MMA Ratings Podcast

May 29, 2020

UFC on ESPN 9: Tyron Woodley vs. Gilbert Burns Is A Huge Fight For the Future of 170 Pounds

By Adam Martin

The UFC returns to the Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada this weekend for UFC on ESPN 9, featuring a fantastic main event between standout welterweights Tyron Woodley and Gilbert Burns. The two men are gunning to maintain their position in the crowded UFC welterweight divisional title picture, and the winner of this fight could find himself knocking on the door of a potential title shot.

It's an absolutely massive fight for both men, but for very different reasons. Let's start with Woodley. The former UFC Welterweight Champion hasn't fought in over a year since losing a lopsided decision to Kamaru Usman at UFC 235, dropping his title in the process. Woodley has been on the sidelines for the past year due to a combination of injuries and several fights falling through, but finally, after nearly 15 months away from the Octagon, he gets the chance to fight again.

For Woodley, he absolutely needs to defeat Burns if he wants to remain relevant in the welterweight title picture. The top of the division is absolutely stacked right now with Usman at the top and Jorge Masvidal, Colby Covington, and Leon Edwards right behind him. Woodley, though, is still technically the #1 contender. He's been given the respect of maintaining his position through his layoff, and he will need to prove that's still his ranking with a win here over Burns.

If Woodley wins this fight, especially if he can finish Burns, it will prove that he's still an elite welterweight. If his goal is to earn a rematch against Usman, then he has to get by Burns in devastating fashion to stay at the top of the contenders' list. We've seen Woodley have some impressive performances over the years, but every so often he has a stinker. We need to see the Woodley who knocked out Robbie Lawler to take the belt a few years ago, not the guy who was picked apart by Rory MacDonald or dominated on the ground by Usman.

Now let's move on to Burns. The Brazilian has been in the UFC for six years now, but he really exploded in 2019 when he made the move up to welterweight. Burns had been cutting far too much weight to make 155 lbs and didn't have the stamina or durability to really make a run. But since moving up to 170, Burns is a perfect 3-0, as he's quickly emerged as an elite contender.

After back-to-back wins over Alexey Kunchneko and Gunnar Nelson, the UFC gave Burns a big step up against Demian Maia and he took care of business with a brutal first-round KO. Considering it had been over a decade since Maia had last been knocked out, what Burns did to him was amazing to watch. The win showed that Burns, with his combination of submission prowess on the mat and KO power on the feet, has the potential to be a champ in one of the UFC's deepest weight classes.

For Burns, this chance to fight Woodley is such an incredible opportunity. Remember, this was supposed to be the aforementioned Edwards' chance to face Woodley and move into the division's elite, but the coronavirus pandemic made that impossible. Instead of Edwards getting this big fight against Woodley, Burns is the one who benefits now. If Burns can win this fight, he'll join the elite ranks at 170 lbs. It's by far the biggest fight of his career, and a win here could change his life. For Burns it's a win-win situation -- either he beats Woodley and becomes a title contender, or he loses like the betting odds suggest he will. Taking this fight on short notice was an absolute no brainer.

This is a must-win fight for Woodley, though. He's 38 years old now, and considering he's already had his time at the top, the UFC may want to go with other contenders moving forward. However, should Woodley beat Burns, the UFC will have no choice but to keep him in the title mix. With a loss, Woodley will find himself out of the welterweight elite.

The main event of UFC on ESPN 9 should be an excellent contest between two of the best welterweights in the world. In a stacked division, both Tyron Woodley and Gilbert Burns know a win here would be absolutely massive in regards to getting the next title shot against Kamaru Usman, who currently is without an opponent. It's the perfect main event for this fight night card in the UFC's return to Las Vegas, and now let's see how the fighters perform, given the different pressures placed on them.

Gilbert Burns vs. Tyron Woodley

UFC Fight Night on ESPN 9: Woodley vs. Burns takes place May 30, 2020 at UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Click HERE for more UFC on ESPN 9 Pre-Fight Analysis

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