Sean Woodson’s first professional defeat still feels fresh 11 months later.
Woodson never anticipated taking this much time off between his first octagon loss to Julian Erosa last June and his upcoming bout with Youssef Zalal at UFC Fight Night 189 in Las Vegas, Nevada on June 5.
The 28-year-old prides himself on his ability to not dwell on the past, but didn’t forget his last fight either.
“I’m still mad as if it was the same night, but I definitely haven’t been dwelling on it,” Woodson said.
“Instead of just thinking about it, I’ve been preparing for the day where I can get in there and do something about it. The day is right around the corner and I am super happy about it.”
Sean Woodson and where he belongs
If Woodson learned anything from his loss to Erosa, it’s that he belongs under the UFC banner.
After going through two different opponents in the span of a two-week fight camp, Woodson tapped to a rear-naked choke in the third round. Erosa stepped in on two days notice, replacing Kyle Nelson, who pulled out of the fight due to visa issues.
Erosa’s late introduction to the card marked his sixth octagon appearance, the first of his third stint with the UFC. Woodson found himself against a much more experienced adversary.
Woodson was just one fight into his UFC career at 7-0, while “Juicy J” was a 31-fight veteran. The Missouri native fought back-and-forth with Erosa for two rounds before being submitted in the third.
“As crazy as it sounds, the main thing I took away from that fight is this is where I belong,” Woodson said. “I thought his experience might come into play, he might pull a few tricks I haven’t seen before, but that wasn’t the case at all. I feel like my skills were above and beyond his for sure and the only thing I can remember is how tired I was after the first.”
Knowing the division
Woodson prefers taking about three months off between fights. He never thought it would be close to a year later before he made his third walk to the octagon.
He was scheduled to face Jonathan Pearce back in November, but a late rib injury forced “The Sniper” to withdraw. With his rib injury, Woodson was forced to sit back and wait to heal.
He spent his time in recovery watching fights and playing video games. Woodson even watched all of Zalal’s UFC bouts.
“I’ve seen all of those fights live and I went back and rewatched those fights multiple times during this camp,” Sean Woodson said. “I’ve probably watched every guy in my division two to three times over.”
No judges necessary
The end to Woodson’s longest-career layoff is nearing. As he prepares to re-enter the win column, Zalal is looking to bounce back from back-to-back defeats to Seung Woo Choi and Ilia Topuria.
The 6-foot 2-inch frame Woodson expects Zalal to try and take him down. No matter where the fight goes, Woodson is confident the fight will end before three rounds.
He can sympathize with his opponent. He knows a thing or two about waiting to redeem himself.
The opportunity to win is here for both and Woodson expects that to show on June 5.
“Both of our backs are against the wall here,” Woodson said. “I know we’re both coming in here with a chip on our shoulders. I feel like that is going to make for a fight where the judges won’t be needed.”