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UFC Fight Night: Woodley vs. Edwards

MMA Fight: UFC Fight Night: Woodley vs. Edwards
Key Matches: Tyron Woodley vs. Leon Edwards
When: Saturday, March 21, 2020
Where: O2 Arena, London, England
TV: ESPN+

by Loot, MMA Handicapper, Lootmeister.com

Tyron Woodley, (+120), 19-4-1 (7 KOs, 5 Submissions) vs. Leon Edwards, (-150), 18-3 (6 KOs, 3 Submissions)

In the UFC Fight Night main event, former UFC Welterweight Champion Tyron Woodley takes on Leon Edwards in a high-stakes 170-pound matchup in London. The winner of this fight would be on a short-list of contenders in line for a title shot. At 37, Woodley is facing a yearlong layoff going back to his loss to Kamaru Usman, where Woodley dropped his strap. He looks to make up for that with a win over a streaking contender in Edwards, winner of eight straight fights. In his last octagon appearance, Edwards scored a nice win over former champion Rafael dos Anjos. Who will come out ahead in this one?

At 37, time may be winding down on Woodley. At the very least, he can ill afford to drop back into a pack of growing contenders at 170 pounds. It's a high-stakes bout, being that a win puts him right back in the mix, while a loss puts him so far back, it might not seem worth it to continue for Woodley. He was on a nice roll before losing to Usman, winning four welterweight title fights with a draw before coming up short last year. He might be yesterday's news to some, but it's still a guy who has beaten Kelvin Gastelum, Wonderboy, Robbie Lawler, Darren Till, and many other standout 170-pounders.

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Edwards is on a roll and in this 8-fight win streak, he has beaten some good fighters like dos Anjos and Donald Cerrone. Ironically, his last loss was also to Usman, who beat Edwards early in his UFC career in 2015. Edwards might not finish a lot of fights, with just two stoppages in his 8 fight win streak, but the Jamaica-born English resident has been coming into his own increasingly over the years and it's been a while since anyone got the better of him. The difficulty ramps up here, however.

At first, Woodley had expressed reluctance in fighting Edwards in England, but supposedly something was worked out, as he obviously changed his mind. Edwards is a guy no one really seems eager to fight. Some more casual fans might look at him as simply a grinder, a guy who wins fights by decision, with one of his more high-profile moments was coming out on the short end of a videoed skirmish with Jorge Masvidal last year. Perceiving him that simply could come at a cost in this fight. Edwards is really a monster.

We don't want to mistake exposure with merit. Again, a lot of people know Edwards mostly from his dust-up with Masvidal. But talent-wise, he's of very high caliber. It's just that when you have a well-known fighter like Woodley and more of a low-key guy like Edwards, it's important to not mistake Q-rating with effectiveness. This is the elite win Edwards has long been in search of and he's at home. It's really do-or-die for both men.

Boosting Edwards' chances is his improvement. He gets better every fight. In each showing, he shows something different. He's more of an evolving fighter than perhaps Woodley, as aging ex-champs are basically who they are. Woodley did go to Thailand to sharpen his skills and that could offer a new wrinkle, but Woodley is who he is. Edwards is more of the new wave of MMA practitioners in the sport. He can do it all—jiu-jitsu, wrestling, scrambling, striking, and the whole kit-and-kaboodle.

But what separates guys like Edwards from maybe the more-limited older wave of MMA fighters is his seamless work from one fighting aspect to the other. Some of these younger guys, like Colby Covington for example, choose to take a less-drastic stance in order to move to other areas of fighting more seamlessly. You see the half-position—a less-drastic, but still dominant position for those who are good at it. He's good in the clinch, non-committed ground-control, and in 50/50 scenarios.

In other words, if Edwards were to stick to one thing, he would be good at it. But a fighter who can go through the progressions of his different abilities is potentially more dangerous. That's why you see Edwards on the ground with one hook on a guy, in half-guard, and in 50/50 spots in a clinch against the cage. It enables him to fight in a way that is less-taxing, as he floats from one skill-area to the next. And the reason for discussing all this is that fighters like this can be overlooked. We see Edwards not scoring many stoppages. There aren't many splash-moments in his fights. There's not one area where you would say he is utterly dominant. When we look at championship-level fighters, we're geared to look for that one shiny trait—the equalizer that can render all other analysis moot. Fighters like Edwards require a more-discerning eye, as his variety and ability to float from one discipline to the next is an asset to possess.

Still, we can't afford to overlook Woodley. It took a monster like Usman to unseat him. He has massive power in those fists, something that could easily manifest. He's a guy who has an innate sense of doing what his opponent doesn't want him to do. But if Edwards can avoid those explosive moments and take this fight to the clinch, where he dominates with strikes, it could go a long way toward helping secure a win. I see Edwards having more routes to victory and I see him grinding down Woodley over the 5-round distance for a decision win at the O2 Arena.

Loot's Pick to Win the Match: I'm betting on Leon Edwards at -150 betting odds. Did you know... that you could be wagering on fights at discounted odds? There's a better than good chance that you're laying inflated odds with your book. Stop overpaying TODAY by making the switch to 5Dimes Sportsbook! You will be so glad that you did!

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