The welterweight title bout was the co-main event of Saturday’s UFC 235 show at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. It aired on pay-per-view following prelims on ESPN and UFC Fight Pass.
Per the UFC, Usman is the promotion’s first African-born champion.
Usman (15-1 MMA, 10-0 UFC) crawled out to the center to start, pressing forward and keeping his guard high as Woodley (19-4-1 MMA, 9-3-1 UFC) laced out a huge right hand. Usman changed levels shortly after, looking for the takedown, and Woodley tried to grab hold of a guillotine, falling to his back. In half-guard, Usman felt comfortable enough to punch and elbow the body, and Woodley eventually had to let go.
Once he let go of the choke, Woodley crawled first to his knees and then to his feet, eventually backing away and again looking to strike. Usman kicked from range and then shot forward looking for the takedown. Woodley continued to defend against the charge, and referee Marc Goddard brought them back to the center.
Woodley did land once nice left hand in the closing seconds, though his follow-up takedown was stuffed.
Usman again took the center to start the second, moving quickly forward and resuming his grinding attack against the cage. The crowd became restless, but Usman stuck with it. Woodley briefly pulled free, but Usman chased him and wrapped the body, lifting his foe and slamming him to the floor.
Usman moved quickly to mount, pressing down from the top and keeping Woodley flat on his back. Woodley tried to push down on the legs and escape to guard, but Usman forced him to instead deliver a few sharp elbows and forearms to the head. Usman wasn’t doing devastating damage from the top, but he was certainly racking up points. Eventually, he did get an arm-triangle in position, but when he couldn’t get the squeeze, he instead punched the body until the bell.
Woodley fired a big overhand to start the third, but Usman smiled when it glanced over the top. Usman then moved into the clinch, and the two men traded bodyshots from the clinch. Usman kept pressing forward, holding Woodley against the cage, but Goddard brought them back to the center after a bit of a stalemate.
In the restart, Usman continued to hold the center. Woodley moved well on the outside, slipping a few strikes and trying to deliver one of his own, but Usman was suffocating with his pressure and was able to again get back to the clinch. Usman continued to drill the ribs while Woodley held the body, and Goddard again had to break them apart.
Usman continued to move forward with his hands high, and he stumbled briefly after a two-punch combination from Woodley snuck partially through his guard. Still, he immediately gave chase again, pressing Woodley to the fence, where they finished the round.
Usman charged across the cage to start the fourth, and Woodley set up against the cage. As Usman pushed forward, Woodley nearly landed a clean uppercut but then turned to the guillotine again. Woodley dropped to guard but didn’t have control of the neck, and Usman popped out rather quickly, taking top position and looking to dig at the body.
With Goddard watching closely, Usman did his best to stay busy and maintain his dominant spot. Woodley worked to guard and then looked to get his back to the cage, but he couldn’t get up from the seated position. Usman used his shoulder to drive into the chin, though Goddard did bring them back to the feet with a little under two minutes.
As Usman pressed forward again, Woodley tried to tag him with uppercuts, but Usman moved into the clinch and landed a big elbow as they broke. Vicious punches followed, and Woodley was clearly rocked. Usman saw it and hunted the finish with haymakers, though Woodley also braced against the cage and fired back with vengeance. Woodley somehow survived the onslaught, and Usman seemed to have potentially punched himself out, and the round finished in the clinch as they briefly slowed.
Usman again walked to Woodley’s side of the cage to start the fifth, and he quickly moved inside on a single-leg attempt Woodley braced against the cage and reached down to control the neck, leaving Usman forced to be careful in the spot. As Woodley held on, Usman stomped the feet a bit before eventually lifting his opponent in the air and slamming him to the floor. Woodley was able to move to half-guard and maintained pressure on the head, but there was no control or threat of a submission.
Usman was happy to stay on top, just watching the time wind off the clock. Woodley has nothing from his back, and Usman did just enough to stay where he was. Woodley eventually got his back to the cage, but he couldn’t rise from a seated position, and Usman was happy to hold him there until the bell and walking away with a clearcut win, 50-44, 50-44 and 50-45.