At UFC Vegas 11 this weekend, we will finally see the conclusion of a long-term rivalry as Tyron Woodley fights Colby Covington in the welterweight division.
A fight originally scheduled for almost two years ago, Woodley was the undisputed champion of the world in the 170lbs division having successfully defended his belt four times. His next contender was due to be a young bull who had been grinding his way through the division, making enemies anywhere he could along the way. After beating Rafael Dos Anjos in dominant fashion, he was the new interim champion with the only thing between a bout against Woodley being finding a date they were both healthy.
Woodley had undergone surgery following his most recent win over Darren Till but was due to be ready in March. When the UFC offered Covington the fight, he opted not to take the date and instead get sinus surgery. The UFC responded by giving the title shot to Kamaru Usman and stripping Covington of the interim belt. Usman of course went on to defeat Woodley and subsequently Covington in his first defence, but the bad blood between ‘The Chosen One’ and ‘Chaos’ has never subsided.
When Tyron Woodley’s UFC London bout against Leon Edwards in March of 2020 was cancelled due to COVID-19, Covington was seemingly willing to step in on short notice to get it done. The fight never materialised with both parties blaming one another. It was then due to happen again in May, but Colby reportedly demanded too much money for a short-notice bout and Woodley ended up fighting Gilbert Burns and losing.
Now on a two-fight skid, Woodley and Covington have finally agreed to fight that will happen, all things going to plan, this Saturday night at the UFC Apex. A win for Covington could do more than just elevate him back into title contention, it could be the final nail in the coffin of Woodley’s career.
After dominating the division for so long Woodley was destroyed by Kamaru Usman and Gilbert Burns, who will meet in December for the title. With Colby’s style, another crushing loss is very possible. If that were to happen, not only would Woodley’s career at the highest level be done but it could effect the legacy he created for himself while champion.
While holding the belt, Woodley defeated Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson in a razor close decision after their first fight ended in a draw. He then defeated Demian Maia in one of the worst title fights in history, before submitting Darren Till via a d’arce choke. All these came after the violent knockout of Robbie Lawler to win the belt in the first round. He was putting himself in the conversation for greatest welterweight ever and was calling out Georges St-Pierre for a super-fight in the 170lbs divison.
But should Colby Covington run him over in the same way he’s run over everyone in the UFC except for Kamaru Usman, those victories become less and less impressive. Colby destroyed Robbie Lawler himself last year and has dismantled Demian Maia in the past too. Darren Till always struggled with the weight-cut to 170lbs and was arguably thrown in at the deep end as the UFC looked to push him to superstardom following his wins over Donald Cerrone and ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson. Even against Usman, Colby took it to the fifth round in a super close fight before he succumbed to a broken jaw late in the final round for a TKO loss.
The levels have risen exponentially and it can now probably be argued that Woodley was the king of a relatively weak division. As soon as the levels rose, he was out of his depth. It could be a coincidence, with Woodley hardly a spring chicken at 38 years old now but history won’t look so kindly on it.
A win over Colby Covington not only gets his career back on track, but shuts all the haters down once and for all. After struggling to engage in his last two fights, he has promised to ‘let his hands go’ against Covington. After all the back and forth talk between the two over the years, a loss would be embarrassing. But another loss in the manner of his previous two, something Covington is more than capable of, may well be the final straw for a career that is entering its twilight now anyway.
If ever there has been a must-win fight in MMA, this is it for Woodley.