Despite being one of the least marketed PPV events of the last few months, Tyron Woodley believes the UFC is pushing Kamaru Usman too hard ahead of his welterweight title defense against Gilbert Burns at UFC 258, comparing the reigning champion to the likes of Ronda Rousey, Conor McGregor, and Paige VanZant — all of whom eventually failed to live up to expectations.
“You know what’s funny? I think if Usman loses, he will get a rematch,” Woodley, who lost his welterweight title to Usman at UFC 235, told MMA Island (h/t Low Kick MMA) in a recent interview.
“[The UFC is] trying their hardest to push him. No disrespect to Usman, he’s a good guy. You can spend so much money trying to force a star on us and it ain’t happening. Right now I feel like it’s being forced,” he said.
“That’s when Ronda [Rousey] lost, that’s when Paige [VanZant] lost, that’s when Sage [Northcutt] lost. That’s when Nate Diaz beat Conor McGregor. That feeling feels very familiar to me.”
Woodley has lost to both Usman and Burns and thus has a somewhat unique insight into Saturday’s main event.
‘T-Wood’ is picking Burns for the upset because he believes ‘Durinho’ is simply the more well-rounded fighter with the sharper tool set, possessing a competitive edge in striking and grappling.
“Gilbert is tough. He’s a better grappler. He’s a harder puncher. I don’t think Usman was winning the ground wars against Gilbert in the practice room,” Woodley said. “When you got a guy who knows that, he can strike a little bit more efficiently because even if you take him down you know he got a leg lock game. If you take him down, you take his back, armbar, rear-naked choke, he’s very high level. Usman has to think about that at all times. I think Gilbert is going to come after him hard. He got this chance to be a champion. I think it’s a good fight.”
“Usman is very consistent, especially with making changes. He’ll go for a strike in and you know in the Colby [Covington] he didn’t have to go away from the straight punches. He had to go for a shot. In other fights like against Leon Edwards, he had to go for a shot to actually settle up to be successful in striking which took him back to the shot. Before you knew it, the time expired and Leon ran out of time trying to win the fight. If I had to say Usman was great in anything, he’s great at that.”
UFC 258: Usman vs. Burns takes place this Saturday, Feb. 13 at the UFC Apex facility in Las Vegas, Nevada.