Ahead of the UFC 235 co-main event showdown between champion Tyron Woodley and challenger Kamaru Usman, we give our official prediction.
We already broke down the stakes for both men in a separate piece, so with that out of the way, let’s get into our take on this 170lb title-clash.
If we have learned one thing over the last two or three years, it’s that Tyron is among the smartest fighters in the game, possessing the type of mind necessary to break down specialists like Stephen Thompson and Demian Maia – all while maintaining the power to smash threats like Robbie Lawler and Darren Till.
One look at this contest on paper may see many write it off as a clash of Woodley’s patience versus Usman’s pressure – where the first guy to allow the other to gain a foothold will begin to fall behind.
With this much power on both sides and a set of styles as contrasting as they are, though, it is a far more interesting pairing than many people give it credit for.
Usman’s insane cardio is coupled perfectly with his relentless wrestling attack to create a style that has seen him steamroll his way towards this title-shot with little issue.
Not that it has been particularly amazing to watch, in terms of action, but this guy is very clearly a top, top welterweight contender.
Woodley, in many ways, is nearly the opposite in terms of his approach.
Where Kamaru is relentless, Tyron will happily sit in waiting as he looks for the perfect opportunity to counter.
Kamaru is a cardio-machine, Tyron is a master at conserving the gas he has.
His tank has been proven to be decent at best, but his style of fighting serves the purpose of maintaining the level of stamina necessary for him to retain the dynamite in his hands into the final moments of the fight.
We saw it when he clattered Wonderboy hard in the fifth-round of their UFC 209 rematch.
The thing is, Tyron’s power and explosiveness, above all else, are the two things that have won every fight of his welterweight title-reign for him so far.
Yes, they’ve been helped by fantastic game-planning, ridiculous takedown defence and incredible IQ but when Lawler fell in the first, when Till was rocked hard and when Wonderboy and Maia ate those hard shots – the type of shots that swing rounds – the sheer force of his right-hand was to thank.
So the question here is whether Usman can make Tyron work enough to sap that right-hand’s power.
Whether he’s landing takedowns on the formidably tough-to-take-down champion or not, making Tyron work from the get-go through pressure will be paramount.
He has the gas to give Woodley five rounds of high-octane hell.
The first question is whether Tyron will be able to reciprocate.
The second is whether he’ll even have to.
The danger in attempting to implement a plan like this is Woodley’s fantastic ability as an explosive counter-puncher.
Will Usman be able to act on a gameplan that involves him closing the distance frequently without catching a hard fight-ending shot on the chin?
That there will be the question that decides this fight.
So what’s the prediction?
I think Tyron is going to crack him relatively early. Usman is by no means a bad striker but with the speed and power possessed by the champion, he’ll know that making this a grind in the grappling department will be his best chance at taking home the belt.
That’s not to say that Usman can’t hit Woodley hard in one of these closely-fought scrambles but since we’re in the business of making solid predictions, in the second-round, while under pressure, Tyron cracks Usman on the way in and finishes up with ground-and-pound for the TKO.
Prediction: Tyron Woodley via second-round TKO.
Cillian Cunningham, Pundit Arena