After Tyron Woodley’s somewhat surprising loss to Kamaru Usman at UFC 235, we now have to look ahead and wonder what is next for the middleweight division in the UFC. Woodley’s loss gives a number of previous contenders fresh hope of getting another crack at the title, and we already have a pretty good idea of who is next in line for a title shot…
Colby Covington vs Kamaru Usman
After Usman captured the title that his opponent had held for almost three years, the next title fight was fairly obvious – it would have been no matter the result. At some point this year, expect to see Usman defend his belt against Colby Covington. While the prospect of Covington as champion isn’t something that many MMA fans would like to see, it cannot be disputed that he has worked his way up and earned a shot at the title.
Following his victory over Rafael Dos Anjos, Covington became interim champion, however he then opted to have a minor surgery and the UFC instead decided to book Darren Till in a fight with former champion Woodley. Covington is the rightful #1 contender and Dana White has all but confirmed that ‘Chaos’ will be next in line.
What next for Woodley at middleweight?
Tyron Woodley had his next few fights planned out. He was going to pick up the win over Usman, then take out the loudmouthed Covington before moving up to Middleweight to defeat whoever the champion of that division was at the time to become a ‘Champ Champ’. It seemed like an incredibly plausible plan, however that plan is going to have to shift drastically now.
Woodley is 36, nearing the end of his athletic prime, so if he’s going to make another run at the title it’s going to have to be soon. His coach has already spoken out after the fight to discuss ‘The Chosen One’s’ lack of motivation for fighting in recent times, and stated that a route back to the title is likely the only thing that will keep him interested in MMA.
The challenge here is, Woodley has beaten pretty much everyone at the top of the Welterweight division in the UFC. With victories over Demian Maia, Stephen Thompson, Darren Till and Robbie Lawler, the only fighter he hasn’t beaten in the top five is Dos Anjos. RDA is currently on a two fight skid, and has not had a fight booked since his loss to Usman back in November 2018. It would be interesting to see if Woodley could take a win over the former Lightweight Champion, if so, he could potentially be one win away from a shot at getting his belt back… or maybe he would earn a rematch just off the back of that win. It’s hard to see where another title challenger would come from.
While Askren marked his MMA debut with a victory, it was one marred in controversy. His win over Robbie Lawler looked to be an early stoppage in the eyes of many fans, and Dana White has already stated his preference for booking a rematch between the two – sooner rather than later.
While Askren told reporters after the fight that he had no interest in a rematch, and has since gone on to feud with Darren Till on Twitter (it is one of the more bizarre exchanges you will ever see), I still think a rematch with Lawler is the right way to go.
Askren is never going to fight Woodley, the two are long time training partners and friends, which rules out the possibility of that bout. There are a number of potential matchups for the undefeated fighter, but it may always be a black mark on his record in the UFC if he does not run it back with Lawler.
It’s definitely an interesting time for the Middleweight division, we could see a lot of movement in the top five over the course of this year. There is a lot of fresh talent making the way up the rankings, and with some of the perennial contenders like Maia starting to struggle, we could be seeing a drastically different division by the end of 2019. The middleweight section is setup to be good watching for some time to come