Tyron Woodley will fight for the first time since losing his welterweight crown to Kamaru Usman last March as he takes on No. 6 contender Gilbert Burns in the main event of UFC on ESPN 9 on Saturday.
The UFC is holding the card at its Apex facility in Las Vegas, the first time the company has returned to Nevada since the COVID-19 shutdowns began in March.
Woodley Seeks to Rebuild Reputation
UFC president Dana White announced on May 20 that the Apex would host this event. Official confirmation only came on Wednesday, when the Nevada Athletic Commission approved the return of combat sports in the state.
The main event will see Woodley (19-4-1) attempt to get back on track after losing a unanimous decision to Usman at UFC 235. That loss ended a nearly three-year run at the top for Woodley.
“When people talk about the welterweight division I want them to think about me first, and then everyone else,” Woodley told ESPN’s Ariel Helwani. “That’s not what happened against Usman. I can’t go out like that. Now I need to go out on a spree and remind people what I’m made of, who I am and what I’ve done.”
Burns Climbing Into Welterweight Title Picture
Burns (18-3) comes into the bout on a five-fight winning streak, most recently knocking out Demian Maia in the first round at UFC Fight Night 170 in March. The 33-year-old Brazilian is rapidly climbing into welterweight title contention, and knows that a victory over Woodley could cement him as a contender.
“Everything that you had to be the champion, well, now I want to be the champion,” Burns told MMA Fighting. “It’s hard to say what he wants, but I’m very hungry to get there.”
Woodley normally takes a relatively conservative, defensive approach to his fights, either looking to counter opponents after a mistake or otherwise relying on his wrestling to win rounds. That sets up a contrast with Burns who has the ability to finish fights with his hands, but who also has an elite Brazilian jiu-jitsu background.
“I believe I’m a bad matchup,” Burns told MMA Fighting. “I’m ready for the best Tyron, but I truly believe in every single weapon I have, and I believe I’m going to have a great performance.”
UFC on ESPN 9 Odds (Main Card)
- Tyron Woodley (-184) vs. Gilbert Burns (+156)
- Blagoy Ivanov (-104) vs. Augusto Sakai (-112)
- Billy Quarantillo (-138) vs. Spike Carlyle (+118)
- Roosevelt Roberts (-330) vs. Brok Weaver (+260)
- Mackenzie Dern (-480) vs. Hannah Cifers (+370)
Odds via FanDuel Sportsbook
Oddsmakers aren’t confident in Burns’ ability to dismantle the former champion, but the fight is far from lopsided. Woodley comes into the matchup as a -184 favorite over Burns (+156), according to FanDuel Sportsbook.
The UFC on ESPN 9 co-main event features former World Series of Fighting heavyweight champion, Blagoy Ivanov (18-3), taking on Augusto Sakai (14-1-1). Most experts see this fight as a virtual tossup, with FanDuel giving Sakai (-112) the slightest of edges over Ivanov (-104).