To swipe a phrase from the Mortal Kombat lexicon, UFC welterweight champion Tyron Woodley pulled off a near flawless victory in his UFC 228 title defense over Darren Till.
Woodley knocked the previously undefeated Englishman from the ranks of the unbeaten with a masterful second-round win via D’Arce choke submission at UFC 228. The brutal finishing sequence started with a right hook to the jaw that sent Till tumbling to the canvas, then saw Woodley pour on a steady diet of ground-and-pound en route to securing the fight-ending submission. In total, Woodley connected on a remarkable 77 percent of the 97 strikes he threw, while being hit by Till only once throughout the nine-minute fight. And according to one of Woodley’s head coaches, former UFC fighter Din Thomas, the roadmap to Woodley’s success all began with a gameplan that focused on early aggression.
“I don’t think anybody expected that,” Thomas explained Monday on The MMA Hour. “This is what I’m saying, we’ve prepared Tyron to do that in some other fights and it just didn’t work out. But when you put that pressure on Darren, I don’t think he expected that. You expect Tyron to back up and wait, wait, and wait, so we said we really need to get in his face and make Darren Till work. We knew he cut a lot of weight, we knew he wouldn’t be able to work for five rounds the way Tyron was prepared to work for five rounds. So we said, we need to get to him early, start creating angles and not allowing him to get that left hand off.
“So that’s exactly what Tyron did. He got in his face, took away the angle of the left hand, and everything worked out in our favor.”
Till’s size was a major talking point leading into the fight. The 25-year-old Liverpudlian is a massive welterweight who cuts a lot of weight to hit the 170-pound welterweight limit.
Thomas explained that Team Woodley respected Till’s skills immensely, but when it came to the topic of size, they wasn’t worried about the discrepancy between the two fighters nearly as much as the public was. Other aspects of Till’s game concerned Thomas far more.
“If Tyron had gotten hit with a couple of left hands, that would’ve been the worst-case scenario — if he got hit with a couple of left hands and still been able to pull out a decision or something like that, because Darren Till is a dangerous fighter,” Thomas said. “We were pretty concerned about some of the assets that Darren Till possesses. But in no [way in my] mind did I ever think that Tyron couldn’t beat him based on the weight difference, the height difference, or anything like that. It was just a matter of being able to execute. I mean, Tyron’s a short guy, he was at a disadvantage when it comes to height, but we knew that Tyron possessed the speed to be able to get inside fast.
“Being shorter can help sometimes, because you take away some of your target. So, with Tyron’s foot speed and being shorter, he was able to take away that target and Darren Till was never able to get that left hand off.”
Woodley’s win became even more memorable when Thomas awarded the 36-year-old UFC champion his jiu-jitsu black belt in the cage after his D’Arce choke of Till. An overjoyed Woodley said post-fight that the black belt almost meant more to him than his UFC title.
The odds on Woodley defeating Till via submission were long, but Thomas said Monday that was actually the way he expected Woodley to win at UFC 228 all along.
“A lot of people don’t realize that Tyron trains in the gi as well, and even if he didn’t, his grappling is still up there with the best of them,” Thomas said. “I told him the other day, you know I do all the drilling with the guys, and prior to this camp with Tyron, the most vicious guy that I’ve drilled with is Antonio Carlos Junior, who’s a world champion in jiu-jitsu. Tyron felt worse than him as far as transitionally and his pressure and just his ability for control and finding submission. He felt worse than Antonio Carlos Junior.
“His jiu-jitsu ability, it exceeds black belt level. The reason why I gave [his black belt] to him is because he was supposed to get it a couple of years ago from Ricardo Liborio, but for whatever reason it never happened. I figured that it would be a good experience for him to actually get this if he wins on Saturday night, so I said, ‘You know what, I’m going to give him his belt if he wins.’ I knew he was going to submit him. I had no doubt in my mind that he would submit Darren Till. That wasn’t the submission I thought he would use, [I thought it would be a rear-naked choke,] but I knew he would submit him.”