UFC Vegas 11 headliner
We have an incredible main event to look forward to this weekend, as Colby Covington and Tyron Woodley finally face off this Saturday on ESPN+. We’ve all been waiting to see this fight for some time now, a little over two years at this point.
This battle of former teammates has all the intrigue in the world, it’s one of the biggest and most entertaining rivalries in the sport.
It all started when ‘The Chosen One’ left American Top Team, the first gym Covington ever went to. It was the only training facility Covington ever belonged to up until a few months ago, he was kicked out for creating issues with multiple teammates in the gym.
Now ‘Chaos’ isn’t with American Top Team anymore, and coincidentally enough, Woodley is back there training with Covington’s ex main training partner, Jorge Masvidal. That makes for a very interesting topic of discussion.
These two were initially supposed to meet around this time in 2018, but it didn’t end up happening. Woodley was the undisputed UFC Welterweight Champion, and Covington was the interim UFC Welterweight Champion.
Woodley stated that he wouldn’t be able to fight until December, so Covington got the nasal surgery he needed after the Rafael dos Anjos fight. All of a sudden, Woodley was defending his title against Darren Till on five weeks notice.
Covington got passed up, and Woodley successfully defended his belt. There was talk about them fighting at UFC 233, considering the main event (Dillashaw vs. Cejudo) was moved forward a week.
Woodley was in talks to defend his belt against Covington, and then Kamaru Usman, both of which fell through, along with a couple other failed bookings. The event was eventually cancelled. We were also supposed to see this fight last month in August, but Woodley understandably wanted more time to prepare.
Now it’s finally time to see these two go at it, and it’s surely going to be a good one! ‘The Chosen One’ started out his mixed martial arts career exactly three years before ‘Chaos’, and he’s one of the most successful 170 lb fighters in the sports history.
Tyron Woodley came to Strikeforce with a 2-0 record, and racked up three straight victories, making it 5-0 with five finishes in his rookie year. At this point, four of his five wins were via submission, but he hasn’t had another one since.
He then defeated Nathan Coy via split decision and Andre Galvao via TKO, before defeating Tarec Saffiedine and Paul Daley both via unanimous decision.
This was followed up with a a split decision victory over Jordan Mein, and he was now fighting for the Strikeforce Welterweight Championship, the title Nick Diaz vacated in order to make his UFC comeback.
Woodley used his wrestling to win most of his earlier fights, but it’s something he’s gotten away from. He hasn’t really wrestled anyone since coming to the UFC, except defensively of course.
Nate Marquardt was the opposing party, a seven-time Pancrase Middleweight Champion, and a former UFC middleweight title challenger that had over 40 fights to Woodley’s 10. Woodley ultimately lost this fight via KO in round four, suffering his first defeat.
Woodley made his UFC debut six months later against Jay Hieron, who he KO’d in just 36 seconds. It was a very impressive promotional debut. He would drop his next fight to former multiple-promotion world champion Jake Shields via split decision in a very close fight, bringing his record to 11-2.
Next Woodley picked up knockout wins over Josh Koscheck and Carlos Condit. He KO’d Koscheck with a thunderous overhand right, and he injured Condit’s leg to get the TKO victory.
Woodley then lost a unanimous decision to Rory MacDonald, he was just not on MacDonald’s level. MacDonald was too technical, too long, and pressured him too much for him to have an answer.
After his loss to MacDonald is when he really started to put it all together. He TKO’d Dong Hyun Kim in just 61 seconds, before defeating Kelvin Gastelum via split decision in a fight Gastelum missed weight by nine pounds for.
After over a year of inactivity, ‘The Chosen One’ was chosen to face then UFC Welterweight Champion Robbie Lawler for the title, and the outcome truly shocked us all.
We all knew Woodley was capable of doing what he did, but Lawler was on top of the game performing better than ever, and Woodley KO’d him at 2:12 of round one.
Lawler had only ever been knocked out once prior in his career, by Nick Diaz in his tenth fight, his chin was as granite as they come.
Woodley retained his title in his first defense against Stephen Thompson, considering it ended in a draw. They had an immediate rematch, where Woodley defended his title, winning via majority decision. His next test came against Demian Maia, and he won that fight via unanimous decision.
Though the Maia fight wasn’t entertaining, Woodley stuffed all 21 of Maia’s takedown attempts. Maia was 10-2 at 170 lbs at that point, and had taken all twelve welterweight opponents down prior to his fight with Woodley.
Woodley then defended his title against the 17-0-1 Darren Till.
After an uneventful first round, Woodley cracked Till with a vicious overhand right, before landing some thunderous ground-and-pound, ultimately submitting him with a D’Arce choke at 4:19 of round two.
This was Woodley’s last win however, as he’s dropped back-to-back defeats since. Not only has he lost his last two, but both were five round fights, and he lost all ten rounds quite dominantly. To his defense, Kamaru Usman and Gilbert Burns are two of the best fighters on the planet.
Colby Covington came to the UFC with a 5-0 record back in 2014, and quickly won back-to-back fights from August to November, finishing one via TKO, and one via submission (rear naked choke).
He next fought Mike Pyle, a veteran with nearly 40 fights that was 5-2 in his last seven with four knockouts. Covington handily out-paced and out-wrestled him to a unanimous decision victory.
Next came Covington’s first defeat, where he was submitted by Warlley Alves with a guillotine choke, a fight he was injured going into. Covington quickly rebounded with back-to-back third round finishes, before winning unanimous decisions over Bryan Barberena, Dong Hyun Kim, and Demian Maia.
‘Chaos’ was quickly becoming one of the best fighters in the entire sport in front of our very own eyes.
