UFC 209 Results: Real Winners and Losers from Woodley vs. Thompson Fight Card
Into every life, a little rain must fall. MMA fans are accustomed to packing their umbrellas, and they needed them this week.
UFC 209 lost a good deal of luster without Khabib Nurmagomedov, the fast-talking, ultra-talented, undefeated Russian lightweight. Nurmagomedov fell ill while cutting weight Friday and was forced to pull out of his interim lightweight title fight with the streaking, super-aggressive Tony Ferguson.
That let the air out of many a balloon and pay-per-view buy estimate, but UFC 209 shouldered on. Toeing much of the line was the main event, a welterweight rematch between champ Tyron Woodley and challenger Stephen "Wonderboy" Thompson.
In the new co-main event slot, high-octane Lando Vannata tried his luck against anonymous but dangerous striker David Teymur.
As always, the final stat lines only tell part of the story. These are the real winners and losers from UFC 209 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on Saturday night.
For the literal-minded among us, full card results appear at the bottom.
Loser: Tyron Woodley
Tyron Woodley is still the UFC welterweight champion.
So why is he the loser?
Because he just waged one of the dullest, lowest-action UFC title fights I have ever seen.
Woodley and Thompson "battled" for five rounds, and I use that verb in the loosest way possible.
Both fighters were tentative throughout. Thompson stayed at long range, firing the occasional kick. The side kick to the gut was a favorite. He only threw a handful of those each round.
But at times it was enough to outland the champion.
With extended periods of total inactivity, the two shadowed each other all around the cage. They were two counterfighters who were both unwilling to make the first move.
Thompson had a slim edge based on Octagon control. At least until the final 30 seconds of the fight, when Woodley finally swarmed and knocked Thompson to the canvas. Ground strikes nearly forced a stoppage, but Thompson held on.
That final and lone barrage was enough to swing the judges for Woodley, who won by majority decision. But like the first bout that ended in a draw, this one is unlikely to stay in a lot of memories. In fact, a lot of people might be actively working to purge their memories of this stalemate.
Loser: Stephen Thompson
"I had to play it smart," Thompson said to broadcaster Joe Rogan in the cage after the fight. "I thought I had it, but you live to fight another day."
As long as it's not against Woodley again, sure.
Thompson rode a lot of hype into both installments of this fight. But his flashy kickboxing game never got going, to the point where Woodley's final barrage was easily the biggest offense of the fight.
There's nothing wrong with playing it smart. But sometimes, it can come at the expense of playing to win.
The co-main event saw lightweight David Teymur defeat Lando Vannata by unanimous decision. Over three brilliantly contested rounds, Teymur brought his power kickboxing base (and a few takedowns) to bear against Vannata and his unpredictable movement and strikes.
The betting odds placed Teymur at +300 to defeat Vannata, per OddsShark. And he was far from the only underdog to cash in Saturday night.
In addition to Woodley and Teymur, Dan Kelly, Darren Elkins and Iuri Alcantara all pulled off upsets. Some of them were big upsets. We'll have more on all of them later.
Loser: Rashad Evans
This was Rashad Evans' middleweight debut. In the opening moments of his bout with 39-year-old converted judo Olympian Dan Kelly, he looked shredded and quick.
That was as good as it got for Evans.
The former light heavyweight champ waged a tentative, low-octane affair in which he was frequently outstruck by a rather, let's say, unnatural striker in Kelly.
In contrast to Evans, Kelly threw and landed more and constantly pushed forward. As the fight wore on, it appeared Evans would be unable to close the activity gap with his power.
A split decision went to Kelly. He proved he's a legitimate UFC middleweight. Evans, who is now 37 but holds more miles than that thanks to a history of injuries, cannot yet say the same.
Winner: Iuri Alcantara
Iuri Alcantara is your clubhouse leader for the UFC's comeback of the year in 2017.
Blue-chip prospect Luke Sanders was dominating the Brazilian veteran early, dumping Alcantara on the mat and teeing off with ground strikes. Referee Marc Goddard nearly stopped the action more than once, but Alcantara somehow survived.
