Welterweight champion Tyron Woodley and Stephen Thompson first fought at UFC 205 in November to a majority draw. The bout earned Fight of the Night honors in the historic first event in New York City. The two met for the second time on Saturday in the UFC 209 main event in Las Vegas.
The rematch was largely a battle of patience. Each fighter waited for the other to engage to open up counter-strike opportunities. There was a lot of footwork and feints, but not a lot of striking in the first two rounds. Through ten minutes of fighting, only six significant strikes had landed.
Woodley scored a takedown in the opening moments of the third frame. He trapped Thompson’s right arm behind his back and delivered left hands to the body and head. 90 seconds later, Thompson worked his way back to his feet. Thompson targeted Woodley’s body in the second half of the round and finished the frame strong.
The fourth round saw little output by either fighter. It mirrored the first two frames. Heading into the final round, it was hard to say who was up on the scorecards.
Woodley came out aggressive in the final frame. He pressured Thompson and nearly finished the fight in the closing minute. The champion dropped Thompson with a combination. Thompson quickly got back to his feet only to be sent back down by a left hand. Woodley followed the challenger to the canvas, but was unable to put him away. The rematch went to a decision.
When the scorecards were being read by ring announcer Bruce Buffer, Woodley wasn’t sure what to expect them to read. Ultimately he was scored the winner by majority decision (48-47, 47-47, 48-47).
“I was extremely nervous,” he said about how he felt when the scores were being revealed. “Stephen did a way better job of gauging the space and made it very hard for me to come in close. The last round, we all know I went out there for the kill. I wish that I had done that in a few other rounds, but it was a good fight. I knew that it was close. I was just praying and making sure that the belt stayed home.”
Thompson disagreed with the decision and felt that he did enough to win the fight. He was confident that he had won as the scores were being announced.
“Tyron, he’s the champion for a reason. I knew that he’d be looking for the takedown. I had to play it smart. I thought I had it,” he said following the loss. “I thought I had it. I thought I threw the better strikes, landed more of the strikes. But you can’t leave it in the judges’ hands.”