He still fights the same as he did then, but he’s improved so much in the time he’s been here in the UFC. He next fought former UFC Lightweight Champion Rafael dos Anjos for the interim welterweight title, and won that fight via unanimous decision.
Covington should have been next in line to challenge for the undisputed title, he was now the interim UFC Welterweight Champion, but he wasn’t next in line. It turns out Darren Till was.
Nonetheless, he came back after 14 months away and put a clinic on Robbie Lawler, breaking a few records in the process.
He broke the record for the most strikes attempted in a UFC fight, throwing 541 total strikes, which is absolutely insane. The cardio Covington possesses is what makes that possible. He’s got that third lung you rarely hear about, it’s pretty insane to witness.
Covington also joined the short list of UFC fighters that had ten takedowns and one-hundred significant strikes landed in a single UFC fight, the only other two being Kamaru Usman and Cain Velasquez.
Lawler has always had great takedown defense, but it was no match for Covington. Over half of the takedowns ‘Chaos’ got were within the first eight minutes of the fight, he just put on a mixed martial arts clinic the entire 25 minutes.
‘Chaos’ was finally fighting for an undisputed belt next, which was very exciting. Even though most people can’t stand him, everyone was happy to see it happen, he was undeniably next in line, and had been for a long time.
His fight with Usman was about as good as they get. We had the clear No. 1 and No. 2 welterweights in the world fighting for the belt that night, and they just threw down the entire time.
What’s kind of crazy, neither of them even attempted a takedown, which is crazy when you know how great they both are at wrestling. It was a straight kickboxing match with minimal tie-ups the entire fight.
It was a very close contest. One judge had it 3-1 for Colby going into round five, one had it 3-1 Usman, and the other had it 2-2. Whoever won round five would have won and walked away the champion via split decision.
Covington was doing well in the first three minutes of the fifth round too, but he got his jaw broken in round three, and it couldn’t take the punishment anymore.
He still fought very well considering, he’s as tough as they come. Covington ended up getting dropped multiple times in round five, and though many disagree with the stoppage, considering he’d been dropped, he would have lost the decision regardless.
Colby Covington (15-2) vs. Tyron Woodley (19-5-1)
This is such an incredible match up for so many reasons. It’s too bad we couldn’t see it happen while they were both coming off numerous wins while they were both champions, but it’s certainly better late than never.
Some people think this is a bad match up for Woodley at this point in his career, but really, Covington has always been a nightmare match up for Woodley.
That’s not to say Woodley can’t win this fight, he certainly can, he can beat anyone on any given night. His power is insane, and he’s an expert at timing his shot.
However, when you look at Woodley’s career, not just his last two fights, but his whole career, he’s struggled with elite opponents that pressure him. That’s exactly what Covington is, an elite opponent who’s going to be in his face the entire time.
We can look back to Woodley’s fight with Jake Shields. He was out-worked throughout the fight, and even though Shields didn’t do anything effective, he did more than Woodley.
His fight with Marquardt shouldn’t be considered as much for this, considering it was his first defeat against an opponent four times more experienced than him.
Woodley’s fight with Rory MacDonald, he was out-paced, out-worked, out-wrestled, and out-struck. The same story was shown in his last two fights, where he fought opponents that just wouldn’t let him breathe.
Now look at all of his wins, none of his opponents really pressured him except for Condit, and he injured Condit’s leg in that fight with a leg kick, granting him the victory.
That’s how he’s fought his entire career, aside from when he’d wrestle his opponents. Not as much has changed about him as most people think.
If all of them can do that to Woodley, especially considering his last two fights have gone that way, you’d think Covington could handily do the same thing.
On the contrary, if someone like Kamaru Usman can break Covington’s jaw, it’s safe to say Woodley can definitely do the same, and maybe even knock him out. That’s the most interesting part of this match up.
Does Woodley land that bomb on Covington’s chin, or does Covington run right through him like he does everyone else?
One other thing that makes this a tough match up for Woodley is that he likes to take steps back when he fights. He circles around the outside of the cage, his back is almost always no more than three feet from the fence.
It helps him explode with a barrage of punches, and it gives him a lot of distance to work with, but that’ll just make it that much easier for Covington to press him into it.
Woodley had the highest takedown defense in UFC history up until his last two fights, where he was taken down twice in each appearance. He of course got that from his background in wrestling, where he was a two-time NCAA Division I All-American, as well as a Big 12 Conference Champion.
Covington also got his start in wrestling, where he was an NJCAA National Champion and All-American, before becoming an NCAA Division I All-American and a two-time Pac 10 Champion. He also placed fifth one year in the NCAA Division I National Championships.
Covington is right in the middle of his prime years at 32-years-old, while Woodley is seemingly approaching the end at 38-years-old. Woodley does have a reach advantage, as he’s 5’9” with a 74” reach, and Covington is 5’11” with a 72” reach.
That may help Woodley in landing one of those bombs on Covington. Not only does he have a two inch reach advantage, but he’s one of the best in the entire sport at covering distance with his punches.
Covington stated back in 2018 that he was going to retire ‘The Chosen One’. It’s doubtful that would have happened, even if he did defeat him, because of course Woodley is going to try and get back to the top. He did that after losing to Usman, he would’ve done that if he lost to Covington.
However, if he beats Woodley now, that’ll be three straight losses for the former champion, and he may actually end up being the man to retire him after all.
Who do you see winning this epic welterweight main event?
I became a fan of combat sports when I was 12 years old. I was scrolling through the channels and landed upon versus, where WEC was televised. Urijah Faber fought Jens Pulver for the second time that night. That’s the first fight I saw, and the fight that got me hooked on the sport. Since then, the sport has grown so rapidly, and my goal is to enlighten everyone on what’s going on in the sport today.