Tyron Woodley showed no sentiment when he knocked out his friend and American Top Team stablemate, Robbie Lawler, to win the UFC welterweight title on Saturday at UFC 201. The University of Missouri graduate rushed Lawler to the fence, switching his rival’s lights out with an overhand right in round one to become the ninth UFC 170lb king.
Elsewhere strawweight Karolina Kowalkiewicz outpointed Rose Namajunas, while another welterweight standout, Jake Ellenberger, upset Matt Brown with a round one TKO on yet another outstanding fight card for the world’s leading promotion. In the aftermath, FO takes a look at five questions that need answers:
Who should Tyron Woodley fight next?
While Woodley looked excellent on Saturday, cutting the cage off and starching Lawler in two minutes and 12 seconds, the result leaves the welterweight division in a state of flux with plenty of challengers looking for a shot at the title. Woodley mentioned a fight with Nick Diaz and although the Stockton motormouth would rake in pay-per-view buys, he hasn’t won a UFC welterweight contest since 2011. Stephen Thompson, the crafty kickboxer from Simpsonville, South Carolina, appears to be the most likely number one contender.
Is this the UFC’s most competitive year?
And speaking of contenders, this year at least, you can’t keep them down. Six UFC titles have changed hands already this year, compared with seven for the whole of 2015. Take a look at the promotion’s reigning champions – flyweight Demetrious Johnson has defended his crown eight times. The only other titlist to defend their gold more than once is Joanna Jedrzejczyk, with three defences at strawweight. In that case, the chasing pack are improving all the time.
Can Kowalkiewicz compete with Jedrzejczyk in the clinch?
The next opponent for ‘Joanna Champion’ could be her compatriot, Kowalkiewicz, who Jedrzejczyk defeated under amateur rules in 2012. But Kowalkiewicz showed a broad mauy Thai game at UFC 201, piling up the points with knees to the body and elbows up close. So how would she deal with the belt-holder’s clinch-striking to the body? How would she deal with her timely flurries from close range? We’ll have to wait and see.
How far can Nikita Krylov go?
Also hailing from eastern Europe, Nikita Krylov, the Ukrainian, knocked Ed Herman senseless with head kick in round two of their 205lb scrap. The 24-year-old showed maturity on the feet, probing with body kicks and leg kicks to keep the bout at long range. With a 77-inch reach and a six-foot-three frame, he can challenge the likes of Jimi Manuwa and Rashad Evans for a spot in the top 10.
Is Olympic wrestling pedigree a guarantee of success in the Octagon?
Picture this: on Saturday’s main card, flyweight Fredy Serrano scored five takedowns against Ryan Benoit and controlled him on the ground for more than five minutes. He still lost a unanimous decision. The reason? Although the Colombian competed in the 2008 Olympics as a freestyle wrestler, he laid stagnant in half guard and failed to produce effective ground-and-pound. It was also only Serrano’s fourth professional MMA fight, although he did appear on The Ultimate Fighter: Latin America. Serrano’s takedowns were sloppy – at one point he forward rolled after misjudging his entry – and his struggles highlighted how different the Olympic mats are from the UFC cage.