- Date & Location: Saturday, May 30, 2020 @ Apex Gym in Las Vegas, NV
- Odds: Tyron Woodley -170, Gilbert Burns +140
- Prediction: Woodley via decision
On May 30, former UFC welterweight champion Tyron Woodley faces Gilbert Burns in the main event of UFC Fight Night 173. The location of the card has not yet been announced, but the UFC would like to hold the event in either Las Vegas or Nevada. (Editor’s note: the location has been set; the card will take place at UFC’s Apex Gym in Las Vegas.)
Woodley, who is the No. 1-ranked fighter in the official UFC welterweight rankings, has not fought since he lost his title to Kamaru Usman in March 2019. Burns, who is the No. 6-ranked 170-pounder, has won his past five fights. His most recent win was a March 2020 TKO win over former title challenger Demian Maia.
WOODLEY VS BURNS ODDS
WOODLEY VS BURNS PREDICTION & PICK
Before his loss to Usman, Woodley was unbeaten in seven fights. His past six outings have all been title fights. Woodley knows what pressure feels like in a UFC bout. That’s something his opponent is unfamiliar with. Burns has never fought in a UFC main event.
Another advantage Woodley has is that he has faced top-level welterweight competition for most his career. Before he moved to the UFC, Woodley competed against the best 170-pound fighters in Strikeforce. The former UFC champ has spent the past nine years near or at the top of the welterweight division.
Burns moved from lightweight to the 170-pound weight class in the summer of 2019. He is 3-0 since that move. Burns has not faced the level of competition Woodley has met inside the octagon, though.
Woodley’s main event experience and the level of competition he has faced along with his ability to control pace will be the difference in this matchup.
Pick: Woodley (-170)
BETTING VALUE WITH WOODLEY
Woodley had a hard time finding his groove against Usman. After the loss, Woodley said, “The only thing I can take away is that I had to go back and rebuild, sharpen my tools, get that hunger back, that’s where I feel like I’m at right now.”
The former champ has had more than a year to reset. Don’t expect to see the same Woodley step into the octagon opposite Burns. He has something to prove in this fight and I expect Woodley to be focused on earning himself another shot at UFC gold as soon as he can.
Woodley has no gaping holes in his game. His skill set and his ability to control pace, range and location will enable him to earn the win.
Woodley has shown an ability to blitz his opponents and knock them out with that attack, but with Burns developing into a deadly striker, Woodley will likely be careful in this matchup. I see Woodley winning this one by decision.
WHO HAS THE EDGE?
Burns is a top-level grappler with a developing striking game. He has displayed solid power in his strikes. Half of Burns’ six career knockout victories have come since 2017. The problem for Burns is that Woodley is great at takedown defense and counter-striking, and he has never lost via submission.
The difference maker should be Woodley’s ability to control the pace of the fight. I expect the ex-champ to do everything he can to run Burns’ gas tank down throughout the first three rounds while still landing effective counters and then up his pressure in the final two rounds.
Woodley’s takedown defense of 92 percent should allow him to keep the scrap from hitting the mat and his reach advantage should help with his counters. Woodley’s strength should also allow him to force Burns to the cage and make him carry his weight in that position.
Heading into his bout against Usman, Woodley was on a 6-0-1 run. He won the welterweight title from Robbie Lawler via first-round knockout in July 2016 and then fought Stephen Thompson to a draw. His next bout was a rematch with Thompson, which Woodley won via majority decision. He then successfully defended his title against Maia and Till. As far as quality of competition in the welterweight division, Woodley’s opponents over the past nine years, where he went 12-4-1, have been more elite than the fighters Burns has faced.
Burns’ first fight in the UFC, which came in 2014, was a welterweight contest. Burns won that scrap by decision. He then dropped down to lightweight where he went on a 7-3 run before he moved back to 170 pounds. Burns’ three recent wins as a welterweight all came between August 2019 and March 2020. His activity and victories over that period have allowed him to surge in the rankings. His quality of competition in those bouts – Alexey Kunchenko, Gunnar Nelson and Maia – pales when compared to Woodley’s opponents.
FIGHT STATS: WOODLEY VS BURNS
|Tyron Woodley||Category||Gilbert Burns|
|2.50||Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute||3.13|
|2.58||Significant Strikes Absorbed Per Minute||3.02|
|1.21||Takedown Average Per 15 Minutes||2.39|
|0.50||Submission Average Per 15 Minutes||0.7|
WHAT’S AT STAKE
There’s a slim chance that Woodley could get a title shot with a win on May 30, but with the UFC looking to book Usman against Jorge Masvidal, a more likely matchup would be a bout against former interim champion Colby Covington in a title eliminator. A loss for Woodley could also match him up against Covington, who is the No. 3-ranked welterweight, or the No. 4-ranked Leon Edwards.
If Burns pulls the upset he would probably be in the same boat as Woodley. There’s also the possibility of him being matched up against the No. 5-ranked Stephen Thompson. A loss wouldn’t be a disaster for Burns since he is only three fights into his current welterweight run. He would still likely face a top-10 opponent in his next outing.