For the second time, Tyron Woodley walked away with his UFC welterweight championship belt firmly around his waist after a fight against Stephen Thompson. This time he did it by defeating Wonderboy via majority decision in the main event from the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on Saturday night.
Fox Sports tweeted out the official scores from the disappointing bout:
The highly anticipated rematch got off to a painfully slow start, as neither fighter was willing to commit to much in general. Thompson took the center of the cage, but he didn't do much to command the attention of the judges or fans.
MMA Fighting's Ariel Helwani commented on the lack of action in the first frame:
The proverbial cat-and-mouse game continued in the second round, as Thompson kept stalking Woodley down to the cage but did next to nothing once there. Woodley didn't do anything of note to make a convincing case he should win the frame, either, as the bout went to Round 3.
The 5'9" Woodley finally showed signs of life in the third, as he shot a single leg against the taller Wonderboy (6'0"). Much like the first fight, Thompson was unable to defend the takedown, and T-Wood went to work on chipping away at the challenger.
The UFC posted the takedown that served as Woodley's first big moment of the bout:
Even that action was short-lived, though, as Wonderboy worked his way back to the feet. Kevin Iole of Yahoo Sports weighed in on the fight's boring nature:
The inexplicable hesitance on the part of both combatants made it a difficult bout to score. Mike Bohn of MMAjunkie noted how difficult it was to predict what the judges were thinking headed into the fifth and final round, with decisions being dictated by hard rounds to score:
With the fight in the balance, Woodley came alive in the final frame. With less than a minute to go, the champion solidified the last round by landing a counter right hook that sent Thompson to the mat and followed up with strikes that nearly ended the bout.
Thompson was able to survive and get it to the scorecards in the only notable exchange in five rounds. MMA Fighting saw the round for Woodley and commented on the strange nature of the entire encounter:
It wasn't pretty, but this fight solidifies T-Wood's place as a welterweight champion, as it marks the first true defense of his title after winning the belt from Robbie Lawler in July 2016.
Of course, his first title defense came against Thompson, but that bout ended in a controversial draw. Both fighters had their highlights in that bout, but this time Woodley came out ahead.
Holding on to the welterweight title hasn't been easy since the days of Georges St-Pierre. GSP defended the strap nine times from 2008 to 2013 before walking away from the sport, but since then, the division has had three champions with just four combined title defenses.
Woodley hopes to be the one to break that trend and wants to be remembered as one of the best to do it in this division, per Bohn and John Morgan of MMAjunkie:
I didn't really get into this sport for people to worship me or people to bow at my feet. I got in this sport to be the best in the world. Right now I'm one of the best. When I retire from fighting I want to be pound-for-pound the greatest welterweight that's even fought in the octagon, and my goal is to keep knocking out guys one by one and get to that point.
The 34-year-old has certainly surprised as a UFC champion. Despite beating Lawler in the first round to win the belt, Woodley wasn't the favorite against Thompson in either fight but continues to come up big against the best in the division.
If Woodley intends to make a serious run as champion, now might be the time to do it. St-Pierre is set to return as a middleweight, and the current welterweight top five is occupied by Thompson, Lawler, Carlos Condit (whom he has already beaten), a 39-year-old Demian Maia and Neil Magny.
That's not exactly a murderers' row of contenders.
Thompson still might be the most dangerous of those opponents. With Woodley's back-to-back fights against Wonderboy, it isn't likely we'll see a trilogy anytime soon, though.
That makes Woodley's dream of putting together a lengthy title reign a realistic expectation.