Throughout the course of the main event bout between Tyron “The Chosen One” Woodley and Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson, fight fans inside T-Mobile Arena in Paradise, Nevada, were clamoring for more action.
But sans a third-round takedown and final minute flurry from Woodley, the fighters were guarded with their attacks and cautious because of their opponents’ skills, and for that, they were serenaded by boos and chants of “Fight!” from the crowd.
“You’re the one that’s out there,” Thompson said. “Of course, the crowd and everyone is watching you, but they’re not the ones in The Octagon getting punched in the face. You’ve got to learn to block that out and do what you know to do.”
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Over the 25-minute fight, which was a rematch from a November 2016 bout at Madison Square Garden, 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.
“The fans, they pay for a show,” Thompson said. “It’s our job to go out there and put on a performance, but again, you’re thinking about our safety again. The one shot could be the end of your career. I’ve seen punches like that end guys’ careers. I thought I went out there and that was my whole plan, to go out there and put my right side forward.
“In the first fight I had with him, I had my left side forward, but when I switched sides, I think I threw him off a little bit. I had him backing up the whole time or pretty much the whole time. I thought I had good cage control, was being aggressive, moving him back, but it doesn’t bother me one bit. I know I’ve got a job to do out there, and my goal is not to get hit, so if the crowd boos, they boo, but they’re not the ones out there fighting.”
Expecting a tactical fight in the rematch, Thompson was surprised by Woodley’s tentative nature.
“When you’re out there, there’s just a feel thing and this guy’s looking for me to come him so he can hit me with the right hand or take me down, so I had to play it smart,” Thompson said. “I had to keep him away with my sidekicks, slip the jab every now and then. I threw the left hand, head kicks, leg kicks. When he explodes, he explodes with that right hand.
“Of course, you want to go out there and have an awesome, spectacular knockout, but when you go out there, it’s a different feel. I think only fighters can understand what that’s like whenever you’re out there, but yeah, man, I knew it was going to be technical.”