Woodley Won Big on Saturday, But Can He Remain the Golden Boy for Long?

If I was forced to pick a favorite fighter of the moment I would probably have to go with Paul Daley. Sorry squares but it is the pro wrestling fan in me, to me watching a guy use his post-fight interview to mock the fans is far more fun than listening to him rattle off the names of his corporate masters. So when I saw that he was booked against the young chosen one Tyron Woodley I was excited (what a fight!) but also nervous. As we know King Dana has already declared Daley banned from the UFC for life thanks to some post-fight antics aimed at Josh Koscheck (don’t get me started on that) and thus his standing in Strikeforce has to be considered shaky at the very least. Add to that the fact that he’s coming off a loss (as wildly entertaining as it may have been) against Nick Diaz, and the reality that this was a terrible stylistic matchup for him. I knew that for him to win this fight he would either have to score one of those Youtube ready knockouts or show enormous improvements in his ground/wrestling game.

As it turned out Daley did step up his wrestling game and managed to stuff a majority of Woodley’s takedowns. Unfortunately all Woodley ended up needing was about one takedown per round because once Daley was flat on his back in this fight he seemed to remain there. Daley was able to inject some excitement into the proceedings. His ability to induce unconsciousness in an instant is another of his most appealing traits (see: the Scott Smith fight) and here he was able to land some clean shots to Woodley’s chin that left us wondering each time if that was the shot that was going to end the unbeaten streak. Then, late in the third round, he went for a believe it or not omoplata in a last ditch effort to steal the fight after being soundly out-wrestled in the first ten minutes that he gave up (probably because he lost the hold) for a triangle attempt that went nowhere. Woodley survived to the final bell and took the unanimous decision that will lead to a Strikeforce welterweight title shot and a sure-fire Zuffa contract when the merger finally goes down. He is somebody Strikeforce has been grooming for stardom since well before the buyout. Zuffa certainly won’t turn their back on an undefeated fighter who has looked stellar thus far, but my question is will the love fest continue under the new bosses or are there some rocky moments on the horizon?

The ironic thing about where these two fighters stand with Zuffa is that Daley seems to be the one custom built for the company with his flashy charisma and stunning knockout power. Woodley wins fights which, I think, is still the most important thing to Dana White. But he does so in a very Jon Fitch-like way. He’s slow and methodical and lays and prays to the extreme. He does have a knockout on his resume but they are hardly his MO and White’s singular obsession with exciting fights is almost sure to clash with the fights that Woodley puts on. His ascent also underscores how annoying this period of uncertainty in MMA can be. I want to know exactly how good the guy is. I don’t necessarily want to see him fight Tarec Saffiedine again (no offense at all) for a title that means nothing, but am anxious to see him dropped into the deep end of the pool with the likes of Carlos Condit, Jake Ellenberger, and Dong Hyun Kim. But instead we are going to be forced to watch this dog and pony show wherein there is a Strikeforce welterweight title and the notion that Woodley is most likely the next holder of that title actually means something.

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