UFC Vegas 11: Covington and Woodley Finally Settle Their Grudge Match

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Tyron Woodley UFC Vegas 11
Tyron Woodley Credit: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com

Though the grudge match comes two years later than expected, former champion Tyron Woodley and top contender Colby Covington will finally settle their score at UFC Vegas 11.

After being in one of the most anticipated fights of 2019, it was easy to wonder what would be next for Colby Covington.  The answer: More of the same with reinvention happening behind the scenes.

After riding a seven fight win-streak to his first title shot, Covington left American Top Team to work more independently with a new team of coaches in Florida.  The friction between Covington and members of ATT is well-documented and being in a camp where he’ll have more individualized attention should certainly be a positive.  However, it does raise the question of how it will impact his game to leave the reigning Team of the Year and their elite coaching staff.

Colby Covington’s path back to the title looks to be a winding road unless Kamaru Usman is toppled from the throne.  That said, he remains a top contender and several high profile fights await him should he be victorious on Saturday.  A bout with friend-turned-enemy Jorge Masvidal is one of the biggest match-ups to be made in the sport, and potential opponents like Leon Edwards and Stephen Thompson would also serve to build his case as one of the top talents in the welterweight division. Factor in the attention he has received from rubbing elbows with the President just weeks out from a national election and a leap back into the title picture in the near future is not far off.

Talk of Tyron Woodley’s fall from grace is over-exaggerated, but there is no denying that the nature of his losses has been perplexing.  After defending the title three times and establishing himself as arguably the best welterweight since Georges St-Pierre, back-to-back one-sided losses to Kamaru Usman and Gilbert Burns have firmly halted the train of “The Chosen One.”  Though he has cited different reasons for the results, the fact remains that he is now in the precarious position of potentially dropping three straight at UFC Vegas 11.

To his credit, Woodley has shown that he is taking the steps to right the ship.  Once keeping an active schedule as a media personality, the former champion has stepped away from television obligations to focus on his training.  After moving to Thailand prior to his most recent bout, Woodley returned stateside and added a new training partner in Jorge Masvidal to get inside information and play a game of mental warfare against Covington.  Though the fight has lost some of the luster that it did in 2018 when the two were on a collision course with the title on the line, the bout remains significant to the careers of both men moving forward.  This holds especially true for Woodley who would be able to re-inject momentum into his career with a victory over one of the consensus top welterweights in the world.

The biggest key to victory for Tyron Woodley is to initiate the action and raise his output.  Against an engine like Covington, Woodley will need to stifle the onslaught by attacking first and not letting Colby begin the exchanges.  Woodley possesses one-shot stopping power, but relying on a counter-striking attack could see him fall into too deep of a deficit on the scorecards if he fails to deliver damage.  Covington should look to stick to his usual script, using forward pressure to force the fight into close-range so he can get it to the ground.  One thing he should be weary of is getting lured into an exchange with Woodley in the pocket as that gives the former champion the easiest opportunity to get back into the fight.

Colby Covington would reestablish himself as a top contender in the division with a victory and would likely look at opponents such as Stephen Thompson or Leon Edwards to propel himself back to a title shot.  Tyron Woodley would likely also turn his sights towards Edwards or a new opponent in Michael Chiesa with a victory as he looks to see how the welterweight division shakes out going into 2021.

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