten more cautious."
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Woodley won the fight on one scorecard, with judge Phil Rogers giving him the last five rounds for a 77-75. It’s unclear what Rogers saw that the two other judges didn’t, but it’s possible he may have been swayed by Woodley consistently coming forward even if there was a noticeable lack of volume coming from “The Chosen One.”
Atlas broke out another metaphor to explain why Paul deserved to win and why he had such an issue with the split call.
“Pressure without punching, it’s kind of like the fall is coming, autumn is coming, and there’s gonna be a lot of leaves to rake,” Atlas said. “It’s kind of like raking all those leaves and you rake ‘em all into a pile and then you don’t get rid of them. You just leave them in a pile and the wind blows them back and you’ve got leaves again! And what the hell did you do? You didn’t do nothing, you just got tired. And that’s kind of what happened, that he raked the leaves into a pile, but he didn’t get rid of them. He didn’t punch and he left his man, Paul, there, and just like the leaves will come back and they will scatter and they will take their place, well Paul was able to come back and scatter to the outskirts again and use the jab and be able to carry the action or carry the rhythm of the fight and be able to control the parameters of the ring, enough to win.
“That split decision was absurd, it was absurd. Paul won probably six rounds. You want to make it five rounds, fine. But to have a split decision? No. The bottom line is that Woodley, whether he made a conscious decision or that’s him now, that’s just his M.O. That’s him.”
In his UFC career, Woodley showed flashes of having knockout power. He entered MMA with the reputation of being a grinding wrestler, but later scored spectacular KOs of Jay Hieron, Josh Koscheck, and Robbie Lawler, the latter earning Woodley a UFC title that he would successfully defend four straight times.
He landed a clean shot that wobbled Paul in the fourth round on Sunday night, but Atlas still thinks he left a lot in the tank.
“I’ll stay to the racing car [analogy],” Atlas said. “A racing car, yeah, it’s got all those RPMs in it, it’s got all that horsepower in it, a special race car, but it’s up to the driver. Is the driver aggressive? Is the driver the guy that drove ‘Miss Daisy?’ If it’s the guy that drove Miss Daisy, guess what? The race car don’t mean diddly squat! How many horsepower it’s got in the race. It don’t matter because you’re gonna drive it slow! And that is now, that is what Woodley is. He drives the car slow.
“At the end of the day, I don’t know if he made a conscious decision to keep it slow or it’s just what he does now and it’s become ingrained into him, into his confidence, into his system, and his lack of maybe confidence to a certain extent of trusting himself to open up if you will and get it on the highway. Yeah, he won the fourth and the eighth round. Even then, he didn’t sell out, and listen, give him credit, he didn’t get caught either.”
Atlas called Woodley “a special gladiator” and credited both he and Paul for their efforts. He added that Woodley was at a disadvantage boxing for the first time and finding himself in a situation where he couldn’t utilize his other skills.
From a technical standpoint, Atlas said Paul’s ability to extend his jab and control “the geography” of the fight is what ultimately led to his victory. However, he also feels that from a certain viewpoint both fighters were successful in the end.
“[Woodley] didn’t get embarrassed the way [Ben] Askren did,” Atlas said. “He went in there, he behaved like a champion, he showed why he was a champion, he showed that pedigree.
“And the other guy won the way not only that he got his hand raised, but that he got tested, and he behaved like a fighter when he got tested, where people weren’t sure if that would happen. Where he showed something authentic. He gained credibility. His bank account has already gained enough, but he hadn’t gained in the other currency, the currency of people believing that he actually had the character of a fighter. He won in that area, so they both won in their own ways.”