Late in the round, Sanders landed an obvious illegal knee to his downed opponent, and Goddard took away a point. At the time, it didn't seem like it would matter.
And it didn't, just not for the reason fans would have guessed.
Ground-and-pound continued in the second frame, but Alcantara found an opening and rolled into a knee bar. He torqued, and Sanders tapped.
Alcantara originally seemed like, and nearly was, a high-profile stepping stone for the young stud Sanders. But fans got a memory when the wily vet didn't follow the script.
Loser: Mark Hunt's Brain
Alistair Overeem spent much of the contest trying to chop Mark Hunt down from range. Using teep kicks, oblique kicks and leg kicks, The Reem slowed and hobbled Hunt at a distance, which makes sense, given that Hunt can put an opponent's lights out at the drop of a single right hand.
But the end of the fight came not with a whimper, but a bang.
In the third round, as they tangled along the cage, Overeem stunned Hunt with an elbow. He took the opportunity to engage a Thai clinch, and from there Overeem teed off with thunderous knees. Almost in slow motion, Hunt teetered and then timbered onto the mat face first.
It was an impressive win for the 36-year-old Dutchman. Up next: As Bleacher Report's own senior MMA analyst Patrick Wyman tweeted, "Derrick Lewis vs. Overeem for a title shot, please."
And don't look now, but that's Hunt's third knockout loss in his past six fights. Before that, he had suffered only two pro MMA losses by knockout, in 2013 and 2008.
Winner: Darren Elkins
Remember when I said earlier that we had a new clubhouse leader for comeback of the year?
Well, one fight later, we got a new new clubhouse leader for comeback of the year. That distinction now goes to the +525 underdog, featherweight Darren "The Damage" Elkins.
It was damage indeed that Elkins absorbed early and often from Mirsad Bektic, who, when healthy, is the most elite featherweight prospect on the planet (or at least he was).
Bektic was far faster on the feet and landed combinations almost at will. Then, he perfectly timed a takedown, which was followed by brutal ground strikes that tore Elkins' face open.
Elkins spent the rest of the fight pouring blood from various spots on his head, including a grisly gash near his right eye. In all likelihood, Bektic amassed at least one 10-8 round score from the judges.
As the final stanza ticked past, Elkins' toughness kicked in and he began to show signs of life. Bektic strangely chose to attack Elkins in his strong suit—grappling—when he was piecing Elkins up in the standing phase. Elkins locked on a kneebar that almost forced Bektic to tap.
Bektic escaped to his feet, but Elkins had new life. Then, Bektic made another mistake by turning his back on Elkins. Elkins responded with a big right hand and a head kick that put Bektic down and out. The ref stopped the action and gave the win to Elkins, who screamed with catharsis and pain and joy.
"It feels awesome, man," Elkins told Rogan in the cage after the fight. "It's the greatest feeling there is. Probably my biggest comeback fight ever."
Maybe the UFC's, too.
UFC 209 Full Card Results
Tyron Woodley def. Stephen Thompson by majority decision (retains UFC welterweight championship)
David Teymur def. Lando Vannata by unanimous decision
Dan Kelly def. Rashad Evans by split decision
Cynthia Calvillo def. Amanda Cooper by submission (rear-naked choke), 3:19, Rd. 1
Alistair Overeem def. Mark Hunt by KO, 1:44, Rd. 3
Marcin Tybura def. Luis Henrique by TKO, 3:46, Rd. 3
Darren Elkins def. Mirsad Bektic by TKO, 3:19, Rd. 3
Iuri Alcantara def. Luke Sanders by submission (kneebar), 3:13, Rd. 2
Mark Godbeer def. Daniel Spitz by unanimous decision
Tyson Pedro def. Paul Craig by TKO, 4:10, Rd. 1
Albert Morales def. Andre Soukhamthath by split decision
Scott Harris writes about MMA for Bleacher Report. Scott also has a Twitter account.