Tyron Woodley vs. Stephen Thompson - UFC 209 Pre-Fight Analysis

After a heavily under-promoted UFC 208, the UFC has really pushed this Saturday evening's Pay-Per-View. Rightfully so. I believe UFC 209 holds the most exciting main card (on paper) since the organization's magical debut in New York City this past November. It has everything a combat sports fan looks for in an event: knockout artists, legends, prospects, thrilling match-ups, and title fights. Without further ado, let's get to the main event breakdown:

My favorite element about this bout is the fact that I wholeheartedly believe both men have precisely the right combination of skills to defeat one another. It's just a matter of who is going to prepare better, strategize the smarter gameplan, and execute it to perfection.

Stephen Thompson is quite possible the best pure striker in MMA. This 57-0 undefeated kickboxer smoothly made the transition into mixed martial arts less than a decade ago. In a short amount of time, he developed into a world-class competitor, decisively beating extremely tough opposition such as Rory MacDonald and Johnny Hendricks. The uppermost feature that causes Wonderboy to stick out in a stacked division is his amazing use of distance. People always seem to have poor performances against him because he's excellent at making you fight his fight, which primarily surrounds around distance management.

On the feet, he controls range in incredible fashion. He's far enough to counter or defend his opponent's attacks, yet he has shown to be an expert at picking guys apart at range. At the same time, his wide karate stance allows him to whip some seriously hard-hitting kicks. Now, Stephen has faced serious adversity twice in his UFC career. Once against Matt Brown, in which he was out-wrestled and out-grappled. The other one being the knockdown he suffered versus Jake Ellenberger, even though Thompson ultimately won in incredible fashion. Although he has obviously improved since then, there are still the only real holes we've seen in his game. This Saturday he'll be facing a viciously powerful striker with serious wrestling skills.

Tyron Woodley fulfilled his destiny by becoming a UFC champion earlier this year. What got him the belt? The very same attribute that has earned him success in any sport he has ever practiced: ferocious explosiveness. He can cut distance with breathtaking speed, which allows him to either change in to land a right bomb or shoot in to get the takedown. To top it off, he has very good wrestling and serious knockout power. Having said that, Wonderboy keeps a bigger gap than any other opponent Tyron has faced, which could give him trouble.

How do I see this one playing out? I think Woodley is going to come out putting pressure. He dislikes being against the cage, so he'll do his best to stay in the center of the octagon and push from there, fainting and throwing combinations surrounded around his jab and straight as a way to cut the distance that separates Wonderboy's face and the right hand that dropped Robbie Lawler at UFC 201. Wrestling should play a much bigger role in this rematch. During their first outting, Tyron was able to easily take Stephen down in the first round, where he maintained position and landed some good shots. He abandoned the wrestling route for the rest of the fight, which he later labeled as 'a mistake'.

On the other side, the challenger must apply patient pressure. He'll have to circle away from the champion's right hand, weather the early storm, avoid being put against the fence, and remain ready for the blitz. Must importantly, he has to trust in the set of tools that has gotten him this far. If he doesn't throw kicks as a way to avoid getting taken down, he won't be himself and he'll ultimately taste defeat. Wonderboy has to believe in his kicks and let them lose. Also, rushing is prohibited. The right time will eventually arrive, and his impeccable timing could give him the opening.

I see this fight going for Wonderboy. Woodley threw the everything but the kitchen sink and Thompson managed to survive. With the right adjustments, Stephen can unleash his own offense. He'll either catch Tyron while he charges forward and clip him with the counter (somewhat similar to McGregor vs. Aldo), or he'll begin to snipe him from a distance after the early rounds and obtain the TKO. Either way, I predict a new 170 champion will be crowned.


  1. this fight was unforgettable, so many wonderful moments, I can rewatch it several times and I'm not tired! thanks for your review on this matter!