Las Vegas is the chosen host of the UFC’s next pay-per-view event, UFC 209, and it is filled with modern MMA superstars in Tyron Woodley, Stephen Thompson, Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson. The much-awaited rematch between welterweight champion Tyron Woodley and challenger Stephen Thompson will headline the event after these two fighters fought five hard gruelling rounds on the way to a majority draw back at UFC 205 in New York.
Both fighters came out of the bout at UFC 205 with refreshed and renewed perspectives. Woodley argues that Thompson brought his A+ game to the table that night and that he doesn’t have any improvements in him. Tyron Woodley says: “What did he do in that last fight that should make me concerned? I’m not the one who got knocked down four times in one round, nearly submitted, completely dominated in that first round.
Thompson, on the other hand, believes that he didn’t live up to his full potential. He had success standing up with Tyron Woodley and was probably holding back more than he should have. Regardless of what these two fighters think, it’d be silly not to believe that each of them will enter the cage at UFC 209 with significant improvements to their game after a four-month layoff and the added motivation of getting another shot at the man they just faced.
Woodley’s sheer dominance in rounds one and four stand out as the significant moments of the UFC 205 Welterweight championship bout. Woodley took down Stephen Thompson after a failed kick attempt and managed to land effective ground and pound in what one judge had scored as a 10-8 round. Woodley smacked Thompson up in round four, which is arguably one of the best rounds in MMA history, by knocking him down repeatedly and marginally missing out on a submission attempt. While these moments are the most memorable, let’s not forget that Stephen Thompson won the three remaining rounds.
Thompson found more success in his boxing than karate in the first fight against Woodley and often landed heavy 1-2 punches straight down the line. Woodley neutralised the kicks of Thompson by waiting back and attempting to catch these attempts, forcing ‘Wonderboy’ to think carefully before settling into his unusual striking combinations that involve all kinds of kicks from different angles.
You can break down this rematch in a multitude of different ways and probably arrive at a number of contrasting outcomes. After watching the first fight a number of times now and studying the potential improvements that each fighter can make in both strategy and execution, I’m leaning towards a Stephen Thompson victory. ‘Wonderboy’ looked, and was, the better fighter for three of the five rounds and if it wasn’t for that one mistake in which Tyron Woodley caught him with a monster right hand as he stepped into range, Thompson would have continued to beat Woodley up with long, straight punches.
This is the greatest outlier to me – Thompson’s boxing. Woodley looked a little confused, as many opponents before him have, against Thompson’s strange wide stance and unsuspecting kicks and this opened up the doors for Wonderboy’s hands to come crashing down the middle. Woodley chose to wait it out for Thompson’s kicks and use these as a tool to take him down to the mat to work his strength through grappling.
All-in-all, I’m backing Thompson to come in and execute on his game plan and leave Las Vegas as the new UFC welterweight champion.
Stephen Thompson to Win
Sunday 5th March, 05:00 GMT
Odds: -125 – Skybet