Tyron Woodley mitigated the risks, weighed the rewards and beat Stephen Thompson at his own game; and while not aesthetically pleasing, his approach brought about the desired result.
The two-time NCAA All-American wrestler picked his spots and rode a near-finish in the fifth round to a majority decision over Thompson, as he retained the Ultimate Fighting Championship welterweight crown in the UFC 209 main event on Saturday at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. Scores were 48-47, 48-47 and 47-47, giving Woodley the last laugh on “Wonderboy” after they fought to a draw in November.
FightMetric figures reveal the close nature of the rematch: Woodley connected on 54 significant strikes across five rounds, while Thompson landed 53. However, the champion was behind the wheel for the two most meaningful sequences of the fight. Woodley executed a takedown in the second round and consolidated it with top control in ground-and-pound. Then in the fifth, he knocked down and dazed Thompson with an overhand right before swarming with enough punches to get referee John McCarthy’s attention. A finish was not in the cards, but it nevertheless represented a dramatic shift in what was a mostly uneventful 25-minute affair (online betting).
In wake of UFC 209 “Woodley vs. Thompson 2,” here are five matches that ought to be made:
Tyron Woodley vs. Demian Maia: Unbeaten (4-0-1) across his last five appearances, Woodley has strengthened his foothold atop the welterweight division. The 34-year-old Roufusport rep now owns a 7-2 mark inside the Octagon, the draw with Thompson and decision losses to Rory MacDonald and Jake Shields the only blemishes on his UFC resume. Maia and his six-fight winning streak have already been slotted opposite Jorge Masvidal at UFC 211 on May 13. However, matchmakers would be wise to consider scrapping those plans, finding Masvidal another opponent and pitting Maia against Woodley for the title sometime this summer.
Stephen Thompson vs. Robbie Lawler: Thompson failed in two tries to dethrone Woodley but nevertheless remains a fixture in the 170-pound weight class. “Wonderboy” has already shown off his recuperative powers: The last time he experienced defeat, the South Carolina native went on a seven-fight tear that included victories against Robert Whittaker, Jake Ellenberger, Johny Hendricks and Rory MacDonald. With that said, Thompson turned 34 on Feb. 11 and figures to be living on borrowed time in regards to his competitive prime. Lawler has not fought since he was cut down by Woodley at UFC 201 on July 30.
David Teymur vs. James Vick: No one did more to raise his profile at UFC 209 more than Teymur. The Swedish prospect was superb in the lightweight co-headliner, taking a three-round unanimous decision from the favored Jackson-Wink MMA export. Teymur, 27, has hit the ground running in the UFC, with consecutive victories over Vannata, Jason Novelli and Martin Svensson. “The Ultimate Fighter 22” alum has won six fights in a row, four of them finishes, and carries the look of a potential star at 155 pounds. Vick last appeared at UFC Fight Night 104 on Feb. 4, when he submitted Abel Trujillo with a third-round brabo choke.
Daniel Kelly vs. Johny Hendricks: The ageless Kelly has made persistence and technique pay off for him. A four-time Olympian for his native Australia, the 39-year-old judoka spoiled the middleweight debut of Rashad Evans and walked away with a split decision over the former 205-pound champion. Kelly has quietly compiled a 6-1 record since arriving in the UFC in late 2014 and will ride a four-fight winning streak into his next assignment. Hendricks made his first run at 185 pounds on Feb. 19, when he was awarded a unanimous decision against onetime Bellator MMA titleholder Hector Lombard at UFC Fight Night 105.
Darren Elkins vs. Yair Rodriguez: In terms of pound-for-pound toughness, few can match Elkins. The Indiana native absorbed a gruesome beating from Mirsad Bektic for the better part of two rounds and then turned the tables on the highly touted American Top Team prospect. Elkins welcomed him into a close-quarters exchange in Round 3, moved behind him and uncorked several right hands and a head kick that prompted a shocking but warranted stoppage, a semi-conscious Bektic coming to rest at his feet. Bloodied but unbroken, Elkins was overcome by his emotions in the aftermath of perhaps the most significant victory of his career. Rodriguez’s stock continues to soar following his rout of B.J. Penn at UFC Fight Night 103 on Jan. 15.