The underdog role is usually reserved for the challenger in a title bout, but that is not always the case in the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s welterweight division.
Tyron Woodley may be the UFC welterweight champion of the world, but heading into his rematch with Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson in the main event of UFC 209 at T-Mobile Arena in Paradise, Nevada, he remains an underdog in the eyes of odds makers.
“Being the underdog doesn’t change anything,” Woodley said at the open workouts. “You’ve still got to go out there and fight. I’ve been the underdog…I don’t remember the last time I was the favorite, but I haven’t lost since Rory (MacDonald).
“I didn’t really get into this sport for people to worship me and people to bow at my feet. I got into this sport to be the best in the world, and right now, I’m one of the best. When I retire from fighting, I want to be pound-for-pound, the greatest welterweight that’s ever fought in The Octagon. My goal is to keep knocking off guys, one by one, and get to that point.”
Known as “The Chosen One,” Woodley made good on his first championship opportunity and knocked out now former welterweight titlist Robbie Lawler at the 2:48 mark of the first round in the main event bout of UFC 201 at Philips Arena in Atlanta, Georgia, last July.
After both fighters measured up their opponents in the early going, Woodley faked a left-handed punch and then, fired a sharp right hand that landed flush on the left side of Lawler’s face. The defending champion was clearly stunned and fell backward against the cage, which left open an opportunity to finish the fight.
Woodley did not waste a second, as he shot in and landed five straight punches with his right hand to Lawler’s face before the referee stepped in and called a stop to the championship bout.
Woodley landed eight of his 11 strikes (73 percent), and all of those were considered significant blows according to FightMetric.
After a 16-month absence from The Octagon, Woodley returned to become the ninth undisputed welterweight champion in UFC history, and posted the quickest finish to a championship bout ever in his weight class.
After a three-fight winning streak, Woodley fought Thompson to a majority draw in a welterweight title bout at UFC 205 at Madison Square Garden in New York City in November. However, unlike the first bout, Woodley is focused on finishing the fight if such an opportunity against Thompson, an unique karate striker, presents itself.
“I never underestimate an opponent,” Woodley said. “I never take anyone lightly. I was prepared for what he was in other fights. This time around, I think I’m just more prepared for the same thing. You could make adjustments in fights, but I just don’t think he’s going to be able to make the wrestling adjustment, the grappling adjustment, the power adjustment, the timing adjustment and the spacing adjustment.
“I’m just going to go out there and whatever opportunities I see, I’m well rounded. I can wrestle. I can grapple. I can punch. I can knock guys out, and I can also go through those hard, gritty fights. I’m just going to look for what he gives me, and I’ll take it.’”