Although the sequel had nowhere near the drama of the original, both fights ended with Tyron Woodley’s hands on the UFC welterweight belt.
Woodley retained his 170-pound title with a desultory majority decision over Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson at UFC 209 on Saturday night.
Alistair Overeem also stopped Mark Hunt in the third round of an entertaining heavyweight bout at T-Mobile Arena, and Rashad Evans debuted at middleweight with a split-decision upset loss to 39-year-old Australian judoka Daniel Kelly.
Until the final 30 seconds of their five-round rematch, Woodley (17-3-1) and Thompson (13-2-1) failed to recapture the excitement of their memorable majority draw last November. Woodley put on a cautious, tactical fight until he caught Thompson with a right hand late, landing several big shots on the ground.
“It wasn’t the most exciting fight, like you guys were used to the last time,” Woodley said. “Sometimes chess is move by move. … When you fight someone for the second time, it’s like a chess match, you don’t want to give up anything. I knew that his game plan was going to be to keep it on the outside and not let me get in close because that’s where I do the most damage, and he did a great job. He made it very hard to get it in close.”
Thompson made it to the bell, but two judges scored the bout 48-47 for Woodley, with a third seeing it 47-47.
“Disappointed, man,” Thompson said. “Worked my whole life to get here. I thought I won the fight, but you can’t leave it in the judges’ eyes.”
Woodley and Thompson both fought with abandon and got themselves into dangerous positions in their first bout in New York but survived for only the third draw in a title fight in UFC history.
“I guess it doesn’t matter what the first fight was like,” UFC President Dana White said. “The second fight can be not as good.”
The rematch opened with two action-free rounds as both fighters sized each other up amid boos from the Vegas crowd. Woodley landed a takedown in the third, and Thompson did damage with kicks in the fourth, but neither contender produced anything resembling the urgency expected by the fans, who took to chanting “Fight! Fight! Fight!” in the fifth.
Woodley eventually obliged, and it might have swung the entire fight in his favour. Woodley landed 66 total strikes to Thompson’s 42, and the champ had the fight’s only takedown.
“He’s a tough kid,” Woodley said. “I rocked him, and that’s the round that probably got me the win.”
Full UFC 209 results:
Daniel Kelly def. Rashad Evans via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
Cynthia Calvillo def. Amanda Cooper via submission (rear-naked choke) – Round 1, 3:19
Alistair Overeem def. Mark Hunt via KO (knee) – Round 3, 1:44
Marcin Tybura def. Luis Henrique via TKO (punches) – Round 3, 3:46
Darren Elkins def. Mirsad Bektic via TKO (strikes) – Round 3, 3:19
Iuri Alcantara def. Luke Sanders via submission (kneebar) – Round 2, 3:13
Mark Godbeer def. Daniel Spitz via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Tyson Pedro def. Paul Craig via TKO (elbows) – Round 1, 4:10
Albert Morales def. Andre Soukhamthath via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)