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Fortunes changed for five at UFC 209

UFC 209 photos

At a time when people are choosing to only buy the biggest pay-per-view events, the UFC has opened 2017 with two shows headlined by lackluster title matches that ended up with close and unsatisfying results.

At UFC 208, Germaine de Randamie got the decision over Holly Holm in a fight that most felt Holm squeaked out. On Saturday's UFC 209 show in Las Vegas, the disappointment was far more than that.

First, the fight many were looking forward to the most, an interim lightweight title between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson, fell through when the former was hospitalized when his body shut down cutting weight.

Secondly, the remaining title match, with Tyron Woodley defending the welterweight title against Stephen "Wonderboy" Thompson, was disappointing from almost every way of looking at it.

The one thing about Woodley vs. Thompson is that on paper, stylistically, it looked like it couldn’t miss. Their first fight, on Nov. 12, was a majority draw after one of the most exciting fights of the year. Nobody proved their superiority, making sense for it to be run again.

On Saturday, once again nobody proved their superiority. The only way to feel the bout had any intrigue while it was going on was to look at it as two legitimate top fighters battling 25 minutes to see who deserves the championship, with only winning and losing mattering. Very few fans watch fights for that reason. Most want to see action. There may have never been a UFC title rematch where the first fight was so exciting and the second fight was so disappointing.

Even that small group into the idea of a tactical fight where the game is about extreme caution had to end up unhappy. When the 25 minutes were over, nobody decisively beat anybody. There was no real winner. The fans were losers. Thompson, who ended up on the wrong on of a close decision, was a loser. And Woodley, while getting his hand raised and remaining champion, didn't really win either, as he did nothing to increase interest in his future fights.

Ultimately, the decision came down to round two, which judges Derek Cleary and Chris Lee gave to Woodley, making him a 48-47 winner. Sal D'Amato scored the round for Thompson, but he gave Woodley a 10-8 fifth round, leaving it as a 47-47 draw.

Both men landed eight significant strikes in that round. Media scores on had 26 percent scoring Woodley as the winner, 32 percent for Thompson, and 42 percent even.

The fight came down to a late fifth-round onslaught by Woodley that got him the fifth round, and saved him from a unanimous decision championship loss. Often in a situation like that, there would be interest in a rematch. In this case, coming off two matches, the idea of a third would be down the line. But the way the fight played out, even without a clear winner, it's nothing that would attract much interest again.

Let's look at how Fortunes Changed for Five at UFC 209.

TYRON WOODLEY - The likely next opponent for Woodley looks to be the winner of the May 13 fight in Dallas between Demian Maia (24-6) and Jorge Masvidal (32-11). Neither of those fights is a strong box office. Nick Diaz could be an option, but he hasn't won a fight since 2011, and in no way deserves a title shot. Woodley though has in the past indicated Diaz would be who he'd want to face.

STEPHEN THOMPSON - Thompson (13-2-1) is in the worst position, a legitimate top contender who probably isn't getting a title shot until somebody beats Woodley first. Worse, he's the guy to avoid by anyone who is near the title picture. For the UFC, it makes no sense for Thompson to knock off a contender when he's likely not getting a title shot with a win. Because of that, an opponent that on paper would make sense is Robbie Lawler (27-11), the former champion who Woodley beat in the first round. The other best opponent right now for Thompson would be Donald Cerrone (32-8).

DAVID TEYMUR - An underdog, Teymur (6-1) whose striking, coming from kickboxing, was crisper and better technically than most ended up winning the semifinal over Lando Vanatta in the match that was everything the main event wasn't. Teymur would be best served next against either Ross Pearson (19-13) or Olivier Aubin-Mercier (9-2).

ALISTAIR OVEREEM - Overeem (42-15) is in an interesting position with his stoppage win over Mark Hunt. If Junior dos Santos (18-4) beats Stipe Miocic with his May 13 title shot, a dos Santos vs. Overeem title fight makes sense since Overeem knocked out dos Santos on Dec. 19, 2015. But if Miocic retains, Overeem, having lost via first-round knockout to the current champion, is not likely to be given a rematch so soon. At that point, it would make sense for him to face either Cain Velasquez (14-2) or Derrick Lewis (18-4). An Overeem vs. Velasquez fight is one of those fights that has looked interesting for years, but even in a heavyweight division short on depth, somehow their paths never crossed.

DANIEL KELLY - Kelly (13-1) usually doesn't look like a world-beater in his fights, but he wins the close ones, as he did against Rashad Evans this past week. The fight was a close call. The big surprise was that Evans was the light heavyweight moving to middleweight, and lost so much natural bodyweight that he had no trouble cutting to 185. In doing so, he looked tiny in the cage next to Kelly. With his record, Kelly would make a good debut opponent for former WSOF champion David Branch (20-3).

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