For UFC's Woodley, next big fight could be his big break

After big win in Vegas, St. Louis welterweight taking no time off while he waits for next match

When UFC welterweight Tyron Woodley was wrapping up preparations for the biggest fight of his up-and-coming career, he said he was feeling good about his striking power.

"As far as pure punching power, I'm in the top three or four in my weight class," Woodley said recently.

Based on the punches he threw Saturday night at UFC 167 in Las Vegas, the 31-year-old St. Louisan doesn't realize his own strength.

Woodley provided arguably the most impressive punch of the entire 12-bout card with a massive right hook to the chin of veteran Josh Koscheck. The punch dropped Koscheck and after a couple of more quick hits from Woodley, the fight was over. Twenty-two seconds remained in the first round.

"I just have to use the gift," Woodley said Sunday morning via phone from Las Vegas.

"God left me with a gift. On top of that, there's been hard work and a good mindset. Last night, I finally believed in it. I cashed in my cares and let it go."

Woodley, a former All-American wrestler at Missouri, used an overhand right to send Koscheck to one knee just seconds into the bout. Although Koscheck gained his bearings and tried to rally, even connecting on a couple of his own hits, Woodley continued to close in. After an encounter where both grappled to the floor, the fighters were stood up by the referee. That's when Woodley landed the blow that could put him on the fast track to a championship fight.

"Catch and release, like fishing," Woodley said of the decisive hit. "My coach told me you know he's going to throw that punch. You catch his punch and release your punch immediately. I did it without thinking about it. ... For me to put him away like that shows the type of power I've been blessed with.

"I think all the welterweights are on notice now."

Woodley, 2-1 in UFC and 12-2 in his four-year MMA career, doesn't know when he will fight next, but he plans to be ready in case any welterweights back out of already-scheduled UFC cards in January.

He also said the uncertainty created by the outcome of Saturday night's main event could work to his advantage. Champion Georges St-Pierre won a split decision over Johny Hendricks that was disputed by many, including UFC president Dana White. White said he was so upset by the ruling that he blasted the Nevada State Athletic Commission.

"This is the worst commission on the planet," White told reporters. "I am afraid to bring fights to Las Vegas. I never thought I'd say that."

White's hope for a quick rematch, however, could be sidetracked because St-Pierre said he plans to take a break because of personal reasons. With St-Pierre out indefinitely, Woodley said he should get a chance for another key fight that, if he were to win, could lead to a title match.

"One more big fight and I'm up next," Woodley said.

Woodley was up early Sunday to do an autograph signing in Las Vegas as part of an anti-bullying promotion, a cause he has long supported. He said he then would be heading to Los Angeles, where he has an audition scheduled Monday for a Lean Cuisine commercial. From there, he would fly to Tennessee to watch one of his three sons play in a national football tournament.

Although he has plenty of commitments outside the Octagon, Woodley is not planning to break from training. He said momentum is on his side, and he plans to take advantage as soon as he can.

"As long as I'm in shape, I can put myself in a good position, take a last-minute fight and go out, steal the night again," he said.

With that kind of punching power, it's only a matter of time.

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