Before Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson hijacked last week’s UFC 209 conference call with a back-and-forth verbal battle, welterweight champion Tyron Woodley worked in a very confident sound-and-pound.
“I’m not concerned about anything. I mean what did he do to me in the last fight that should make me concerned?” Woodley said about opponent Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson. “Like, be honest, I’m not the one that got knocked down four times in one round, nearly submitted, completely dominated in the first round. I’m going to make an adjustment because I’m a martial artist and I’m a perfectionist and I’m a hard worker, but there’s nothing he did in the fight and there’s nothing he could have done in the training camp that’s going to make him that much different of a fighter.”
Woodley (16-3-1) and Thompson (13-1-1) face each other Saturday in the main event at UFC 209 in Las Vegas in a rematch of their title fight at UFC 205 at Madison Square Garden last November. That fight ended in a majority draw. The judges scored it 47-47, 47-47 and 48-47, with Woodley earning the nod from one judge. The fans and media that night (and in year-end compilations) scored it one of the best fights of the year for 2016.
“I don’t take any opponent lightly and that’s why when I went out and fought him the first time, he didn’t surprise me with anything that he did,” Woodley said. “I expected him to do that. I actually expected him to do a little bit more.”
Thompson agreed with Woodley’s assessment of their first fight. Well, sort of.
“I was very hesitant,” Thompson said.. “Just got to go out there and fight like I normally do. Just let it all out, don’t hold anything back.”
A karate-style fighter with a championship kickboxing pedigree, Thompson is known for a flashy array of leg kicks and an unorthodox striking style that often confuses his opponents.
That style wasn’t as evident against Woodley last year as it had been against previous opponents. Part of that had to do with Woodley’s wrestling background.
“In the first round, I ended up throwing that lazy kick, like I said and didn’t get it back like I was supposed to and he ended up catching the kick,” Thompson said. “So just being on point every step of the way and being mindful of his power. He’s a powerful guy. He knocks dudes out. You saw what he did to Robbie [Lawler] and he smoked me in the head in the fourth round.”