Despite entreating for a more lucrative fight, welterweight champion Tyron Woodley will be making his first title defense against Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson at UFC 205 on November 12. The 170-pound attraction will be the co-main event of the evening.
Woodley won the title from Robbie Lawler in July via first-round knockout. The 34-year-old showcased great speed and volcanic power in dispatching Lawler. He has since cultivated a heel turn; drawing ire from many UFC fans. A swarming wrestler with heavy hands, “The Chosen One” has won five of his last six UFC contests and three in a row.
Thompson has wielded his snazzy, karate-based striking style to brilliant results in the UFC. Wonderboy has won seven straight, creating a slew of highlight-worthy knockouts along the way.
After being taken down freely and bludgeoned by Matt Brown in 2012, Thompson started training with Chris Weidman to shore up his wrestling. The results have been profound: Thompson has not been taken down since his fight with Brown four years ago — not one takedown surrendered in seven fights.
The champion doesn’t have as many tools on the feet as Thompson, but he darts and wallops with supersonic speed, especially early in fights. Woodley, like Conor McGregor, is highly dangerous at the onset of the fight when he’s fresh and not sapped of his pep. He relies on explosiveness. As his fights drag on, he becomes less threatening. An early KO for Woodley, all told, wouldn’t be a shocking outcome, despite Thompson’s elusiveness.
Thompson will look to work his long-distance striking game and keep Woodley on the outside of his range. While his wrestling has improved greatly, Thompson hasn’t faced an opponent as fleet and dynamic as Woodley. The newly-crowned champ certainly has the agility to charge in on Wonderboy and get his mitts on him. In order to win, Thompson will have to ward off a few takedown attempts. In terms of defending takedowns, Woodley will be Thompson’s hardest test to date if Woodley commits to taking the fight to the ground.
Woodley hasn’t needed to use his wrestling in recent performances, but it’d be wise for him to get close to Wonderboy and apply pressure. I think he’ll be able to ground Thompson and apply stiff top control for enough of the fight to earn a victory. I wouldn’t be shocked, though, if Wonderboy catches the champion with a sneaky flurry and finished the fight.
Prediciton: Tyron Woodley by unanimous decision