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Tyron Woodley stands as one of MMA’s most polarizing and accomplished figures, a pound-for-pound standout who for whatever reason has not endeared himself to the buying public.
Woodley will defend his Ultimate Fighting Championship welterweight title when he faces the undefeated Darren Till in the UFC 228 headliner on Saturday at the American Airlines Center in Dallas. He enters the cage on the heels of two pedestrian decisions against Stephen Thompson and Demian Maia, the latter in what was widely regarded as one of the worst fights of 2017. Woodley has not fought since he underwent shoulder surgery in December.
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As “The Chosen One” approaches his showdown with Till, here are five things you should know about him:
1. He was part of a large family.
Born on April 17, 1982 in Ferguson, Missouri, Woodley was one of 13 children. He was raised by his mother, Deborah, after his father left the home — and event that had a profound impact on him. Woodley bought his mother a house for Christmas in December, fulfilling a promise he had made to her as a child.
2. Wrestling provided him an avenue through which to excel.
Woodley won a state championship at McLuer High School in Florissant, Missouri, where he went 48-0 as a senior. He accepted a scholarship to the University of Missouri and became the first wrestler in school history to win a Big XII conference championship. Woodley, who graduated with a degree in business, still ranks 14th on Missouri’s all-time list in career victories with 110.
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3. He enjoyed a rapid rise in mixed martial arts.
Woodley made only two appearances on the regional scene before signing with Strikeforce in 2009. He won his first 10 bouts as a professional before being derailed by a fourth-round barrage of elbows and punches from former Pancrase champion Nate Marquardt at Strikeforce “Rockhold vs. Kennedy” on July 14, 2012. It remains the only stoppage loss of Woodley’s career.
4. Despite his reputation as a play-it-safe grinder, his prodigious physical skills make him a potent finisher.
More than half (11) of Woodley’s 18 wins have come by knockout, technical knockout or submission. He submitted four of his first five opponents — one by arm-triangle choke, one by brabo choke, one by rear-naked choke and one by armbar — but has not executed a submission since.
5. He has dabbled in acting in his spare time.
Woodley has appeared in a number of feature films, including Escape Plan 2: Hades (2017), Kickboxer: Vengeance (2016) and Straight Outta Compton (2015).