Prior to each UFC fight card, Jay Primetown takes a look at some of the key contests at each event. In the latest installment, we look at the main event of UFC 209 as Tyron Woodley defends his welterweight title against challenger Stephen Thompson in a rematch of their entertaining bout at UFC 205. Stephen Thompson (Record: 13-1-1, -145 Favorite, Power Ranking: A) Thompson has quickly moved his way up the rankings of the welterweight division, winning seven straight fights inside the Octagon before the majority draw against Woodley in the first meeting at UFC 205. He’s beaten some of the top fighters in the division, including longtime welterweight contender Rory MacDonald and former welterweight champion Johny Hendricks. A fifth-degree black belt in kempo karate and a black belt in American kickboxing, Thompson is one of the most gifted strikers in MMA. Thompson has a 57-0 record in kickboxing and was at one time considered the best kickboxer in the United States and arguably in the world. He has been training in martial arts since he was a child and continues to show that skill set in MMA. It took him some time to develop a more well-rounded approach for MMA, but he has found his stride. He’s put on some muscle and has developed some stout takedown defense (78 percent). Former NCAA wrestling champion Hendricks was unable to take Thompson down showing just how good his defensive wrestling is. On the feet, Thompson has very good footwork and a lot of variety in his strikes. As one would expect with his background, he keeps distance exceptionally well and opponents struggle to get inside and force him into a different kind of fight. Thompson is able to pepper his opponents with kicks and he combines his hands well as well. He lands at a very good clip of over four significant strikes per minute. His changing of stances and his offensive approach are difficult to predict, as he absorbs just 2.75 strikes per minute. Tyron Woodley (Record: 16-3-1, +125 Underdog, Power Ranking: A) A two-time NCAA Division I All-American in wrestling and a NCAA Championship runner-up, Woodley is one of the best wrestlers in the welterweight division. Not surprisingly, Woodley’s game begins with his wrestling. Over his career in Strikeforce and the UFC, he has a fantastic 91 percent takedown defense. In his eight UFC fights, only MacDonald has managed to take Woodley to the mat, and he was only able to do so once. By defending takedowns, Woodley is able to capitalize on his power striking. The former University of Missouri wrestler is also the most powerful striker in the division. He holds devastating knockouts over Josh Koscheck and Robbie Lawler as well as a stoppage over Carlos Condit after inflicting injury to his knee in that bout. Furthermore, he had Thompson in all sorts of trouble in their first fight because of his fast, powerful hands. Woodley’s biggest issue is fighting at a consistent pace. If he starts well out of the gate, he usually ends up expending a lot of energy. He then needs to a regain his composure and get back the energy necessary to have success. It’s this inconsistent pace which could again see him giving away rounds like he did in his first fight against Thompson. Matchup The highly-anticipated rematch for the welterweight title highlights the UFC 209 Pay-Per-View card. This is a really interesting opportunity, as we don’t typically see two fighters square off again so quickly. It affords us to make adjustments to our thought strategy by having 25 minutes of footage of the two previously pitted against each other. The quickest takeaway is that Woodley sure had more success than I thought he would in the striking exchanges. He had Thompson in trouble in rounds one and four in this bout. He surprisingly only attempted one takedown in their first fight. He not only succeeded in that one attempt, but he inflicted significant damage to his opponent in that bout. It makes one believe that Woodley will be more willing to attempt to grapple more in the rematch. If he had so much success there in the first fight, why not go down that route more in the rematch? On the other side, in the three rounds that Woodley didn’t dominate, one could make the case that Thompson won those rounds. There was nothing significant about rounds two, three and five, but in a 10-9 must scoring system, Thompson was able to edge three rounds to get himself a draw. The key thing there though was that Thompson never had Woodley in danger in that bout and was never close to finishing the fight. With that in mind, the best bet on the board for this fight is Tyron Woodley Scorecards = No Action (+110). Yes, Thompson is a slight favorite in this fight, but it is Woodley who I believe is the more likely to finish. He nearly did so in the first fight and should be primed to be the more likely to do so again in the rematch.
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