Luque vs Woodley
Tyron Woodley (19-6-1) vs Vicente Luque (19-7-1)
Tyron “The Chosen One” Woodley will take on Vicente Luque in the co-main event slot Saturday night. We last saw Woodley writhing around in pain with a rib injury in his fight against Colby Covington back in September. Luque will make his 16th octagon appearance and will look to make it 3 in a row. Let’s see how these guys match up.
Woodley Looks to End 3 Fight Skid
Former welterweight champion, Tyron Woodley, will be looking to turn things around and get back in the win column Saturday night. He took the belt with a huge right-hand KO over Robbie Lawler back in 2016. We saw him have a couple of razer close fights with Stephen Thompson, then go on to defend the belt against Damian Maia and Darren Till. Unfortunately for Woodley, he faced Kamaru Usman next and that’s where things really began going downhill for him. Usman applied relentless pressure, pinning Woodley to the cage, taking him down, and racking up a large margin of control time. Woodley’s usual strategy of backing up close to the cage and looking to land a big counter right was tailor-made to lose to pressure fighters with strong wrestling pedigrees. He then got matched up with Gilbert Burns (Usman’s training partner) and Colby Covington. Both fights were not competitive and Woodley seemed gun-shy and searching for answers throughout both fights.
“The Silent Assassin” has been a staple in the welterweight division for the past 6 years. He’s been fairly active, fighting 16 times in that span and facing many top welterweight contenders along the way (Thompson, Edwards, Muhammad). He lands a ludicrous 5.72 significant strikes per minute and will often use his edge in striking technique to take over fights. That being said, he’s not against getting drawn into all-out brawls where he can be susceptible to absorbing significant damage as well. He will hold a one-inch reach advantage over Woodley. He’s been submitted twice on the regional circuit but never knocked out in his pro career (or finished in the UFC).
Woodley has taken a ton of flack for the way he fought in his last three fights. The blueprint is certainly out there for how to beat him now. Fortunately for The American Top Team veteran, his opponent is not a grapple-heavy wrestling specialist. Luque will be looking to keep the fight on the feet and pick him apart over 3 rounds. Woodley has done well against strikers, but it’s not always pretty. His “sit back and look for the perfect counter” style can look brilliant when it works, and become an exercise in frustration when it doesn’t. We’ve seen Luque absorb a huge shot here and there without too much issue in the past as well. This means that even with this friendlier match-up, Woodley’s strategy may not work.
There’s an added X factor here that we should consider. Woodley is an athletic beast with a strong wrestling background as well and Luque’s takedown defense is fairly pedestrian at 64%. Sometimes fighters who find themselves on a large skid will be more apt to trust in a game plan that is the safest path to victory to get back in the winning column. That avenue is certainly there for Woodley but only he and his team know if that’s the plan at this point. I just can’t back him though. He’s 38 years old and hasn’t really ever changed or made adjustments throughout his UFC tenure. If he comes out reinvented or puts on a takedown clinic then so be it. Going with the favorite on this one seems like the smarter choice.
WINNER: VICENTE LUQUE
*stat source - www.ufcstats.com