Gilbert Burns set the tone in the opening seconds of the biggest fight of his career, then seldom let up the next 25 minutes.
Burns (19-3 MMA, 12-3 UFC) dominated former welterweight champion Tyron Woodley (19-5-1 MMA, 9-4-1 UFC) from the start. He cut him open early and won the fight both on the feet and on the canvas for a unanimous decision sweep of the judges’ scorecards. Burns won with a pair of 50-44 scores and a 50-45.
After taking out a former champ in Woodley’s return 15 months after losing the 170-pound belt, Burns called for a title shot.
“I’m very happy. I trained so hard for this fight. I knew I could do it. I was calling this guy out for a reason,” Burns told Daniel Cormier in his post-fight interview. “My name now has got to be the No. 1 contender. I love the champ, my training partner Kamaru Usman, but c’mon – give me the shot. I’ve got a lot of love for you, but I’m next. I want to fight for the title. If they want to make the fight in July, I’m injury free. I want to fight for the title.”
The welterweight bout was the UFC on ESPN 9 main event at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas. It aired on ESPN and streamed on ESPN+.
Burns hurt Woodley quickly into the first round and pounded away in tight quarters. Woodley was wobbled and tumbled to the canvas with Burns following with hammerfists. The Brazilian jiu-jitsu standout jumped to full mount and slowed the pace to look for his best opening. When Woodley got his head popped out, he showed a big cut above his left eye from Gilbert’s fists.
Woodley did his best to play defense with his back on the canvas, and with two minutes left in the round, Woodley nicely managed to scramble out and get back to his feet. Burns tried to work a pair of kicks up high, then went low. Woodley kicked high, too, but had it blocked and circled away trying to find a new opening. With 20 seconds left, Burns drilled Woodley with a body kick and followed it with a left hook.
Woodley put together a big combination early in the second, then landed a right cross that put Burns off-balance. The pace slowed, and both fighters occasionally traded kicks and punches till midway through, when Burns landed a takedown. He put Woodley’s back against the canvas, then landed knees to the body when Woodley tried to wall-walk his way back to his feet. They stayed clinched the rest of the around and traded position late, but it was another round for the Brazilian.
The middle frame showed both fighters being a little more cautious, but it was Burns pushing forward with Woodley’s back to the fence. Burns landed several low leg kicks that seemed to make Woodley uncomfortable and he seldom had counters for them.
In the fourth, Woodley threw a big right hook and Burns ducked under perfectly. He tried to take Woodley to the canvas, but ran into solid takedown defense and they pushed their way to the fence in the clinch, where they traded positions. With three minutes left, referee Herb Dean split them up after not seeing enough activity. On the break, Burns landed several straight left jabs in a row, then drilled Woodley with a knee to the body.
Not long after, Burns exploded almost out of nowhere with a huge series of on-the-money punches that nearly took Woodley off his feet. After a brief clinch, Burns easily dragged Woodley to the canvas and with a minute left in the round, tried to take the former champ’s back. Burns wrapped up a choke late in the frame, but there wasn’t enough time to finish.
Burns didn’t let up in the fifth, even knowing Woodley was going to need to find a way to finish the fight to win. He moved in quickly with kicks and pushed Woodley to the fence again. Midway through the round, Dean separated the two – and again Burns got right in Woodley’s face. Woodley landed a right that was partially blocked, but still had to contend with Burns pressuring him the rest of the way.
Up-to-the-minute UFC on ESPN 9 results include:
- Gilbert Burns def. Tyron Woodley via unanimous decision (50-45, 50-44, 50-44)
- Augusto Sakai def. Blagoy Ivanov via split decision (27-30, 29-28, 29-28)
- Billy Quarantillo def. Spike Carlyle via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
- Roosevelt Roberts def. Brok Weaver via submission (rear-naked choke) – Round 2, 3:26
- Mackenzie Dern def. Hannah Cifers via submission (kneebar) – Round 1, 2:36
- Katlyn Chookagian def. Antonina Shevchenko via unanimous decision (30-25, 30-25, 30-25)
- Daniel Rodriguez def. Gabriel Green via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
- Jamahal Hill def. Klidson Abreu via TKO (strikes) – Round 1, 1:51
- Brandon Royval def. Tim Elliott via submission (arm triangle choke) – Round 2, 3:18
- Casey Kenney def. Louis Smolka via submission (guillotine choke) – Round 1, 3:03
- Chris Gutierrez def. Vince Morales via TKO (leg kicks) – Round 2, 4:27
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