The co-main event for UFC 209 may have fallen apart at the 11th hour, but thankfully, Saturday night's other main event in Las Vegas featuring Tyron Woodley vs. Stephen Thompson is all systems go for the welterweight title.
Thompson and Woodley both made weight on Friday with little complication. Woodley weighed in at 170 pounds on the dot, while Thompson came in a little underweight at 169 pounds. It's safe to say that neither opponent is playing games this time around and leaving things up to chance.
Unfortunately, both fighters know what the latter feels like. At UFC 205, Woodley and Thompson fought to a majority draw, and the fight was so close that arguments can be made that either could have won.
But alas, here we are just hours away from the highly anticipated rematch. Woodley nearly finished Thompson off in the fourth round, scoring two massive right-handed knockdowns and almost choking Wonderboy out with a guillotine. Miraculously, Thompson did not tap and instead finished the round on top of Woodley, raining down bombs on the champion.
How will the second fight play out? It's anyone's guess.
How Woodley wins
Woodley came out in the first round of their first fight back in November with the right game plan. He waited for Thompson to throw a lazy leg kick and took him down to the canvas.
While he didn't do much, with the exception of one powerful elbow that opened up Thompson's nose, Woodley still controlled the fight and took Thompson, a karate and kickboxing world champion, off his feet.
Whether it was an adjustment Thompson made to be more aggressive with his strikes or that Woodley gassed out after the first round, the champion didn't go for another takedown after the first and instead chose to box and stand up with Thompson.
While Woodley did have some success later on in the fourth round, it was evident that Wonderboy had a significant advantage on the feet due to his karate-style stance and ability to strike from any angle.
For Woodley to win Saturday night, he needs this to be a boring, scrappy fight where he can finish Thompson on the ground with a barrage of strikes that forces the referee to intervene and put a stop to the contest.
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Tyron Woodley: "I got into this game to be the greatest welterweight ever" https://t.co/8g3VwBJCnU #UFC #UFC209 @TWooodley https://t.co/Zx1O01DFbr2017-2-28 15:33:00
Woodley is a superior wrestler, so he would be smart to play to his strengths. It's no secret that Woodley likes to exchange punches with his opponents, and after his knockout victories over Robbie Lawler and Josh Koscheck, who could blame him? Having said that, Woodley would be better off fighting safe, stopping Wonderboy from getting comfortable on his feet.
Otherwise, he could get caught by a high kick to the temple before he realizes what just happened.
How Thompson wins
Thompson took the best of Woodley's punches and survived. That's the good news. The bad news, however, is that he couldn't execute his game plan the way he wanted to back in November.
Wonderboy seemed hesitant in the last fight and didn't throw anywhere near the volume of strikes that he usually does. Maybe the moment was too big for him at Madison Square Garden or he just wasn't ready to fight. Whatever it was, he seems to have it all figured out heading into the rematch
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"Wonderboy" knows he took Tyron Woodley's best shot and survived. Now he's ready to see if the champ can do the same https://t.co/BneHePbVr9 https://t.co/aQk8gTrBen2017-3-3 02:43:00
Thompson cannot let Woodley take him down. The Chosen One is much stronger and much more skilled on the ground and can make life hell for Wonderboy if he gets in side control or in a full mount.
For Thompson to win, he has to make this a karate/kickboxing contest. Forget about scoring knockdowns or winning in the clinch. Just like Woodley's strategy, Wonderboy needs to stick to what he's best at.
Thompson needs to keep Woodley at bay with his leg kicks to stop him from advancing forward for the takedown. By setting up leg and body kicks, Woodley will think twice about shooting for Wonderboy's legs while he's in kicking motion in fear of getting caught by a shin or knee on his way to the canvas.
If Thompson can stuff Woodley's takedowns and keep this fight on the feet, he shouldn't have a problem winning. But if Woodley can take him down, there's little hope for the challenger.
Woodley will look for takedowns early and often but will get frustrated by the lack of success he will have doing so since Wonderboy has prepared himself to avoid the ground game.
We won't see any wasted or lazy kicks from Wonderboy, who will go into this fight with supreme confidence that he can dictate the tempo of this fight similar to the way he did in the second, third and fifth rounds of the bout back at UFC 205.
Look for Thompson to inflict a lot of damage on Woodley's body, making him back up against the cage, breathing deeply while keeping his hands and elbows near his torso to avoid any more body shots.
Thompson will go on to take calculated shots at Woodley's head and arms but won't go in for the kill in fear of getting locked up in the clinch, where Woodley has the chance to get the underhooks in for a possible takedown.
Wonderboy will dominate this fight on the feet and win over the judges this time around for a unanimous victory.