They’ve already done the dance before, now as they set up to lock horns again, Tyron Woodley and Stephen Thompson both appear to have a chip on their shoulder. UFC 209 will be the stage for one of these men to prove that they are the best in the world. While the first battle may not have been an exciting “Dragon Ball Z” brawl, Tyron Woodley and Stephen Thompson had five rounds to figure each other out and will need five more to cement who will be the king of welterweights.
Let’s face it, whether you’re a fan of Tyron Woodley or not, you have to admit that he did the most damage during his championship fight at UFC 205. The big moments were owned by Woodley as he dominated top position in the opening round then had severely damaged Thompson in the fourth frame. But in between those two occasions, Woodley was on the losing end of a competitive kickboxing match with his foe. What Woodley will have to do different in this match is throw a bit more volume in spurts and avoid relying on his big right hand as he’s want to do. Leg kicks will serve him well in this match and going for double legs, successful or not, will be paramount to put doubt in Thompson’s head.
The absence of a wrestling game in the first match up allowed for ‘Wonderboy’ to land some steady offense in the second, third, and fifth round. Even the fourth round looked to be owned by Thompson until Woodley unleashed his devastating right hand. If Woodley wants to play off the cage as he did the last time, he should shoot for a double when Thompson gets too far forward, turn him towards the fence, then unleash offense when his foe is cornered.
On the other side of the equation, Stephen Thompson is going to want to change up a few things. First off, where he was unsuccessful in the last bout was his lack of volume. While Woodley is known for having a lower striking volume, Thompson usually throws punches and kicks in bunches. He failed to do so in his bout with Woodley at UFC 205, which led to moments of Woodley feeling comfortable with his back to the fence. If Thompson wants to take the belt he’ll have to play the aggressive counter striker role, preferably from the southpaw stance where he’ll likely see more success. He’ll need to pot shot Woodley constantly to get the champ to move forward into a counter.
If he lays back and throws one shot at a time he may be able to get things done, but he’ll want to use his side kick to keep Woodley honest. Having his leg caught in the first round of their first fight had Thompson gun shy as far as his kicking game was concerned. He needs to channel that inner Hwoarang (Tekken reference and if you don’t get it then look that up ASAP) and unleash his kicks masking them with punches before hand. This is basic knowledge, but these are the kind of attacks he’ll need to keep in mind in order to get Woodley frustrated enough to dart forward. Once that happens, a side step into a counter left straight could seal the deal. But he’ll need those kicks to really give Woodley a different look.
Ultimately this fight will be about who has the more effective aggression as both men laid back far too often in their first battle. Look for Stephen Thompson to bait Tyron Woodley into another kickboxing match while the champion looks to throw more strikes and add his wrestling even more into the equation.
Who do you think leaves the cage champion, Tyron Woodley or Stephen Thompson?
Jonathan Salmon is a writer, martial arts instructor, and geek culture enthusiast. Check out his Twitter and Facebook to keep up with his antics.
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