ANAHEIM, Calif. – Just like in his middleweight title challenge in 2010, Demian Maia only had one shot to win the welterweight belt Saturday in the co-main event of UFC 214 at the Honda Center.
He had to find a way to get champion Tyron Woodley to the ground. He never really came close, and Woodley won a wide and roundly criticized unanimous decision. Judges had it 49-46 twice and 50-45 for Woodley in a fight that set a record for fewest strikes thrown.
Maia’s only chance to win was to get Woodley to the floor, where he could work his world-class jiu-jitsu. But like in Abu Dhabi in 2010 when he fought Anderson Silva for the middleweight belt, Maia failed to do so.
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Depending on how you look at things, Woodley was either 24-for-24 defending the takedown, or Maia was 0-for-24 going for it. Either way, with no striking game that could cause Woodley any serious trouble, Maia had no shot.
Woodley would land an occasional right hand, and once in a while a left, but most of the fight he circled away and refused to allow Maia to put the fight in the only place he could win it.
“I’m willing to win fights and when it’s someone that is a freestyle fighter then I’m going to go in there and take their head off,” Woodley said after the fight.
The style of the match infuriated the crowd, which began doing the wave during the fourth round. In the fifth round, the boos really picked up and then suddenly, fans held up their smart phones with the flashlights on. It was odd to see, but the crowd wasn’t shy about expressing its opinion.
As time wound down, they began to chant, “This is boring! This is boring!”
Maia had won seven in a row to earn the title shot, submitting the likes of Carlos Condit, Neil Magny and Matt Brown along the way.
But against Woodley, he was outmatched in both power and striking technique, and as an elite college wrestler, Woodley was able to keep the fight standing.
It made for an unhappy crowd, but Woodley did what he had to do to win.
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