Top welterweight contender Stephen Thompson fought champion Tyron Woodley to a majority draw at UFC 205. Two judges scored it a draw and one scored the bout for Woodley. The two will rematch in Saturday’s UFC 209 main event in Las Vegas, and Thompson believes that he knows why he was unable to seal the deal in their first bout.
Woodley was able to take Thompson down after catching a kick in the opening round of their first outing and controlled “Wonderboy” on the ground. Thompson blames the takedown on laziness.
“In the first round, I ended up throwing that lazy kick and didn’t get it back like I was supposed to and he ended up catching the kick,” he explained during the UFC 209 Media Conference Call.
Preparing for the rematch, Thompson has worked on tightening up his game. Having been in there with Woodley before, Thompson believes that he’s made the adjustments needed to dethrone the champion.
“My last fight, I was very hesitant,” he said. “So just got to go out there and fight like I normally do. Just let it all out; don’t hold anything back.”
Thompson was surprised by Woodley’s strength in their first fight. He felt it in the clinch, on the ground, and in Woodley’s right hand. The 34-year-old Californian has bulked up for the rematch.
“In the last fight, I definitely got caught on the bottom. Tyron’s got a good top game and he’s very strong on top. I do have a ground game. I just wasn’t able to implement it. He was just very strong on top. I do have a ground game, I wasn’t able to implement it. He has a very strong top-game. I was walking around very light and I could definitely feel that in those clinch position,” he said.
“So working on my weight, feeling stronger now. My ground game is getting better every day. We’re working. This is the top of the game. I’m fighting the best of the best. So my game is getting better every day,” he added.
Thompson’s adjustments for the rematch are subtle. He’s felt Woodley’s punching power, and knows he has to avoid taking the damage that he did at UFC 205.
“Just being on point every step of the way and being mindful of his power,” Thompson said about his UFC 209 game plan. “He’s a powerful guy. He’s knocks dudes out, you saw what he did to Robbie Lawler and he smoked me in the head in the fourth round. So just got to be on point, man, got to hit and move, baby.
“Tyron is a very strong opponent, very strong grappler, you can definitely feel that on top, as you saw in that first round. So just being ready at every point, every step of the way during all five rounds if it even goes to that. Throwing my kicks and just making sure I’m back in position.”
Both have made changes to their preparation heading into the rematch. They’ve improved their skill sets, and Thompson thinks the rematch will be an even better fight than their Fight of the Night performance at UFC 205.
“Tyron is an intelligent guy. You know he’s going to be making some adjustments. We’re both going to be making adjustments to make this fight exciting and try and leave with that W. So I know he’s making adjustments, I’m making adjustments, which is going to make this fight even better.”