While Tyron Woodley was able to neutralize submission specialist Demian Maia for the better part of five rounds in the UFC 214 co-headliner, his performance may have cost him a potentially lucrative showdown against Georges St. Pierre.
At a press conference three days prior to Saturday’s card, UFC President Dana White said the Michael Bisping vs. St. Pierre ship had sailed and that St. Pierre would face the winner of the Woodley-Maia bout at a later date. However, White changed his mind, according to him, in “f—-king round five” of a welterweight championship clash between Woodley and Maia that was low on thrills.
“Who wants to pay to see Tyron Woodley fight again? He is an absolute physical specimen. The guy could have finished the fight anytime he wanted to, but he didn’t want to take any risks,” White said. “You take no risks, you get no rewards.”
Maia entered the matchup on a seven-fight winning streak and had been able to dominate his opponents by primarily relying on his grappling skills. Against Woodley, the 39-year-old Brazilian couldn’t even bring the fight to the floor, as he failed on all 21 of his takedown attempts. While Woodley’s defensive wrestling was impressive, his output left plenty to be desired, and those in attendance at the Honda Center had no trouble voicing their displeasure as the contest ended.
“The guy [Maia] had one eye in the first round…I believe Woodley could have finished that in the first round, if not, he definitely could have finished that in the second round,” White said. “It’s easy to say a win is a win, but if you get booed out of an arena, that means people don’t want to watch you fight.”
Woodley, however, saw things differently.
“S—t, I thought it was a great performance,” he said. “You got a guy on a seven-fight winning streak, he’s taking out all seven opponents, world class opponents. Very resilient, very persistent on his attack. I was able to go out there and stop [all his takedowns]. This is my fourth title fight in 12 months. He shot  times. Think of how many top class welterweights he would have been able to put on the ground. He was not able to do any of that on me.
“I know fans they want to see blood, they want to see guts, they want to see a back and forth exchange, you also have to recognize that I’m fighting a specialist,” he continued. “Stephen Thompson, I’m not gonna sit out there and try to out spin kick him. I’m not gonna try to take down Demian Maia and prove that it’s time for me to get a black belt. I feel like it was a very tactical fight. I feel like I did everything, stuck to the game plan and I walk around with my head up and the belt still around my waist.”
That said, Woodley was skeptical about fighting St. Pierre when White announced it last week. That it’s suddenly off the table comes as no surprise to the welterweight champion.
“I had already put that out the back of my mind….I like to focus and give my opponent the respect he deserves. Now, he [St. Pierre] should have to fight me,” Woodley said. “You were the best welterweight of all time. You’re going to come back into the sport and come up a weight class. I guarantee you if Demian Maia would have won, [St. Pierre] would have been talking about fighting Demian Maia. I guarantee you if Stephen Thompson would have won, he would have been looking to fight Stephen Thompson. He doesn’t want to fight me because I’m a better version of him.”
Even if St. Pierre had wanted to fight Woodley, it might not matter at this point. White sounds ready to book the fight he initially announced in March, although he doesn’t currently have a date in mind.
“Because I know Michael Bisping will fight. Michael Bisping will show up and he will fight,” White said. “So we will give it to him.”