Woodley kept the fight close to gain the win (Photo by Esther Lin, Strikeforce).
Woodley Improves to 8-0 with Victory
While it may not have been the most action-packed meeting on Friday night between welterweight Tyron Woodley (8-0) and Tarec Saffiedine (10-3-1), a committed game plan by the unbeaten Woodley kept his perfect record intact. Before a live Showtime audience at the Nashville Municipal Auditorium, the two-time NCAA All-American used a clinch game and edge in grappling in the main event at Strikeforce Challengers 13, outpointing his Belgian counterpart when it went to the judges’ scorecards.
“Man, I did well,” Woodley said of his performance. “Tarec’s a very tough guy. Had some power, got some pop, difficult guy. I endured it. I pressed him. I think I kept the pressure on him and kept him from doing a lot of striking. You know, I did a good job tonight.”
Saffiedine would have most certainly preferred a stand-up battle in this match, but Woodley did everything in his power to keep the fight close-range. He worked the Muay Thai clinch throughout the three rounds of action, seeking takedowns when he found openings. However, Saffiedine did a nice job of working the sprawl to block multiple takedown attempts, but the overall control eventually resulted in the win for his undefeated opponent.
“The game plan was try to be dynamic, in and out,” Woodley reflected. “He does a lot of switching of his feet, throwing kicks, kicks, kicks, kicks. So for me, it was just getting out of his range, going in when it was time to go in.”
The pace of the fight was dictated by Woodley, due mostly to his ability to maintain clinch control over Saffiedine. The Belgian striker was frustrated at times because he was unable to find the distance to unload his signature stand-up game, but Woodley fought a smart fight and did not sway from his close-range strategy. When the judges were called upon after the 15 minutes had concluded, the Missouri native took the decision victory with tallies of 30-27, 29-28 and 29-28.
As for what is next for Woodley, that will depend on how Strikeforce matchmaker Rich Chou sees the progression of the quickly rising welterweight prospect. He will likely need to get in a couple more bouts before consideration for a crack at the Strikeforce Welterweight Championship, which is currently held by Nick Diaz, but he has certainly done what is needed to be elevated to the promotion’s Arena Series.
Regarding Diaz, he returns to action on January 29th when he defends his title against Evangelista “Cyborg” Santos in San Jose.