Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Welterweight rivals Tyron Woodley and Stephen Thompson clashed last night (March 4, 2017) at UFC 209 inside T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Woodley came within inches of a knockout victory in their first fight, and he was definitely hoping to land the real thing last night. Opposite Thompson a second time, Woodley finally had the chance to cement his hold on the division. Meanwhile, Thompson made a couple big mistakes last time around, and they cost him. If he could avoid similar errors in the rematch, Thompson had a great chance to finally secure the title, but he was faced with an extraordinarily dangerous foe primed to capitalize on a single misstep.
Instead, neither man made any real progress toward their goals.
Much like the first fight, it didn’t take long for Woodley to place himself along the fence. Both fighters were very slow to engage from that position, but it was “Wonderboy” who landed first, scoring with a side kick and counter hook.
While Thompson was fairly patient and didn’t commit to very much, Woodley threw even less in the first round. He restricted himself to some — mostly non-committal — low kicks, rarely attempting to flurry with his right. Meanwhile, Thompson racked up points with lead leg kicks and positional control.
It wasn’t the least bit pretty or damaging, but “Wonderboy” played his game and won the round.
Woodley made an effort to remain in the center of the Octagon to begin the second round, but it still didn’t take long for him to circle into the fence. Early on, Woodley looked for a couple right hand leads, but Thompson’s Southpaw right hook was in position to counter each time. Oddly enough, the second round was perhaps even slower than the first. Thompson landed a few side kicks and counter shots, but his landed output was likely in the single digits. Meanwhile, Woodley landed by my count one real right hand to the face, and several light body shots. Once again, “Wonderboy” seemed to win the round simply by controlling cage position and being slightly more active.
Finally, Woodley opened the third round with a takedown attempt. He failed on the initial single-leg, but Woodley was able to drive Thompson into the fence and finish from the clinch. Once on top, Woodley quickly trapped his opponent’s wrist behind his back, allowing him to land some significant shots. After about a minute on the bottom, Thompson managed to return to his feet with plenty of time left to work. He scored some strong punches on the initial break before returning to long range shots with Woodley’s back to the fence. Thompson landed the better shots until the bell, but he never really picked it up enough to win back the round.
Woodley began the fourth round with some right hands to the body, leading a bit more often than before. However, Thompson still feinted and side kicked his way to pushing Woodley into the fence, where Thompson’s range control allowed him to work without being hit. For the third time in four rounds, Thompson was slightly more active and kept his foe trapped on the fence.
Woodley stalked Thompson to open the final round, but he still did not really open up. He occasionally leaped into a right hand or reached for a takedown, but Thompson was reading him rather well and maintaining the outside angle. After four minutes of very little from either man, Woodley finally found a home for his monstrous right hand. The first one seemed to catch his foe off-balance and knock him down, but the second landed perfectly and badly hurt his opponent. Nevertheless, Thompson recovered and returned to his feet, leading us to another close decision. This time around, only one judge scored the fight a draw, giving the decision to Tyron Woodley.
To get this out of the way, I only saw two scoring possibilities. Thompson either won the fight based on Woodley taking three — three! — rounds off, or it was a draw due to Woodley’s flurry in the fifth. Frankly, there’s a stronger argument that Thompson bounced back from the takedown in the third to win the round than Woodley winning any of rounds one, two or four, so the decision is fairly baffling to me.
MMA judging doesn’t make any sense and never has.
Regardless, Woodley remains the champion. Just like the first fight, the combination of a single takedown and one big flurry earned him the win. Compared to the last fight, however, both his takedown and flurry were far less brutal, yet this time Woodley found his hand raised?
Hurry up and give Demian Maia or Georges St-Pierre a title shot.
None of this criticism of the decision really lets Thompson off the hook, either. Thompson talked a lot about letting his hands go in the lead up to this match, but he never really did that. Thompson may have been more consistently active than his opponent, but long periods of time still passed where Thompson chose to feint rather than strike.
Feints are important, but so is actually scoring.
For example, Woodley scored his single takedown in the third round and was tired as hell when he returned to his feet. Rather than ramping up the pressure when his foe was least dangerous, Thompson remained patient and picked at small shots. Had he instead jammed a hard body kick into Woodley’s mid-section — the wrestler was far too tired to take another shot — it really could’ve lead to something.
Across the whole fight, Thompson threw maybe a dozen strikes with real damage potential. He may have deserved to win, but it still was not an impressive performance.
Last night at UFC 209, Tyron Woodley sort of defeat Stephen Thompson. Where do both men go from here?
For complete UFC 209: “Woodley vs Thompson 2” results and play-by-play, click HERE!