UFC Fight Night: MAIN EVENT MADNESS
Tyron Woodley vs Gilbert Burns
Main Event Breakdown
By Jason Paglia
It’s felt like forever since we watched a few fights, but in reality, it’s only been about two weeks. The UFC is back home this weekend, in Las Vegas, Nevada for UFC Fight Night: Woodley vs. Burns. However, it’s not the usual arena that they are fighting in tomorrow night. Typically, if the UFC is in Vegas, they are at the T-Mobile Arena on the Vegas strip, but tomorrow night they are going back to the roots. The event will take place where we have seen countless fights on The Ultimate Fighter reality TV show. On the UFC campus at their Apex Center.
The card is mediocre at best. Maybe not even mediocre. Nevertheless, the main event is UFC PPV main card worthy. A pair of top 6 UFC welterweights will square up, as Gilbert Burns takes on the #1 contender in the division in Tyron Woodley. The fight is very intriguing and will tell us a lot about both mixed martial artists by the time it’s over. OK, enough small talk, let’s get it!
Tyron Woodley (19-4-1)
Tyron Woodley has been a top 5 staple in the UFC welterweight division for as long as I can remember. Woodley grew up in Ferguson, Missouri, for most of his adolescents. While in high school, he was a two-sport athlete, excelling in football and amateur wrestling.
In 2000 after graduating from McCluer High School, Tyron started his collegiate career at the University of Minnesota. He was given a scholarship to the D1 school for wrestling, provided he was able to meet the team’s expectations. Considering he was a two time NCAA All-American for Missouri, I would assume he met those expectations.
After college Woodley began training to become a professional mixed martial artist, by April 2009 Woodley had fought twice and won twice. He accepted a six-fight contract with Strikeforce MMA. At the time, they were the 2nd biggest MMA promotion in the country. Tyron would fight nine times for the promotion amassing a record of (8-1). It was at that point the UFC took notice and signed Woodley immediately.
He made his debut at UFC 156 against Jay Hieron. He would win that fight via knockout, and the rest is UFC history. He reached the pinnacle of the sport when he beat Robbie Lawler to win the UFC welterweight championship in 2016. He defended his title 4 times successfully. Finally, at UFC 235, Woodley lost his title to current champion Kamaru Usman. Tomorrow night, Woodley starts his climb back to retaining his UFC championship. Can he put the young kid away and get one step closer to a rematch with Usman?
The BEST of Tyron Woodley
POWER – Tyron Woodley has mind-altering power for the division. There are a lot of fighters that pack a punch at 170 lbs. But Woodley might have the heaviest hands in the entire division. He is getting older, but power is the last thing to go.
WRESTLING – Tyron Woodley is an excellent wrestler. He is an NCAA All-American, so it’s no surprise why he has some of the best double leg takedowns and top control in the division. If I had one issue with his wrestling, it’s that he doesn’t use it enough.
The WORST of Tyron Woodley
STAMINA – Woodley has a big frame with a ton of muscle. We know that muscles take three times the oxygen that fat does, and that’s a big reason why his gas tank has been suspect in the past. To compound his issue with stamina, we have not seen him in the cage in over a year. We have no idea where his conditioning level is at right now, which could be a big problem tomorrow night.
Gilbert Burns (18-3)
Gilbert Burns, bred to be a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Grappler, father’s was so desperate to get him Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu lessons, that he offered to fix grapplers’ cars to trade the for lessons to train Gilbert.
It worked, Gilbert trained for years at Nova Uniao, and in 2007 all the hard work paid off. Over the next four years, Burns accomplished some severe stuff in the sport. In 2007, he placed 2nd in the World Jiu-Jitsu Championships. He was happy, but not satisfied. In 2009 he suffered the same fate, winning another silver medal for 2nd place at the World Jiu-Jitsu Championships.
Another 2nd place finish sharpened the focus of Gilbert Burns. He went into the 2010 world cup on a mission and came out the other side with a win in the World Cup Final in Abu Dhabi. He had one more task in the practice of BJJ, and that was the gold medal that eluded him twice in the World Jiu-Jitsu Championships. Finally, in 2011 his dream came to fruition.
After winning the gold medal in 2011, he set his sights on the sport of mixed martial arts, and in 2012 he made his debut. By 2014 Burns made his debut for the UFC as a last-minute replacement at UFC on FOX 12. He would beat Andreas Stahl via unanimous decision, and a new UFC career was born.
All in all, Burns has fought 14 times for the biggest MMA promotion on the planet, amassing an (11-3) record. Burns took a big step in the direction of an eventual title shot, with back-to-back wins over Gunnar Nelson and Demian Maia. This would be his biggest test yet. Can Burns beat the #1 contender in the welterweight division this Saturday? He walks to the cage as the #6 ranked welterweight fighter in the world.
The BEST of Gilbert Burns
GRAPPLING – Gilbert Burns is a killer on the mat. He is a legitimate multi-time Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu World champion. That is extremely hard to deal with. If you are rolling with him, you are in a dangerous place. He showed off his skills by beating grapplers, the likes of Gunnar Nelson and Demian Maia. Nobody outside the top 5 was able to beat Maia for a very long time. That came to an end when faced Burns.
STRIKING – Burns’ striking is a lot better than people give him credit for. He is technical in the pocket, and he is effective at range. Woodley is probably the better striker, but the distance of skill level between the two has been blown out of proportion by people this week. Burns is not someone that Woodley can take lightly on Saturday night.
The WORST of Gilbert Burns
STRIKING DEFENSE – If there is one issue that Burns has, he leaves his chin out in the air sometimes in exchanges. Particularly exchanges in the pocket, which is a dangerous place to be lacking in any type of striking defense. Especially against Tyron Woodley.
WHO WIN THIS FIGHT?
This is a tough fight to call. If Tyron Woodley is the Woodley we saw before the Usman fight, he is the better fighter. This is a very big step up in class for Gilbert Burns. There are a couple of issues, though.
We have not seen Tyron Woodley inside the cage in a year. The last time we saw him, he looked terrible against Kamaru Usman in his title defense. Usman rode Woodley for five rounds, using his wrestling and draining him of every drop of stamina he had in the gas tank.
That is not precisely Burns’ style of fighting. However, Tyron Woodley is focused on other things besides the cage. He has a new rap career, which he is heavily invested in, and there is no chance he has spent as much time in the cage as he would have two years ago. If we know anything, it’s once your head isn’t focused on the cage, it gets taken off inside the cage.
There are so many question marks for Woodley. There are no question marks about the last 3+ years of Gilbert Burns’ career. He has been on a mission and is on fire right now. He is streaking and getting better every time we see him in the cage. The kid is hungry, and you can tell by this line. Would Gilbert Burns have been a +150 dog against Woodley two years ago or even last year? No, he would have been a +260 dog at the least.
Woodley is getting older, and his gas tank will be tested tomorrow night. We know that Woodley’s style of striking is him backing up to the point his back is against the cage, and then he starts to engage. The cage will be smaller tomorrow night because it’s at the Apex. He will have less room than he likes between himself and his opponent. I think the kid is live here, and with the plethora of questions I have surrounding Woodley, I think the kid might be worth taking a shot on.