Tyron Woodley returns to the octagon for the first time since losing the UFC welterweight title to Kamaru Usman at UFC 235. The Chosen One will take on Gilbert Burns in the main event of UFC Fight Night: Woodley vs Burns at the UFC’s Apex Facility in Las Vegas, Nevada on May 30, 2020.
The event will be televised via ESPN and ESPN+ with the prelims starting at 6 pm ET and the main card scheduled to begin at 9 pm ET.
While the event is final and official, the venue is still subject to change as the Nevada State Athletic Commission will still formally vote on the reopening of combat sports activities in the state. The NSAC suspended all sports in March 2020 due to the pandemic and are scheduled to meet on May 27, 2020 to officially make their decision.
Let’s take a close look at Saturday’s main event and make our predictions on the different bets for the bout:
Tyron Woodley is the former UFC welterweight champion and a former two-time All-American NCAA Division 1 wrestler at the University of Missouri. The 38-year old from Ferguson, Missouri fought for Strikeforce before it was merged with the UFC. In his last Strikeforce bout, he suffered his first loss ever after getting knocked out by Nate Marquardt for the vacant Strikeforce welterweight title.
Woodley had been unbeaten in his previous 7 bouts when he faced Kamaru Usman at UFC 235 in March 2019. Usman dominated Woodley from start to finish, winning the bout via decision. The Nigerian Nightmare took every round on all three judges’ scorecards including a pair of 10-8 rounds.
Before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, Woodley was supposed to fight Leon Edwards at UFC Fight Night London with the winner presumably earning a title shot against Usman. However, that event was canceled, leaving Woodley on the shelf fo the last two months. By the time Woodley enters the octagon this weekend, it will be 15 months since he last fought.
Woodley stands 5-9 tall and has a reach of 74 inches while fighting out of the orthodox stance. He owns a record of 19-4 with seven knockouts and five wins via submission. Before his loss to Usman, the last time Woodley got beaten inside the octagon was in 2014 when he was defeated by Rory MacDonald at UFC 174.
Gilbert Burns is a three-time Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu world champion. The 33-year old from Rio de Janeiro in Brazil started his combat career in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and is one of the most decorated BJJ practitioners in his native country. After winning the gold medal in 2011, he chose to focus on MMA.
In 2012, he was chosen by former UFC champion Vitor Belfort to be the grappling coach of Team Vitor at The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil. In 2014, he found his way to the UFC’s roster and won two out of his first three bouts by submission. After earning back to back Performance of the Night honors, Burns suffered his first career loss to Rashid Magomedov and went 3-2 in his next five bouts.
But he’s picked up five straight wins since December 2018. The first two fights on that streak were at lightweight but Burns has returned to welterweight since submitting Mike Davis in April 2019. With three consecutive wins at 170 pounds, he’s cracked the Top 10 and is now #6 in the UFC rankings.
Burns has fought four times since Woodley’s last bout and he has been victorious in all four matches. In his last bout, the 2011 World Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Championship gold medalist knocked out BJJ expert Demian Maia in the first round at UFC Fight Night Brasilia last March 14, 2020, the last event before the pandemic halted UFC operations. He stands 5-10 tall with a reach of 71 inches and is an orthodox fighter. His overall record is 18-3 with six knockouts and eight wins by submission.
There is no question that Burns is a terrific grappler. His BJJ credentials can attest to that. His wins over Mike Davis and Lukasz Sajewski proved that he has carried his talents to MMA. From the clinch, he has a good array of trips and takedowns which he uses very well. However, he isn’t a great wrestler and can be outclassed on the ground.
On his feet, Burns was outclassed by Charles Oliveira before he submitted Do Bronx. Rashid Magomedov outstruck him on the feet. But he does have punching power and has shown improvement on his feet in his last couple of bouts. His knockout of Maia was impressive considering the only other fighter to knockout Maia was Nate Marquardt.
Burns may have the advantage in pure grappling but Woodley is no slouch on the mat. The Chosen One is also a BJJ black belt and he has never been submitted in his entire MMA career. Woodley is also a terrific wrestler owing to his NCAA background. When it comes to fighting on the ground, Woodley is more dangerous because he is physical and he has a terrific ground and pound attack.
Woodley is a hard hitter although he doesn’t have many knockouts to his credit. He is an excellent counter-puncher who is smart on the feet. The thing with Woodley though is that he is susceptible to aggressive strikers like Rory MacDonald. If Burns can back up Woodley, he has a good shot at upsetting the former champion.
However, I don’t think that Burns has enough technical striking to beat Woodley. Sure, there is a chance that he knocks out the American but I’m leaning towards Woodley using his muscle to put Burns on the ground. I know that’s a scary thing given Burns’ BJJ reputation but as I said earlier, he isn’t an elite wrestler and can be outworked on the ground. Look for Woodley to punish Burns with takedowns. I see Woodley ending this fight in the championship rounds.
PREDICTION: TYRON WOODLEY (-177)
Gilbert Burns has never fought past round three and he’s only gone the distance in six out of 21 professional fights, losing four-times in those six bouts. On the other hand, Tyron Woodley has gone five rounds in four out of his last five bouts. There was once a time when Woodley’s cardio was questioned but he’s erased those doubts since becoming champion.
Given Woodley’s resume, you would want to go OVER 4.5 rounds here. However, Woodley is such a great wrestler that he can offset Burns’ BJJ advantage on the ground. If nothing much changes in Tyron Woodley’s game after a 15-month absence, I expect him to be too powerful for Burns on the ground. I don’t think Burns can last more than three rounds if Woodley gets on top of him.
PREDICTION: UNDER 4.5 (-180)
Burns has finished 14 of his 16 wins so if he is going to win here, it’s likely going to be via knockout or submission. On the other hand, Woodley only has one knockout win since 2015 and that was when he surprised Robbie Lawler. However, I think that he is too powerful for Burns.
I’m happy for Gilbert Burns that he has gotten near the top. I’ve seen him continue to improve over the years, especially his striking. However, he hasn’t fought someone like Tyron Woodley. While I think that the Chosen One isn’t one of the best knockout artists in this division, he has a powerful ground and pound which I think Burns won’t be able to handle for too long.
PREDICTION: NO (-138)
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