Former welterweight champion Tyron Woodley stepped inside the Octagon for the first time since March 2019 on Saturday against Gilbert Burns in the UFC on ESPN 9 main event. It was Woodley’s first fight since losing the title to Kamaru Usman by unanimous decision.
Burns entered the bout riding a five-fight winning streak and ranked No. 6 in the weight class. Woodley was expecting to take his first step back toward a title shot while Burns was looking to take out the top contender in the division and make a statement.
Burns took the fight to the former titleholder, knocking Woodley down with an uppercut early in the opening round. Burns followed Woodley to the canvas and opened up a cut over Woodley left eye with an elbow. Woodley held on and exploded to his feet but wasn’t able to mount an offense.
Woodley’s best moment came in the opening moments of the second frame. He rushed in with a combination that pushed Burns back. Burns changed levels and took Woodley down. As Woodley worked to get back to his feet, Burns connected with a knee to the body and two right hands.
Burns outworked Woodley landing 78 significant strikes to Woodley’s 29. In the fourth round, Burns connected cleanly with a combination. Woodley tried to move away but was clipped with a right hand that staggered him.
The final round, Woodley looked to land a big right hand to end it but was unable to. Burns continued to press forward until the closing bell. The judges scored the fight for Burns with Woodley not winning a single round.
“I trained so hard for this fight. I knew I could do it. I was calling these guys out for a reason,” said Burns following the biggest win of his career. “That was a former champion right there and you saw a dominant performance.”
By defeating the former champion and top ranked contender in the division, Burns put himself in contender status in a crowded weight class. When asked who he wanted to face next, Burns called out his training partner and champion Kamaru Usman.
“I love the champ. He’s my training partner, Kamaru Usman, but give me a shot,” he said. “I want to fight for the title. A lot of respect and love for you (Usman), but I think I’m next. I’m next. I’m right there.”