Sean Woodson (10-1-1 MMA, 4-1-1 UFC) is on “cloud 9” after his UFC Nashville win over newcomer Dennis Buzukja (11-3 MMA, 0-1 UFC).
While Buzukja made his debut with the promotion, he entered with more professional bouts than Woodson. He was also the fourth man to sign the dotted line to fight Woodson in Nashville in the span of three weeks.
The win was Woodson’s first since he TKO’d Collin Anglin with hooks to the body in November 2021. “The Sniper” was on a 10-month layoff after his split draw against Luis Saldana.
“It’s been quite some time since I got to feel the joys of victory,” Woodson told MMASucka. “I’m just happy to be here, man. I’m happy to be on the upside of this brutal sport of MMA. I call it brutal but beautiful, and right now, it’s beautiful for me.”
Woodson, showing off his usual boxing, also flashed some grappling over Buzukja, who trains with ace bantamweight grapplers in champion Aljamain Sterling and top contender Merab Dvalishvili.
Woodson’s opponents usually try to take him down and out-grapple him, so Woodson said it was “super satisfying” to out-roll someone from a grappling-heavy gym. Especially because he wasn’t planning on grappling.
Woodson said Buzukja initiated the grappling when he pushed him up against the cage and was looking to take him down.
“The moment he clinched up, I could feel my strength and grappling was superior to his,” Woodson said. “I adapted on the fly, which I feel is one of my best attributes. It’s not my speed or my power; I’m a lifelong boxer and all that, but I feel like my best attribute is how I’m able to adapt in a fight and how well-rounded I am. I just adapted on the fly. We clinched up, and I was like, ‘Oh, I could have success with this dude grappling.’ I chose to continue to do so. He comes from a grappling-heavy gym. World champion AlJo, who’s a highly-touted grappler, and Merab, all he does is grapple. It felt really good to show I was well-rounded and I’m a legit force to be reckoned with in the UFC.”
Woodson didn’t have a game plan for Buzukja, who he found out he was fighting mere days before the fight. He “100%” went into their fight winging it and fighting to the best of his abilities.
Woodson was initially slated to fight Steve Garcia on Aug. 5. He had a “good game plan” for Garcia after training for six or seven weeks. Garcia withdrew three weeks before the fight, and Jesse Butler was called in for the match-up.
“When Garcia fell out and they found Jesse Butler, I was aware that just two months ago, he had gotten brutally knocked out by Jim Miller,” Woodson said. “I remember saying to my manager, ‘Is this dude medically cleared? He’s not suspended? Are we sure he’s able to do this?’ He said they were all good and he had a 45-day suspension and that by Aug. 5, he would be eligible to fight me, so they went ahead with him.”
But a week-and-a-half before the fight, it was discovered the commission had altered Butler’s 45-day suspension to a 90-day suspension, which would make Butler ineligible to fight Woodson on Aug. 5, Woodson explained.
“The ball was dropped somewhere where somebody didn’t mention it to somebody,” Woodson said. “I don’t think [the commission] mentioned it to the UFC that they had switched it around, so they were unaware.”
Woodson thought the UFC might re-book him and Butler at a later date, but Woodson was reassured the promotion would find him someone for the Aug. 5 card at a 145-pound bout.
Mairon Santos was the next man up but couldn’t make it to Nashville because of visa issues. Woodson found this out on Tuesday at the front lobby of a Nashville hotel when he was checking into his room on fight week.
The UFC came up with Buzukja a few hours later.
“I didn’t really even bother to stress and worry myself about putting together a game plan,” Woodson said. “I was already somewhat familiar with him. I’m tapped into this sport in every way possible. I watch guys even outside of the UFC. Guys who are on their way to the UFC, I’m already watching them. I knew about him, so I just went back and watched some film on him to refresh my memory. I watched a few of his fights and didn’t even bother putting together a real-detailed game plan. I just took what I could from his fights.”
Woodson said he made sure not to let all the late-notice switches rattle him mentally.
“That’s happened to me before. I’ve dealt with some late-minute switcharoos before where it did rattle me and affect me. Because of that, I feel like it prepared me for this moment. I made sure to stay focused and dialed it and not let it throw me off my game.”
Woodson remained confident the UFC would find him someone to fight.
“This is the UFC, and it’s every MMA fighter’s dream to fight in the UFC,” he said. “I knew when Santos fell out fight week, I most likely wasn’t going to be fighting a UFC guy already. It would be somebody who they signed who would do anything to be a part of the UFC.”
Buzukja stepped up to the plate and showed a spirited effort against Woodson, who ultimately took a 30-27-across-the-board unanimous decision.
Sean Woodson defeats Dennis Buzukja via UD at UFC Nashville
How Dennis didn’t go to sleep from this knee will never make sense to me pic.twitter.com/nGr5DGvePi
— The Octagon Obsessed (@octagonobsessed) August 6, 2023
Woodson had nothing but good things to say about Buzukja, believing he could be a player in the UFC featherweight division.
“I think he was my toughest opponent to date,” Woodson said. “I think he’s a world-class fighter from a world-class gym. Even though the fight was on short notice, he was in shape. He had been training. He’s been a part of AlJo’s camp. He’s been a part of other guys’ camps in his gym. I’ve seen stuff on where he was saying the UFC was on the brink of signing him and all he had to do was stay ready. He had been preparing for a short-notice moment like this. The moment they announced this match-up, everyone was saying ‘About time’ and ‘Long overdue.’ He was expecting this for sure.”
Woodson said Buzukja was in-shape but feels the weight cut may have taken a toll on him because of the bout’s short-notice nature.
“Still, he was a tough fight. He was a durable dude, a crafty dude. He’s got a lot of power in his strikes. I’m really looking forward to seeing his next outing on a full camp. I truly believe he’s going to be a problem for a lot of guys in the featherweight division.”
Woodson himself remained locked in despite all the turmoil over the past month. His concern was whether the UFC would have to switch up the contracted weight of the bout, but his manager, Jason House of Iridium Sports Agency, assured his fighter the UFC would find someone who could tip the scale at 145. So Woodson kept his weight cut moving.
“That’s big for me,” he said. “My cuts have to be on point. I can’t slip up there at all or I won’t make weight. I’m just making sure I kept doing the things I need to make 145. Once I knew that, I’m not going to let nothing throw me off my game. I’m gonna be as professional as can be and always be as cooperative as can be with the UFC.”
Woodson wants to fight again by November or December the latest – the opponent doesn’t matter. He would be down to scrap against any of the three men he was inked to fight in Nashville, he said.
“I want a quick turnaround. I want to get more active. I’m gonna do everything in my power to make that happen. I’ll keep my weight down, keep training as always. I believe my manager is already talking about getting me something booked. I’m hoping for November or December. Preferably November, but if not, December is cool. I definitely want to get another one in before the end of the year.”
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