Two unusually long featherweight strikers squared off on the UFC 278 prelims as Sean Woodson faced Luis Saldana.
The former Golden Gloves boxer Woodson — whom often has fans quip that he looks like a player created character in a video game because of his 145-lb, 6’2″ frame — came into the bout on the heels of an impressive knockout against Collin Anglin, while Saldana came off of a decision win against Bruno Souza.
Many fans had circled this fight as one to watch out for due to the exciting striking-centric style of both men.
Woodson’s five-inch reach advantage came into play early on, as expected. He used his jab and length to try to keep distance while Saldana tried to punish the lean legs of Woodson with kicks and force Woodson to chase him by using lateral movement to exit exchanges. Halfway through the round Saldana’s lightning quick lead hook dropped Woodson but — for whatever reason — Saldana did not follow up and walked away from his downed opponent to point at the center of the octagon, which infuriated his coaches. The same thing happened again almost immediately, but this time Saldana kneed Woodson in the head illegally while his opponent was grounded.
Ref Mike Beltran stopped the fight but confusion ensued as Saldana thought he had won and climbed the cage. He was apologetic upon realizing what he had done, but the damage was done and a point was taken. However, Woodson said he was perfectly fine and took less than a minute to recover before getting back to the action. The rest of the round went by with no more insanity.
Sean Woodson was much more careful to start the second stanza and the striking exchanges were initially quite even. Eventually Luis Saldana successfully attempted a single leg and ended up in full guard. A triangle attempt turned into an omoplata attempt which failed and let Saldana take side control. Then, Woodson successfully threw up the incredibly rare buggy choke which seemed tight. Saldana was nonetheless able to survive for over a minute in the choke and give a thumbs up towards the end of the round to indicate he was alright. Scorecards thus far could have been all over the place depending on how the judges scored Woodson’s buggy choke attempt.
Woodson’s jab and straight were on the money to start round three although his power did not seem to be affecting Saldana much. Saldana attempted a takedown to relieve the pressure but Woodson bounced right back up when his butt hit the floor and they clinched for a period of time, with negligible damage being done before Woodson escaped and got back to his straight hitting. Saldana’s speed and power seemed to be fading quickly along with his cardio. The contrast between Saldana’s sharpness in round one and the sloppiness from both men in round three was shocking. Saldana continually attempted spinning backfists as the fight went on and missed nearly every one, tiring himself out even more in the process.
In the third round it appeared that Woodson had done slightly more damage, but the scorecards could have conceivably been almost anything given the point deduction, a possible 10-8 first round, and the final two razor thin rounds. As predicted, the scorecards were indeed all over the place, with one scorecard having a 29-27 for Woodson, one having a 29-27 for Saldana, and the final scorecard being a 28-28, resulting in a split draw that left Luis, Sean, and the crowd unsatisfied.
Official Result: Sean Woodson vs. Luis Saldana ends in a split draw (29-27, 27-29, 28-28)