Budding superstar and two-time All-American wrestler at the University of Missouri, Tyron “T-Wood’’ Woodley (5-0) of St. Louis, will face his sternest test to date when he meets former Tito Ortiz protégé, Zach “The Lisbon Outlaw’’ Light (4-8) of Huntington Beach, Calif., in a welterweight (170 pounds) fight at the Strikeforce Challengers event in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on Friday, Sept. 25.
The three-round, 5-minute mixed martial arts (MMA) encounter at SpiritBank Event Center will be one of the five fights televised live on Showtime.
It will be the second Strikeforce start for Woodley, the 11th of 13 children raised mostly by a single mother. In an impressive debut, he registered a first round (4:20) submission (Brabo choke) of Sal Woods during the non-televised portion of the “Lawler vs. Shields’’ event at Scottrade Center in St. Louis, Missouri on June 6, 2009.
A popular up-and-comer, the 5-foot-9, 27-year-old Woodley has been victorious by submission in all of his outings since turning pro on February 27, 2009. His initial two starts lasted a combined 1:57 and he has yet to hear the bell for the second round.
“I’m really excited to be fighting in the Challengers series on Showtime,’’ he said. “Any time a major organization like Strikeforce calls, you’ve got to seize the opportunity. I’m trying to break down doors.’’
Before turning to MMA, the talented Woodley was Missouri’s first conference wrestling champion. He went 48-0 and won a state championship during his senior year at McCluer High in St. Louis.
So, this is a young man accustomed to winning. But he had to overcome a lot, and his teenage years were definitely a struggle after his father left the family behind when “T-Wood’’ was 10.
“My mom deserves credit,’’ said Woodley, who not only persevered but also reconciled with his Dad. “I learned a lot. Having that many people in the house with limited resources made me a better person.’’
While still relatively unknown outside St. Louis, the highly regarded newcomer remains one to watch. “I continue to work hard on whatever it takes that I can incorporate into my wrestling style that will make me better,’’ said Woodley, who credits the birth of his son, Tyron Jr., as a turning point in his life. “I just want to improve. My goal is to look completely different every fight.
“I’m an experienced wrestler, but a baby in MMA. The most important thing is to be able to go out and compete without hesitation. If I do that, I’ll win. In MMA, I get into that zone. I’m able to block things out. Hopefully, that will become routine for me. There’s a lot more at stake every fight.
“But sometimes it doesn’t matter who’s the best; it’s who wants it the most. Good people lose all the time. To go out there and take by force what’s yours is not something you get to do in every sport.’’
Light was born and raised in Lisbon, Iowa. On the comeback trail, the 5-foot-8, 35-year-old also possesses a strong wrestling pedigree and has trained with one of the biggest names in the sport.
“I moved to California with nothing but a duffle bag and ended up meeting Tito,’’ said Light, who hopes to shine brightly in his first appearance before a paying audience since November 11, 2008. “After getting to know me, he offered me a spot on Team Punishment.”
In the main event on September 25, American military hero Tim Kennedy (10-2) of Fayetteville, North Carolina will face unbeaten Zak Cummings (10-0) of Springfield, Missouri in a middleweight (185 pounds) scrap.
In a second Showtime fight, K-1 legend and six-time world kickboxing champion, Ray “Sugarfoot” Sefo (1-0) of Las Vegas takes on Alabama-born Kevin “The Shaman” Jordan (11-7) in a heavyweight match.
Amongst the Oklahomans scheduled to appear on the card are Tulsa rivals Travis “The Dark Knight” Calanoc (4-0) and Thomas Longacre (4-0), who will put their unbeaten records on the line against each.
The live Showtime telecast, which will include up to five bouts, will begin at 11 p.m. ET/PT (delayed on the west coast).