Jake Paul vs. Tyron Woodley this Sunday on Aug 29 at the Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in Cleveland, OH.
One sentence summary
Phil: Tyron Woodley desperately tries to avoid his career sinking lower than having his genitals savaged by an angry raccoon
David: UFC fighter gets better paycheck from kid who lost his virginity three years ago than the president of the billion-dollar company they represent: Part II
Record: Jake Paul 3-0 Tyron Woodley 0-0
Odds: Jake Paul -205 Tyron Woodley +156
History / Introduction to the fighters
David: Doing a history breakdown of Jake Paul is like telling your high school buddy Remember When stories about your sixth grade hijinks. “So we stole cupcakes and golf carts at the local mini golf that weekend. Right in front of Jennifer and Allie. Dude!” Granted, this analogy is terrible because if we’re trying to be considerate to reality, then we’d need to include social protest riots, the FBI, and sexual assault...but you get the idea. Paul is not a serious person. But he is a serious athlete, and since currency can be measured by the amount of times somebody clicks a dumb video, here we are. And listen. I’m not pretending to be higher than any of this. When Ted Danson kicked Jason Schwartzman in the balls in Bored to Death, I laughed and I laughed hard. I occasionally watch people have violent reactions to spicy food on YouTube, and I’ll probably even watch Francis Ngannou kill one of the Jackass members. But I’d like to think I’m not lower than any of this either. At a certain point it’s worth asking whether we’ve already risen below vulgarity.
Phil: As far as comic relief boxing careers go, Paul’s is shaping up to be one of the better ones. Nate Robinson is at least an athlete. Askren was a credentialed and decent fighter (once, in a different sport). And Tyron Woodley is frankly exactly the kind of “dangerous but flawed” test that you’d map out if you had a prospect development track for the Disney channel to youtube rapper to boxer pipeline. I try not to look directly into the radiance of how obnoxious this man is, but there’s enough glare that I’m convinced not to look any closer and actually, like, consume any of the media he’s made. But this feels like his “taking everything Tyron’s worked for” moment. He has more fame than Woodley. He’s younger. He’s wealthier. He’s a better rapper (as said, I haven’t listened but I mean he has to be???????). This is the last thing that Woodley has.
David: In a way this finally feels like Woodley’s big break. He’s always wanted to do his own thing, whether it’s acting, fighting, or yes…’music.’ His infamous not hit single is worth it for the mean comments (“0:00 gives me chills”). But I can’t knock Woodley for doing what he loves doing. In a way, he gets to do what he’s always wanted: to be paid in proportion to what only a small fraction of people in the entire world can do. Woodley’s UFC reign wasn’t legendary, but it was a lot better than often given credit for: it’s officially the second longest WW title reign in the octagon’s history (Hughes defended his belt more, but had it for less days and Usman will undoubtedly pass him). The biggest knock on Woodley was a sense of urgency. Will that sense of urgency even be needed against the hard hitting...uhh, influencer (?).
Phil: It’s hard to look at Woodley’s recent career and not see a dispiriting, consecutive string of Ls, so this fight feels like it has the chance to be the big break in several different meanings of the word: it could be the thing which finally snaps the streak of dismal performances. It could catapult him back to some kind of weird relevance and more freaky paydays. Or it could just be the final straw. His buddy Ben Askren always had a kind of defiant, “so what” edge that allowed him to stride through humiliations unphased. I don’t think Woodley is someone who would be as sanguine about getting KOed by a youtuber.
What’s at stake?
David: This is for you Dana — yes, there is more at stake in a dumb exhibition fight between a YouTuber and a retired UFC fighter. Why? Easy. 1) More money. More interest. This is the fight people are talking about this weekend, for better or worse. If a UFC champion defends his/her belt in a forest, and nobody is around to hear it, does it make a sound? 2) The dialogue. Who’s controlling the dialogue? Paul, however inarticulate. The YouTuber is controlling the narrative, and that’s important for any fight with stakes. 3) UFC titles carry less weight. When every champion is at risk of being priced off the roster, we’re no longer talking about the world’s best fighters, we’re just talking about the world’s best fighters willing to make less. Oh and 4) Watch a full on exodus go down if Woodley loses so every UFC fighter can “avenge” Woodley’s honor. Basically, the worst parts of the Outworld bible.
Phil: Oh God yes. The honour of MMA is at stake isn’t it, I almost forgot. But I do agree with your points- it is impossible to compete on the UFC’s terms within its sphere of influence. This fight indicates that there is still an escape valve for the inequality of the org: instead of two or three competing, big organizations, there are a growing amount of small, weird things where fighters can go to test how much they are worth, whether it’s BKFC or... this. It’ll be interesting to see what happens when White is confronted by more and younger fighters who want to try this kind of lucrative silliness. Conor (pre-ESPN, notably) had the leverage. Hard to see anyone else getting White’s blessing.
Where do they want it?
