After a couple of weeks with low-key shows, the UFC presents a genuinely stacked card this weekend. UFC Fight Night 178 not only has a major main event, but there are a number of undercard fights that should pique the interest of fans too.
Basically, this is a pay-per-view level card in all but name.
#1 UFC Welterweight Division: Colby Covington vs. Tyron Woodley
To say this clash has been a long time coming would be a major understatement. Former UFC Welterweight champ Woodley was initially expected to defend this title against Covington in a highly personal fight back in 2018. But injuries and difficult negotiations with the UFC meant that the fight never happened.
Woodley instead defended the title against Darren Till, and then fatefully, against Kamaru Usman – who beat him down to dethrone him. Usman would then defend successfully against Covington, knocking him out in the fifth round back in December 2019.
'Chaos' hasn't fought since, while Woodley made a return to the UFC in May, only to lose in an upset to Gilbert Burns. Thankfully though, the rivalry between these two has never fully gone away, meaning that despite 'The Chosen One' falling from grace somewhat, UFC fans will still be looking forward to this one come Saturday.
What it really comes down to is a fight between two excellent wrestlers with very different striking styles. It seems unlikely that either man will truly be able to dominate in the wrestling department - so whoever gets the advantage standing will probably win this fight.
As anyone who's ever seen him fight knows, Woodley is almost purely a counter-striker on the feet. It's why he's been part of some truly awful fights in the UFC – think his clashes with Stephen Thompson and Demian Maia – but has also thrilled with some incredible knockouts.
If a fighter is willing to come at Woodley, there's every chance that he'll catch them with either his left hook or his overhand right to put them out. But if they're more patient, then 'The Chosen One' is more likely to simply circle around with his back to the fence, waiting for an opportunity to strike. Sure, he has powerful leg kicks too, but again, he tends to throw them on the counter.
That's why this fight is interesting. Covington's striking style is literally all about volume. His cardio is second to none in the entire UFC, as he consistently pushes forward, throwing a ridiculous amount of combinations without really slowing down.
The issue he's had has largely been a lack of striking power. He hit both Usman and Robbie Lawler with a ridiculous amount of strikes but never really came close to putting them away. And against Usman, he eventually ended up in a standing shootout that he was largely outgunned in.
That's basically because Covington's striking success relies a lot on him also having the potential to take his opponent down. The likes of Lawler and Rafael Dos Anjos couldn't stop him from grabbing hold of them, and that innate fear of the takedown then led them to be unable to stop his volume on the feet.
Against Woodley, though, who Covington theoretically shouldn't be able to out-grapple easily? Then things become interesting. If 'Chaos' can't threaten with his takedown and he tries to throw volume at Woodley, there's every chance that he walks into a huge shot and ends up badly hurt.
However, the more I think about this one, the more I'm leaning towards Covington. While Woodley's counter-striking has always been dangerous, his tendency to circle closely to the fence could get him into major trouble in this fight.
Based on his UFC losses to Usman and Burns, 'The Chosen One' is susceptible to an opponent who's willing to force him back and then look to rough him up in the clinch. To see Usman do that to Woodley wasn't too shocking. But Burns was able to do it as well, despite not having the wrestling game that 'The Nigerian Nightmare' possesses.
Add in the fact that Woodley is getting older now (he's 39 next year) and doesn't have the cardio of Covington, and I think everything comes together to make this a good fight for 'Chaos.' For the UFC Welterweight title back in 2018? Maybe it would've gone the other way. But post-Burns? I'm just not convinced Woodley has it anymore, sadly.