A night filled with upsets in the UFC octagon, Tyron Woodley returned from an extended layoff to knock out Robbie Lawler in the first round and claim the welterweight title.
An overhand right from Woodley (16-3 MMA, 6-2 UFC) caught Lawler (27-11 MMA, 12-5 UFC) at the 2:12 mark of the opening frame, setting up a shocking finish for the sixth change in UFC titleholders this year.
Lawler’s fall was the third of five pay-per-view fights where the betting favorite was upset, and the latest in a series of unexpected results in title bouts. The champ had clinched but once with challenger Woodley against the fence, getting a quick separation from referee Dan Miragliotta, before the concussive punch landed.
“I was in the back, and I was relaxed,” Woodley said afterward. “I’ve been extremely relaxed. I was nervous that I wasn’t nervous.
“I knew what Robbie brought to the table. He’s a tough competitor. This is not the first fight I would pick. He’s a friend of mine. I admire his career. Hats off to Robbie, but I’ve been envisioning this belt being around my waist my entire life.”
Considering the stakes, and how long it took him to get there, Woodley’s calmness was all the more remarkable. It took him 18 months to realize a title shot, and the circumstances under which he got one came with minor controversy.
After a “Fight of the Year” candidate between Lawler and onetime interim champ Carlos Condit at UFC 195, there was strong talk of an immediate rematch. Instead, the promotion elected to follow through on a verbal promise to award Woodley the next shot after a title eliminator against ex-champ Johny Hendricks at UFC 192 was scrapped when Hendricks was forced to withdraw from the fight due to a botched weight cut.
Woodley, a former collegiate wrestling standout, elected to wait for Lawler rather than take another fight. When he stepped into the octagon at UFC 201, he was a slight underdog against Lawler, who also is a member of the famed American Top Team.
When Lawler dropped to the mat, however, Woodley quickly capitalized until the referee was forced to intervene.
“We knew that Robbie would be well-prepared for a takedown, that he would be hitting me with knees and uppercuts and being aggressive to defend it,” Woodley said. “So I used a little bit of speed and a blitz to cover the gap, and when I saw the opening, I went with the right hand. Something just kept telling me that right hand was going to be open.”
Lawler, who was attempting his third title defense, suffers his first loss in six outings, while Woodley has now won three straight and claimed the biggest win of his career.
Team MMAThread ✌️