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2016 STL MMA National Pro of the Year

By Matt Frazier | Knuckle Junkies

It was an incredible 2016 for Tyron Woodley. After climbing the ranks of the crowded UFC welterweight division, and winning key fights, he finally got a well-deserved shot at the title.

On July 30th, Woodley stepped into the Octagon with former teammate Robbie Lawler and the winner would take home UFC gold. Two minutes and twelve seconds would be all that it would take. Woodley pressured Lawler early, eventually catching him with a powerful overhand right that dropped Lawler to the canvas, from there it was academic. Woodley was the 11th champion in UFC history and the 10th man to hold this honor.

"Plain and simple he's the best fighter in one of the toughest divisions in the UFC," Travis Brown, of MMA Wreckage, said. "Robbie Lawler was on a tear and Woodley finished him in the first round. I also don't think the fight between him and Thompson was as close as indicated."

After winning the belt in July, Woodley turned around and defended the strap on the historic UFC 205 card in New York at Madison Square Garden against the seemingly unsolvable Stephen "Wonderboy" Thompson. After five back-and-forth rounds, the fight would be declared a majority draw and Woodley would return home to St. Louis with his belt.

"It's hard to deny the year he had," Brett Auten, Knuckle Junkies editor-in-chief, said. "Tyron made few missteps inside and outside the cage. Not only did he win the UFC title in spectacular fashion, he continued to build his name and brand, taking advantage of his platform as a Fox analysis and he became a positive force back home in his community."

Woodley joins former Mizzou wrestling teammate Michael Chandler as a major title holder. Chandler of course won and defended his Bellator lightweight title, and was also nominated for this award.

"Hats off to Woodley and Chandler for their hard work and sacrifice to put St. Louis on the map as our champs." Kevin Hahn, head coach at Hahn MMA, said.

The future looks bright for Woodley, who has been linked to UFC super fights with Michael Bisping and Conor McGregor. Skilled at making the most of his opportunities, Woodley will no doubt be in the headlines for years to come, always proud to represent his hometown of St. Louis.

Voting on the 2016 STL MMA Awards came from a collection of area promoters, coaches, media members, and others. The panel consisted of Brett Auten (Knuckle Junkies), Matt Frazier (Kunckle Junkies) Steve Berger (Berger MMA/FitorFight), Travis Brown (MMA Wreckage), Jared Daniels Block (Modern Combat System/Gateway Fighing Series), John Davis (cutman), Rob Donaker (Shamrock FC COO/ matchmaker), Jordan Dowdy (Knuckle Junkies/2 Pros Know podcast), Sid Gee (cutman/coach), Kevin Hahn (Hahn's MMA), Brian Higginbotham (Fighting for Autism), Jesse Finney (Shamrock FC President), Kevin Engel (Shamrock FC commentator), Jeremy Johnson (Shamrock FC commentator), Sara Levin (, Craig Nasselo (cutman), Jimmy Range (Jimmy Range Photography), Mike Rogers (St. Charles MMA), Kain Royer (Academy of Courage) Patrick Smith (Cage Championships), Josh Stewart (Spire MMA Referee), Dr. Melvin Maclin (Fight doctor)