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Tyron Woodley has endured a steep decline since his reign as UFC welterweight champion.
The 38-year-old suffered his third consecutive loss at UFC Fight Night 178, falling to Colby Covington via fifth-round technical knockout in Saturday’s headliner at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas. That defeat comes on the heels of lopsided setbacks at the hands of Gilbert Burns at UFC on ESPN 9 this past May and to reigning 170-pound king Kamaru Usman in 2019.
UFC president Dana White believes Woodley’s recent struggles could signal the end of the line for the Missouri native.
“I think that he should start thinking about hanging it up,” White said at the UFC Fight Night 178 post-fight press conference. “He’s had a great career, he’s had a great run. He’s made money.”
When Woodley was initially expected to face Covington at UFC 228 in September 2018, he was being mentioned as one sport’s greatest welterweights. Tension between the two former American Top Team stablemates was high, seemingly setting the stage for a bitter grudge match in the Octagon. However, Covington was unable to compete at the event, and Woodley submitted Darren Till in the UFC 228 main event — his last victory within the Las Vegas-based promotion.
Two years later, Woodley vs. Covington didn’t live up to the hype that the welterweights’ bad blood outside of the cage had served to build. Covington dominated the majority of the contest through volume striking, clinch work, takedowns and ground-and-pound before Woodley suffered a rib injury 79 seconds into the fifth round, ending what had been a lopsided affair.
White wasn’t exactly surprised that the grudge match didn’t deliver.
“Listen, I don’t want to have the whole ‘let’s s—t on Woodley’ press conference, but Woodley’s had this throughout his career,” White said. “He’ll come out and knock a guy out explosively and whatever, and then have a fight where they lay on the fence for five rounds. I wouldn’t say that this is shocking, that this has never happened before, but—I don’t know.
“Listen, we all get older, it happens. It happens to the best of us. But Woodley’s had a good career. He’s been a champion, he’s been around here for a while, had a good run in Strikeforce too.”
From 2014 to 2018, Woodley was unbeaten in seven Octagon appearances, a run that included a knockout of Robbie Lawler to claim welterweight gold and title defenses against the likes of Stephen Thompson, Demian Maia and Till. There was hope that he would be able to rebound from lackluster performances against Usman and Burns, but Woodley simply could not use his distaste for his opponent to his advantage on Saturday night.
Heading into the bout, White thought that the UFC Fight Night 178 headliner might resemble the slugfest between Covington and Kamaru Usman last December. That was not the case.
“It depended on what Woodley was going to show up,” White said. “Which Tyron Woodley was going to show up. Like I said, it should have been a lot like the Usman fight. But that wasn’t the Tyron we got tonight.”
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