Tyron Woodley claimed he was the best welterweight of all time.
The oddsmakers, however, claimed he was an underdog -- and their numbers suggested English challenger Darren Till would emerge from the UFC 228 main event at American Airlines Center in Dallas with the 170-pound belt securely in his possession.
Woodley, as it turned out, knew the real score.
He proved it by dropping his previously unbeaten challenger with a right hand before ultimately forcing a tap out thanks to a D'arce choke at 4:19 of the second round.
"(There were) a lot of people hating against me, but there's more people that's with me," he said.
"You don't fight with the odds."
The successful defense was Woodley's fourth since winning the championship from Robbie Lawler at UFC 201 in July 2016. He'd not fought in more than a year thanks to injuries, but he came out aggressively Saturday night and immediately went for takedowns against the taller and longer Till -- who entered on a run of successful striking performances, but was less adept when it came to grappling.
Woodley ended up landing 16 strikes to just one for Till in that opening five minutes, and closed the initial round clearly trying to bait his opponent into coming forward into the path of a right hand. The strategy paid off in the first few seconds of the subsequent session, as Till was struck squarely on the left side of the jaw and lurched over to his left side as Woodley gained positional control on the mat.
The action for the next few minutes consisted of Woodley landing fists and elbows as Till gamely played defense and tried to survive, but it appeared the challenger didn't recognize tactics as Woodley was able to subtly cinch his left arm around Till's neck and lock in the choke that led to the submission.
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"He's a tough kid," Woodley said. "He's a long, rangy opponent. Me trying to punch with him was extremely difficult. I had to let him come in. I saw he wasn't going anywhere, I had to take my time.
"He didn't recognize (the choke). At that point I knew I was going to get him."
Till, who earned "Performance of the Night" honors with a one-round halting of ex-champ Donald Cerrone last October, was clearly stunned by the suddenness of the right hand that began the decisive sequence.
"I knew he was powerful. I knew he had power punches," Till said. "My strategy was to feel him out in the first and to come forward. I left my hands down and the shot he clipped me with it was a great shot."
Woodley, who stands 5-foot-9, has been rumored ready to move up to 185 pounds, but he refused to elaborate on future plans beyond announcing the impending release of a musical performance next week. He did express willingness, however, to keep fighting whomever UFC boss Dana White signs up.
"It's kind of tough to say," Woodley said. "Whenever I say I want to fight a certain person, it doesn't get done. Whoever they put in front of me, I'm going to beat them. I'm the best welterweight of all time."
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UFC 228 fight card/results
Tyron Woodley (c) def. Darren Till via second-round submission (D'arce choke)
Jessica Andrade def. Karolina Kowalkiewicz
Zabit Magomedsharipov def. Brandon Davis via second-round submission (kneebar)
Jimmie Rivera def. John Dodson via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
Abdul Razak Alhassan def. Niko Price
Tatiana Suarez def. Carla Esparza via third-round TKO (strikes)
Aljamain Sterling def. Cody Stamann via third-round submission (kneebar)
Geoff Neal def. Frank Camacho