At UFC 156, Woodley stepped into the Octagon knocking out Jay Hieron 36 seconds into the fight. The win was everything he needed to make a statement in his debut. Additionally, the victory helped Tyron get past the first loss of his own professional career that happened prior to him entering the UFC. He was knocked out by Nate Marquardt in a battle for the vacant Strikeforce Welterweight Championship in July 2012.
“To me it was actually a blessing in disguise to actually go out there and compete and not worry about getting punched hard, or getting knocked out, or getting cut, or losing a world title, all those things happened in one fight for me,” Woodley said of his win over Hieron. “So, I was a stronger fighter, a less conservative fighter, just because I’d already had the worst of the worst happen. For me, it just took that little tension off that I didn’t even know was there. And now, I can just be confident in myself, go out there and show the world what I can do.”
Ahead of him at UFC 161 this Saturday lies a stiff challenge in Jake Shields (27-6-1, 1 NC), who is making his return to fighting at welterweight after being inactive for the past year. A self-proclaimed fan of Shields and everything he has accomplished, Woodley knows there’s no easy way to beat him.
“I expect him to do the same thing he’s been doing for the past ten years – have a pressure style of fighting, get close, a lot of clinch, a lot of takedowns, he gets you to the ground, I think he can pretty much put any welterweight to the ground. Even if he doesn’t submit them, he can drain you, you can get tired and he advances position very well.”
“For me I think I know that. I’m not underestimating him, I’m not taking him lightly. I’m going to do everything within my power to keep him from where he’s good at and keep him in the fire, keep him having to deal with getting punched and deal with my striking. And I think that’s where I’ll have the most success in the fight.”
In Woodley’s own words, people always remember the last thing you’ve done. As he prepares to head into Winnepeg, Canada, he knows that he has to continue to put on strong performances to advance his position in the division. Mentally, Woodley believes he’s worked through anything that could happen and is ready to wage war on Shields.
“I have the ability to breakdown what he does. Not only break it down, but go to the lab and work out situations he’s going to try to put me in. And if I get put there, the anxiety, the anxiety can get you tired,” Woodley said. “When you work through those and have multiple solutions for those problems, I think that you get more comfortable. So I’m not so worried about it.”
“And I’m not an easy guy to takedown,” Woodley continued. “I think I’ve only been taken down twice, total. And most of those times was probably cause I got hit and was rocked a little bit, or I was probably a little fatigued. Nobody’s just going to shoot in and take me down fresh. And I think he’ll find out it’s even harder to take me down when I’m throwing punches and kicks and knees and elbows and I’m doing it fast and doing it hard and getting out of the way when I’m done. I think this is a great match-up for me. Not so much a great match up for him. I think I’ll show the world.”
Physically, Tyron finds that he’s more prepared than ever. He explained that he never had the ability to prepare like this in Strikeforce. His camps were usually 3-4 weeks long and the preparation not as in depth. Ahead of fighting Shields, he believes his done all the homework he possibly could.
“This guy’s got a lot of experience, more than I have and those are things he draws from in those fights. So for me to just take him lightly and think that I’m just going to go in there and just finish him off easy because I’m off a knockout, that’s a silly way just to go into this fight,” Woodley stated. “This is the perfect fight for me. I beat him in dominant fashion, make a statement, then I’ll fight one of the top five in the world and I’ll be right up there for GSP. I’m ready to go. My mind’s there, my heart’s there and I think if I do 50 percent of what I’m capable of doing, I’m coming out with the win.”
“I’ve had my eye on fighting this guy for awhile. For me it’s always about being the best,” Tyron added. “I always envisioned myself being at the top of the top when it’s all said and done. When I was in Strikeforce he was at the top of the food chain. It wasn’t my time to fight him, I hadn’t paid my dues yet. But now I’ve paid my dues and it’s just a bad thing for him. He should have fought me then. He would have been better off fighting me in Strikeforce and better fighting me before I got this newfound confidence and believing in myself.”
Shields vs. Woodley will take place as the headlining bout of the FX preliminary card for UFC 161. The card airs on June 15 from Winnepeg, Canada.