Few people are as uniquely positioned to appraise the UFC 272 main event than Tyron Woodley.
Woodley, the former welterweight champion, has spent countless hours on the mats in the American Top Team facility in which Masvidal and Covington first crossed paths, before Covington left the camp after the feud between he and Masvidal became “toxic”, as ATT chief Dan Lambert recently put it.
Woodley also has a loss on his record to Covington from September of 2020 in a fight in which ‘Chaos’ dominated — and as he told MMA Junkie, Masvidal’s key to victory is to not let his emotions get the better of him.
Masvidal just needs to … keep his emotions and not turn it into where he just wants to fight him and hurt him and try to embarrass him – just really use what he does best. He has the best boxing, I feel like, in MMA right now,” Woodley said. “I feel like his hand speed is crazy. His ability to work the body is nuts. Colby Covington does not like body shots. I knew it. Why I didn’t go there more often, I don’t know. Masvidal knows it. He gave me some tips on it. I think he’s just going to work him to the body.”
Covington, though, is about as good a wrestler as there is at welterweight and this is where Woodley sees him having what could be a telling advantage in the fight.
“Colby has to go and take him down a million times,” Woodley predicted. “The unfortunate thing for Masvidal is, if he goes for 10, he’s going to get one. It’s a lot of cardio to try to come out with some fresh arms and make some accurate shots when you’ve been fighting that double leg, that single leg and back takes and just (the) annoying hanging on and lingering on and baby taps, just so they don’t stop you. That’s what he’s got to do.”
Woodley also explained that Covington has very good fight IQ — something which he said isn’t immediately evident from speaking with him.
“Colby’s dumb, but he’s smart,” Woodley said. “He’s stupid as f*ck, but he’s kind of smart as hell. He’s not going to make nobody fight a fight that don’t make sense. He didn’t have to wrestle Usman because Usman didn’t let his balls drop yet as far as striking.
“So he could sit there and strike with him the whole time. You knew he was not going to shoot with me. He was coming, pumping my leg, and at any chance he would get, he was at the leg. He has to on Masvidal right away. If you think he’s going to set up and try to strike with Masvidal to prove something — he’s not that stupid.”
It will be a close fight, Woodley predicts, but the key is that Masvidal has always been the ‘big brother’ in the gym, and he says this will again become evident after the first bell.
“I feel like Masvidal is going to win, because Masvidal is always big brother,” Woodley stated. “Once you have big brother syndrome over someone, I feel like you can’t really shake that unless you have a big breakout moment and you can consistently keep up. There’s a couple of guys that I used to wrestle and they would always beat me. Then I would beat them one time and I just f*cking got a little cocky and I just started beating them consecutively. That don’t happen very often.
“I don’t think Colby had enough time fighting at the highest level in the gym with Masvidal to have had that moment. Whenever he started getting to the point where he started talking enough to get himself in position, he had to leave the gym. They weren’t even training together anymore. So I don’t think he had a large enough victory in the gym.”