David: Paul deserves some nominal and not-so-nominal credit. For a boxer, he’s a really great influencer. By that I mean he checks a lot of boxes for someone who can be serious in the ring. What he does outside of it distracts from a real craft he’s honed. It’s only because this bridge is between boxing and MMA that Paul’s craft stands out. He jabs to the body (which MMA fighters largely don’t do). He has pretty good instincts for the counter left hook (which MMA fighters largely don’t have). And as much as I hate to say this, he even has a strong sense of pace; there’s a growth and progression to his attack. Like a guitar player who can solo reasonably well, as dumb as it is to live in the universe where a social media party junkie can teach tactics to professional fighters, credit where credit is due. MMA has just been slow to catch up. Granted, it’s easier to style on people who could never box in the first place (professional mixed martial artist or not), but we’ve seen plenty of professional shadow boxing (cough, Ronda, gag, Rousey, cough), training vids, and in-cage action to know good versus bad mechanics when we see them. Does that make him a live dog versus Woodley? I don’t think so but I’ve given up trying to figure this world out.
Phil: One of the things that we make sure to stress about boxing (or indeed any kind of combat sports) is that it’s hard. There are a lot of things to keep track of and be good at, and a lot of physical and mental stressors. The other thing to remember is that in some ways... it’s not that hard. Like almost any other activity, talent can do a tremendous amount of heavy lifting, and Paul clearly has some natural talent. He’s decently athletic, has some timing, and is tough and takes the sport somewhat seriously. If you looked at him devoid of the celebrity connotations, you’d think: yeah, that’s a reasonable if somewhat raw prospect. Is that enough? It might be!
David: A lot of the MMA impressions of Woodley largely come from what people wanted rather than what they were getting. Woodley’s boxing, on its own, was always pretty good — or his punching, I should say, was good rather than his boxing. He’s excellent (and still is if the Luque fight is any indication) at chambering the lead overhand right. His counter combinations, as he showed against Wonderboy, are broad-strokes efficient. And over time he developed a left hook to follow up his single-action revolver-like offense. The question now is, how do these broad talents apply specifically to boxing? Yes and no. Distance is drastically different, strike selection is too, and on and on. If there’s a knock on Woodley it’s that he’s mechanically sufficient, and powerful, but there’s very little nuance when it comes to the wrinkles needed for movement and calibration. I think that’s why someone like Conor McGregor looked so “good” (relatively speaking) against Mayweather: because movement and distance management were largely his bread and butter.
Phil: As mentioned, in many ways Woodley makes the perfect transition from Askren. The Funky One had a serious claim to being the worst skill-for-skill striker in MMA, and was unathletic in his prime and flirting with being a porky boi at the time of the fight. Woodley checks the boxes for being a step up: he’s undeniably athletic (although, like Rashad Evans before him, it does feel like he’s eroding without any physical evidence, because he still looks absurdly jacked, but he just doesn’t hurt people in the same way any more). He is also a much better striker than Askren, but with an obvious caveat: his skillset relies on a changeup which simply doesn’t exist in a striking-only sport. Level change then double leg or right hand loses its potency a bit when you know it can’t be the first one.
Insight from past fights
Phil: I guess a positive for Woodley is that he actually went after it against Luque, and hurt him. It shows he still has some power and ability to pull the trigger. Did he look panicked and like he was forcing it? He sure did! However, that might be enough against someone like Paul, who is untested against people who can actually hit.
David: I mean. The two fought complete opposites in terms of profile in their last outing. Luque is one of the world’s most dangerous striking welterweights that Woodley fought like a last hurrah, while Askren was one of the world’s least dangerous striking welterweights Paul fought like an opening salvo in the Money Fighting Paul vs. the Do You Want To Be a UFC Fighter?! wars.
Phil: The fact that Woodley has looked desperately uncomfortable in every one of his last four fights. It’s not exactly rocket science to say that he needs to make sure he’s confident. So, if he fights in a more “conventional” way (say, fighting with his lead hand more, getting out of his traditional squat), it could erode both his confidence and the actual positive traits he brings to the fight, namely experience and comfort. I will say, I did enjoy him dismantling Paul in their interview though. Gave me a bit of hope for him.
David: Solid work by Woodley there. Thanks. I hadn’t even seen that clip. Woodley’s always had some game when it comes to gab. He may not have the raw charisma of a great gabber, but knows how to get to the point quickly, which can take the airy, artificial ones (like Paul) completely off their feet.
Phil: This is genuinely tough to call. Woodley is the first person that Paul has fought who has *any kind* of genuine striking ability. That being said, Paul has been at this a few years now, and he at least looks like he enjoys fighting. If he had a terrible chin, or some other glaring flaw, it would have come out in sparring. But, I still don’t know if Paul can overcome the last hurdle that an actual fighter has: in-fight conditioning. What happens if this fight sinks into a dire slog in the late rounds? I think Woodley can keep it together more than the YouTuber should that happen, so I’m picking him to win an absolute stinker. Tyron Woodley by decision.
David: I have to suspect that Woodley finds a way. Keep in mind, I’m granting that Paul is actually legit. For one, Woodley is tough as nails. The only time he got genuinely knocked out was against Marquardt, and that was because he literally knocked his lip off. Second, for a guy who relies on comfort, I can’t imagine him being anything other than comfortable: not only with the money he’s making but also with the knowledge that even if Paul is better than him, Woodley’s still tougher. Endurance is a very different beast when you’ve been hit hard, and that’s something Paul hasn’t experienced. So either Woodley destroys him, and the grift ends (until Logan tries to get revenge), or Paul pulls off a survival act like Logan did against Mayweather, and the grift continues. Just with the less juice. That’s the only way it makes sense in my head at least. Tyron Woodley by KO, round 2.