UFC 209: Tyron Woodley vs Stephen 'Wonderboy' Thompson rematch means more than just the welterweight title

UFC welterweight and commentator Dan Hardy looks ahead to this weekend’s eagerly anticipated event in Las Vegas in a rematch for the UFC welterweight title

Click to follow

This weekend’s two headlining bouts at UFC 209 had fans divided over which they are most excited about. The main event is a rematch for the UFC welterweight title and a contest which was in the running for ‘Fight of the Year’ in 2016, and after Khabib Nurmagomedov vs Tony Ferguson was unfortunately cancelled when the Russian had to be taken to hospital before Friday’s weigh-in, all eyes will now be on Tyron Woodley and Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson's second encounter.

Woodley clinched the belt by knocking out hardy veteran Robbie Lawler at UFC 201 in July and immediately began calling for big fights, upon which he would be able to build his legacy in the sport. No fight made more sense than the number one contender, Wonderboy, without a loss on his record in almost five years and several highlight reel knockouts to support his case.

The fight was signed and added to one of the biggest fight cards in the organisation’s history, New York City’s first UFC event, UFC 205, at the historic Madison Square Garden in November. Both athletes fought hard for 25 minutes.

Woodley won the first round with a big takedown and an elbow that cut Wonderboy on the bridge of his nose. The second saw the defending champ tie Wonderboy up and nullify his ranged striking skills, but feeling a sense of urgency, Thompson pushed back in the third, only to be dropped three times in the fourth.

With the scorecards a mystery to both fighters I would imagine Woodley was confident after such a big fourth round, even though he started the final round a little slower after that huge investment of energy looking for the finish. Thompson tried hard to land with significance but was unable to connect cleanly and steal a late stoppage.

When the verdict was in, it was clear that the judges had struggled to score the bout well, with two of them seeing the fight as a draw and one official leaning towards Woodley by one point. A majority draw was declared and the disappointment of the athletes’ faces was obvious and understandable. Woodley was clearly irked by the decision, having wanted to make a statement in his first title defence only to be denied that by a durable Thompson.

The only logical solution was to hit the rerun button and give them another training camp to prepare and another five rounds to try and figure each other out. That moment has arrived and both Woodley and Wonderboy will have been driven to make adjustments in an attempt to claim a victory. Although the belt is on the line, it seems bigger than that.

Woodley thought he had done enough for the victory at UFC 205 (Zuffa LLC via Getty)

It seems like Wonderboy is desperately seeking that gold cap on his already impressive martial arts career. A decorated kickboxer and karateka, Thompson has been a winning athlete for many years. The frustration of his world title attempt ending in a draw must be extremely motivating for someone with such a competitive nature.

Woodley seems to have a real chip on his shoulder, which I’m sure he thought would be remedied by winning the title. His first defence being anything other than dominant is unlikely to help the situation at all. Two things that he does know from their first encounter is that he can take Wonderboy down and control him and, if he connects with his chin, will seat him on the canvas, at least temporarily.

Wonderboy has a great work rate, but we didn’t see it much against Woodley, as he either didn’t have the space or was hesitating due to the threat of being taken down. He is also on a grappling fast-track, with his brother-in-law being Carlos Machado, a veteran eight degree blackbelt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

Thompson and Woodley rematch at UFC 209 following their entertaining majority draw (Getty)

How these two have developed since their last encounter and what they will bring to the table in a rematch is anyone’s guess. One thing that we can be certain of though, is that both fighters will feel the need to do a little more in this next outing. Another draw, or even a split decision either way would be equally as frustrating. Woodley, Wonderboy and everyone that bore witness to the first fight will be feeling the same. We need some closure! A definitive and dominant performance, leaving no question as to who deserves the UFC welterweight belt, is the only satisfactory outcome for this rematch.

Watch UFC 209: Woodley vs Thompson 2 live on BT Sport 2 from 1am GMT on the morning of Sunday 5th March, or catch the Early Prelims exclusively on UFC Fight Pass from 11:30pm GMT on Saturday