Boo All You Want, Tyron Woodley's 'Boring' UFC 214 Performance Was All Business

Jeremy Botter@jeremybotterMMA Senior WriterJuly 31, 2017

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First, let us be clear about something: The UFC welterweight title fight between Tyron Woodley and Demian Maia at UFC 214 was a bad fight. There's no other way to spin it.

For fans watching in the arena and at home, it was an utterly boring and perhaps soul-sucking experience, especially considering all that preceded it.

The main card went from Volkan Oezdemir violently dispatching Jimi Manuwa in just 22 seconds to Robbie Lawler and Donald Cerrone delivering a Fight of the Night-type performance to Cris Cyborg at long last claiming UFC gold over the ultra-tough but ultra-overmatched Tonya Evinger.

And then...Woodley and Maia set a new UFC record for the fewest number of strikes thrown in a five-round UFC fight.

One can hardly blame the fans in the Honda Center for expressing their displeasure by booing, doing the wave and even holding up their lit-up cell phones in unison. Hell, the only thing that kept me from falling asleep at home was the occasional glance at social media, which offered far more entertainment than the television.

All that said, Woodley's performance was also deliberate and masterful. 

White and the UFC have conditioned us to believe the best fighters are the ones who take risks, even if it means putting their livelihood at stake. They (and we) want to see all action, all the time, and so we boo if there's a stalemate on the ground or on the feet. And we especially want our champions to take chances, because that's what we've been taught to believe real fighters do.

But what of the things we don't consider? Or the things we don't know?

ANAHEIM, CA - JULY 29:  (L-R) Demian Maia of Brazil attempts to take down Tyron Woodley in their UFC welterweight championship bout during the UFC 214 event at Honda Center on July 29, 2017 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LL
Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

What about the fact a championship contract is different to a regular contract, and how those championship contracts, with their elevated pay scale and perks, tend to evaporate once you lose your title? What if you're making $500,000 guaranteed as long as you're the champ but drop down to $75,000 after a loss?

And what about those professional fighters who lean more toward the professional side of things than the fighter side? What about those who treat their time inside the Octagon as a business?

See, Woodley knew what he was going up against. In Maia, he faced a one-trick pony who is perhaps the best in the world at executing his one trick. That one thing Maia does so well, which is take his opponents to the mat and relentlessly work for a submission win, is as financially devastating to a titleholder as a ruthless head kick or one-punch knockout.

Maia had one avenue to wrest the belt away from Woodley's clutches.

And Woodley, a thoughtful and truly professional athlete, did what he had to do to keep Maia from waltzing down that avenue. And boy, did he ever. Woodley stopped all 24 of Maia's takedown attempts and, in doing so, shut down any chance Maia had of winning.

In its own way, it was a beautiful technical performance, though you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone outside of Woodley taking that approach when analyzing the fight.

If winning a fight is Woodley's sole concern, that's his prerogative as the champion.

The UFC has never stripped a fighter of a championship solely because he isn't much fun to watch; the best it can do is hope to find someone talented enough to overcome Woodley's negate-first game plan. That, or continue hoping Woodley will decide to start forcing his own offensive game plan on his opponent, rather than just sitting back and stopping them from executing their own.

But Woodley also needs to understand that as long as he takes that kind of approach to his fights, he'll continue to be a deeply unpopular champion. He won't get the big fights (witness the very critical Dana White taking away Woodley's chance to face Georges St-Pierre at Madison Square Garden in November), he won't get the big pay raises, and he won't get the big promotional push.

I get the sense he understands that, though. He wants to win by any means necessary, even if it angers his promoter and dulls the senses of action-seeking fans. Keeping his place at the top of the food chain is his way of building a championship legacy, and he can go about doing that however he wants.

It's up to the rest of the division to stop him. After all, as the great Ric Flair once said: To be the man, you have to beat the man.