What a difference three months make.
When Tyron Woodley and Stephen Thompson squared off at UFC 205 in November, the matchup of UFC welterweight champion Woodley’s power and wrestling and challenger Thompson’s kickboxing made for one of 2016’s most memorable matchups. The bout was called a majority draw after a wild 25 minutes.
The rematch, not so much.
At Saturday night at UFC 209, Woodley and Thompson engaged in an affair that could generously be described as tactical. The crowd at Las Vegas’ T-Mobile Arena had a different opinion, as they frequently jeered the long stretches of inactivity.
The champion, though, did what he needed with the title hanging in the balance. A strong flourish to finish the fifth round was enough to make the difference.
Woodley retained the title on a majority decision, earning a pair of 48-47 scores to a 47-47 and improving to 6-1-1 in his past eight fights.
“I thought I was going to finish him, but in the end I got the victory,” said Woodley (17-3-1). “Nothing was surprising.”
The first two rounds saw Thompson (13-2-1) repeatedly press forward and force Woodley to backpedal. But even though he frequently had his opponent cornered, Thompson never really got his offense untracked.
Woodley showed urgency in the third, as he went to his wrestling base, scored a takedown, and spent about half the round working from top position.
An uneventful fourth round followed. Then Woodley took center Octagon in the fifth and finally got untracked, rocking Thompson with a bunch of big shots and getting him into deep trouble.
Given how the scorecards went down, that likely saved Woodley’s championship.
“Stephen did a way better job of getting in my face,” Woodkey said. “In the final round I went in for the kill, I wish I had done that in other rounds, but I got the job done and won the fight.”