I didn’t know too much about Tyron Woodley heading into UFC 167. I had seen his knockout of Jay Heiron at UFC 156 while sitting on the floor of a Chinese hotel room. I also saw that snoozer of a clinch-fest against Jake Shields at UFC 161 from my couch in LA. But, following UFC 167, Woodley would become a fighter synonymous with sheer and brutal strength and power ...
#UFC 167 was off to a slow start. Aside from a Gian Villante TKO to kick off the event, and a “Cowboy” Cerrone triangle submission to close out the prelims, the card was decision-laden, and the MGM Grand Garden Arena was on edge, just waiting for a highlight reel moment.
The majority of the crowd at the UFC’s 20th-anniversary event was in Las Vegas to support headliners #GeorgesStPierre and #JohnyHendricks. Fleur de lis Affliction shirts and orange “Fear the Beard” tees dominated the stands, as celebrities like #ArnoldSchwarzenegger and Jeremy Piven were joined by MMA royalty Royce Gracie, Mark Coleman, and Dan Severn. The crowd of 14,856 was primed for an epic strike or choke, and the flyweight bout between Ali Bagautinov and Tim Elliott to open the main card wasn’t exactly helping.
Sitting cageside, I sensed the tension in the room. The anticipation was at a fever pitch, and I could sense that something big was about to happen.
Koscheck looked calm inside the cage during Bruce Buffer’s fighter intros. A former title contender and slight betting favorite, Koscheck was the easy pick. Sure, he was coming off a loss to #RobbieLawler a few months earlier, and dropped a close decision to Hendricks before that, but this fight with Woodley was made for Koscheck to get back in the win column, right? Woodley was just the staller and dirty boxer with some wrestling who lost to Jake Shields over the summer.
In hindsight, my limited assessment of Woodley was one based on ignorance and bias. While I was rather familiar with the UFC’s roster at the time, only a handful of the #Strikeforce fighters who made the transition across Zuffa-owned promotions had hit my radar.
My familiarity with Koscheck’s body of work led me to believe that he’d out-wrestle Woodley and take the bout. But just 15 seconds in, Woodley dropped the former #TheUltimateFighter cast member with a big right. My posture immediately improved, as I sat on the edge of my seat. I can only assume that everyone in attendance had the same reaction to that first knockdown.
With Koscheck finding his bearings and surviving the early scare, the fighters returned to their feet, feinting and pawing away until they stalled in the clinch against the cage wall. When #HerbDean stepped in to break the fighters up, my initial reaction was that this fight was about to turn into a second Woodley vs. Shields.
But again, I was incorrect.
Both Woodley and Koscheck continued to find a home for their powerful punches, and while Koscheck connected with a strike, Woodley’s immediate response was another knockdown blow, followed by a hefty serving of ground and pound.
After 30 more seconds on the ground, Dean was back in the mix, pausing the action and demanding both fighters return to their feet.
The fight continued. Koshcheck pressed forward with jabs, forcing Woodley to backpedal to avoid punishment.
Both fighters, appearing to slow down, moved with caution until suddenly, Koshcheck missed on a wild right, exposing himself to a knockout punch. Woodley was in the perfect place to land his own right hand, smack on the button of Koscheck’s chin, forcing the former contender to collapse, head between the knees -- "folded him like a lawn chair" is the common expression.
Poised, Woodley landed a follow-up left and a second right for good measure, knocking Koscheck out cold and flattened on the canvas. The impact of the punches could be felt around the arena as the crowd erupted with the loudest cheers of the evening. It was a moment that immediately burned a pathway in my brain; the first proper UFC knockout I was able to witness live.
There have been other memorable KOs in the years since: Conor vs. Aldo, Bisping vs. Rockhold, Samman vs. Gordon, Johnson vs. Teixeira, Thompson vs. Ellenberger, Mir vs. Duffee, but there’s nothing like your first, and Tyron Woodley, now the UFC welterweight champion, will forever be mine. Well, in terms of UFC knockouts...
...because when Tyron Woodley connects, the impact ripples throughout the building.