Stephen Thompson said he recognized very early on that Robbie Lawler might not have been himself at UFC 201.
After Lawler and Tyron Woodley got into a clinch against the cage in the opening minutes, Thompson saw Lawler back away from Woodley. That, according to "Wonderboy," is a fatal mistake against Woodley.
"That's something you can't do against Tyron Woodley, is back up," Thompson said Monday on The MMA Hour with Ariel Helwani. "Because if you give him that forward momentum he's gonna land a shot or he's gonna end up taking you down."
Sure enough, Woodley finished the fight soon after with a massive right hand and some followup punches on the ground. Woodley became the new UFC welterweight champion with the first-round TKO finish Saturday night in Atlanta.
Thompson credited Woodley's power, but he doesn't think Lawler was fighting the way he normally does.
"I was literally expecting to see Robbie Lawler go out there and just overwhelm Tyron, the Robbie that we've seen in the past," Thompson said. "But as soon as they got out there, I realized for some reason this is not the same Robbie that we normally see."
Some said maybe all of the wars Lawler has been in — against the likes of Carlos Condit, Rory MacDonald and Johny Hendricks — have caught up with him. Thompson isn't sure if that is the case; he just doesn't think Lawler fought his fight Saturday.
"I think it was just a really good punch," Thompson said. "I think Robbie is the exact same fighter as we've had, I just didn't see it that night. Maybe it just wasn't his night. But I think it was the fact that Tyron has some power in his hands, in that right hand."
"Wonderboy" thought Lawler would win the fight and, as the next welterweight in line, believed a fight between him and Lawler would be one fans would be excited to see. Woodley used that against him on the FS1 post-fight show. Thompson was sitting in as an analyst and contributed to the interview, asking Woodley when the two would fight. Woodley said "Wonderboy" wanted to fight Lawler and now he can.
Thompson (13-1), who has won seven in a row, thinks he deserves the next shot at the title. He thought that even before Lawler and Woodley faced off. Even so, he was hoping to see more from that fight — not a finish in just 2:12. And certainly not from Woodley.
"I was very surprised," Thompson said. "I was kind of disappointed, because I did want to see a little bit more out of that fight, out of both of them. But Robbie just wasn't there. It was like, ‘Damn, that was disappointing.' It was a crazy KO, but a little disappointing that Robbie didn't tee-off a little more. It wasn't him."