With one impressive victory, Tyron Woodley won two belts on Saturday.
The welterweight champion retained his title in dominant fashion, dropping previously unbeaten challenger Darren Till with a blistering straight right hand and then finished him with a D’Arce choke at 4:19 of the second round in the main event of UFC 228 at the American Airlines Center in Dallas.
Woodley, who defended his belt he won by knocking out Robbie Lawler in the first round at UFC 201 on July 30, 2016, was presented with his Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt after the submission.
It was Woodley’s first submission in the UFC and his first since Nov. 20, 2009, when he submitted Rudy Bears.
Woodley was never in danger and was in control throughout. He went off as an underdog, as bettors apparently believed Till’s edge in size and his striking would end Woodley’s reign, but Woodley is one of the most well-rounded fighters in the UFC.
“You don’t fight by the odds,” Woodley said.
He called himself the best welterweight of all-time, and though he can be excused in the euphoria of an impressive victory for giving himself extra credit, he’s clearly not.
That honor belongs to Georges St-Pierre, who is not only the greatest welterweight in MMA history but is also one of the top three fighters in any weight class in the sport’s history.
But a Woodley-St-Pierre title fight that would headline the UFC’s New Year’s Eve card in Las Vegas would be a fitting match. It would give the new king the ability to measure himself against the old king and would figure to be a massive attraction on pay-per-view.
Woodley hasn’t been a popular champion, and it’s not hard to understand why. He’s an outspoken black man in a sport where a large percentage of fans are white.
He’s been a role model in so many ways, though. He grew up in a poor area of Ferguson, Missouri, and found a way out, becoming a two-time All-American at the University of Missouri while also obtaining his degree.
He’s not only fought everyone there has been to fight, but he’s been frustrated by not getting some of the big-money fights such as one with St-Pierre.
It’s hard to hate on a guy who comes in shape every night, gets better every time out and wants to challenge himself against the best. On Saturday, he declined to call anyone out after dispatching with Till.
“It’s tough to say [who I want next], because every time I say I want to fight a certain person, I don’t get the response I want,” Woodley said. “What I’m going to do is to continue to fight whoever they put in front of me. I’m going to beat them up. I’m the best welterweight of all-time.”
He’s got a ways to go to get there, but he was clearly better than Till. Till didn’t let his hands go in the first as Woodley started fast and landed nearly all of the significant strikes.
He wanted to push the fight into the later rounds, but his defense wasn’t tight and when he threw a lazy right, kind of a half-uppercut, half-cross, Woodley countered it with a perfectly delivered straight right that decked Till.
Till never got up, as Woodley pummeled him with elbows. Woodley slowly moved his arm into position and finally cinched the choke, forcing the quick tap.
“He was the better man tonight,” Till said. “S–t happens. I’m just gutted. I’ve had losses before, and it just makes you stronger. There’s no excuses, though. Tyron was the better man tonight. Make no mistake, I’ll come back stronger and still solidify myself as one of the best to ever do it.”
Woodley was the one who did that on Saturday. He’s got a lot of work ahead of him, but there are a number of good opponents for him. If St-Pierre doesn’t want to challenge him at welterweight, UFC president Dana White has said ex-interim champion Colby Covington would get the next title shot.
There is also the possibility that Woodley could move up to middleweight.
He’s a veteran with a long record of success and he’s now got a lot of potential money-making opportunities. He may never be able to go down as the best, but what he’s in the midst of doing is remarkable.
The fighter who beats him is going to have to be special, because Woodley is getting to that point where he’s beginning to separate himself from the rest.
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