Sean Woodson achieved a dream of his last week when he secured a UFC contract with a vicious flying knee knockout of Terrance McKinney at Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series.
“It’s finally starting to set in that I’m a UFC fighter,” Woodson told MMASucka. “First, it was really surreal. It wasn’t really hitting me, but it’s hitting me now. It’s great.”
Woodson improved to 6-0 against the grappling-heavy McKinney, who fell to 7-2. Woodson took the fight on a week’s notice. As a massive featherweight, Woodson had a lot of weight to cut. He added he would never cut down to 145 pounds on such short notice again. For that reason, he was thrilled simply because he won the fight.
“Before I even got the contract, I was already on top of the world,” he said.
McKinney, as Woodson expected, was in dogged pursuit of the takedown early. Woodson managed to defend a couple of shots against the fence before McKinney tripped him down. McKinney maintained control of Woodson’s back and threatened neck cranks and rear naked chokes for the remainder of the first round. However, Woodson stayed composed.
“Whenever we started the grappling portions, I could feel my cardio took a real big hit from that weight cut,” Woodson said. “I knew going in that any grappling exchanges we got into, I was going to have to be really smart and conserve my energy.”
Instead of attempting to explode back to his feet, Woodson focused on defending the choke. While he lost the battle, he would go on to win the war.
“I knew the second round would play out in my favor.”
Spoiler alert: It did.
McKinney became predictable with his takedowns, and Woodson realized that his opponent wasn’t setting them up properly with his striking.
“The last time he took me down [early in Round 2], I was like, ‘The next time I got back to my feet, I am going to hit that knee,’” Woodson explained. “I knew he wasn’t going to take me down again the next time I got back up.”
Like Woodson foresaw, McKinney shot in again, and Woodson timed a stunning jump knee that put his opponent out cold. Ultimately, it was that finish in tandem with the rest of the fight that earned Woodson his contract.
Earning the Contract
He was bracing himself for the possibility of him not receiving a contract due to the possibility that White and the UFC brass might have wanted to see more from him. The fighters who joined Woodson in the winners’ circle told him he was getting a contract, guaranteed. Then, White began evaluating the winners’ performances and doling out contracts.
“When Dana White first started talking about me, it didn’t sound too good, but he changed tune midway and it hit me,” Woodson said. “Before he got done talking, I was like, ‘Holy shit, I’m going to be signed to the UFC.’ Then it happened, and it was a dream come true.
“If I would’ve just came out there and hit him with the flying knee in 5-10 seconds into the fight Masvidal-style, I don’t think I would’ve gotten the contract. That could’ve just been a lucky moment or something. The fact that I got dominated the way I did in the first round, kept my composure, came back from adversity and finished the fight in the second round the way I did, I think that’s what got me signed.”
Bring On the Featherweights
At 6 feet 2 inches tall and possessing a 78-inch reach, Woodson is a physical puzzle for anyone in the featherweight division.
“I know how to use [my reach],” he said. “I’m just built different, I move different and I think different. I’m tall, lanky, and I’ve got good takedown defense, so I can force these grapplers to stand with me. That’ll be a problem for all of them. I’m ready to take the featherweight division by storm.”
His UFC debut has yet to be scheduled, but Woodson has an opponent in mind. “Mean” Hakeem Dawodu, who’s 10-1-1 overall and 3-1 in the UFC. He’s riding a three-fight winning streak. The call-out comes from a place of respect, though. Woodson watched Dawodu’s latest bout, where he scored a head kick knockout of Yoshinori Horie at UFC 240.
“He’s an exciting fighter and I think me and him can put on a hell of a show,” Woodson said. “I’ve already showed that I can handle a collegiate-level wrestler, so now I want to show what I can do with someone who’s willing to stand and strike with me.”
Even though Woodson has reached the UFC, he refuses to let himself get complacent.
“I remember a quote Dana White said. ‘It’s hard to get in the UFC, but it’s even harder to stay here.’ Ever since then, I’ve tried to control my emotions and keep doing what I’m doing. Keep working just as hard. I don’t want to get too high. I’m just trying to stay level, keep moving forward and pick up some more wins.”
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