Tyron Woodley and Stephen Thompson fought to a draw in their first matchup for the UFC welterweight championship at Madison Square Garden back in November, and the rematch looked to be headed toward the same result.
However, a late flurry of punches from Woodley seemingly allowed him to retain the welterweight championship, as he took home a majority decision by winning the fight on a pair of judges’ scorecards. The third judge scored the bout a 47-47 draw.
“Me personally, I thought the fight was close,” Woodley said. “I thought it was close going into the fifth round. I didn’t really realize what round we were in, but my coaches always tell me to finish strong, finish hard.”
Tyron Woodley remains 'The Chosen One' after defending welterweight title
Woodley outpointed Thompson, 70-66, in overall strikes and 54-53 in significant blows. Also, Woodley landed one of his two takedown attempts and had a knockdown in the fight’s final minute. In addition to landing a higher volume of punches, Woodley was more effective, connecting on 49 percent of his shots and 43 percent of his significant strikes.
Conversely, Thompson landed at a 41 percent rate and did not have either a knockdown or takedown of Woodley.
“He’s got a tough chin,” Woodley said. “I haven’t hit anybody that many times and they’ve lasted since Carlos Condit. Hats off to Stephen Thompson. He’s a very difficult guy to prepare for. It was a very annoying training camp to prepare for. I’m excited to move on with my career and prepare for a regular freestyle fighter.”
Thompson was the more active fighter in each of the first two rounds, working much of the opening 10 minutes from the center of The Octagon while Woodley had his back near or against the cage. However, everything changed in the third round.
Woodley landed a takedown, and from top position, he landed 30 of his 43 strike attempts, 15 of which were considered significant. The effective punching allowed him to hold ground control for nearly two minutes.
“It was frustrating,” Woodley said. “There were moments where I should have faked the shot and came up punching. There was stuff I could’ve done to chop the tree down and get closer to a longer opponent. I could’ve done more of that, but there were times where the opening wasn’t there for the takedown.”
Although Thompson responded in the fourth round, Woodley was the aggressor over the final five minutes of the contest.
With under one minute left in the bout, Woodley pushed forward with two overhand rights, the second of which floored Thompson. Then, Woodley landed six straight rights before Thompson rolled to his knees and attempted to protect himself.
Woodley alternated right and left-handed punches, but Thompson stood back up. Despite falling to the canvas a second time, Thompson again rose up and the two finished the fight on their feet, which sent the bout to the judges’ scorecards.
“You should never go in with the mindset that, ‘I’m up. Let me coast’ because that’s how you go out there and lose a fight,” Woodley said. “I just wanted to finish strong. If I would’ve won all four rounds clearly and dominated him, took him down and laid on top of him like everybody wants to see me do, then I would’ve still come out hard in the fifth. It’s just the way that we train. It’s the way that we practice, and that’s just engrained in my mind.”