When the final horn sounded signifying the end of the welterweight title fight at UFC 205 this past November, Tyron Woodley was confident he did more than enough to walk out as the reigning and defending champion.
Woodley definitely did the most damage during the 25-minute bout, nearly finishing Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson on at least two occasions after slamming home a massive punch in the fourth round before nearly wrapping up a guillotine choke afterwards.
When the decision was read aloud, Woodley was declared the winner as he expected but then a few moments later amidst some confusion it was revealed that the judges had actually scored the fight a draw.
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Now four months later, Woodley will face Thompson for a second time at UFC 209 and admittedly getting past the disappointment of the result in the first fight was the thing that haunted the champion the most going into the rematch.
“I mean the toughest part about this fight was getting over the first fight,” Woodley told the Fight Society podcast. “Now that I’m over the first fight, it’s not really difficult. I’m fighting the same opponent but I’m coming at him and I’m going to actually utilize the game plan that we planned on doing the first time. I feel better as an athlete so that’s going to give me confidence to do more in this fight.
“Just in general, I had to basically let that fight go. I didn’t feel it was a highway robbery but how could you make a 10-8 round in the first round and not a 10-8 round in the fourth round?”
The judge who gave that score was Douglas Crosby, who gave Woodley a 10-8 opening round after he took Thompson to the mat and bludgeoned him with strikes but then gave him a 10-9 in the fourth round despite two near finishes.
Woodley says the judge in question actually approached him at an event just recently to try and explain his reasoning behind the scorecards that helped lead to a majority draw in the first fight with Thompson.
“The judge that scored the fight came up to me later at a Bellator fight and told me he was going to give me a 10-8 but then I wasted one minute in the guillotine. How do you waste a minute in a submission hold?” Woodley said. “He came up to me and said ‘I was the judge that gave you the 10-8 in the first round and I’m willing to talk to you and discuss and see what you think and how you feel about it’.
“He was like ‘I’ll tell you what my thought was — you got the takedown, you dominated, you did damage in the first round’. I said with all due respect, I knocked Stephen Thompson down three to four times in one round. If he doesn’t come back and do anything special then that’s a 10-8 round. I knocked him down. I had him in submission trouble twice and even when he popped his head up at the end of the round after it was four minutes of an onslaught, he literally landed maybe five of the 20 punches he threw. He was landing to the side of the glove, he was landing on the canvas, he wasn’t landing on me. I don’t know who he was landing those punches on.”
Judge Glenn Trowbridge also gave Woodley a 10-9 round in the fourth, but he was also the only just that definitively gave the win to the welterweight champion with a final score of 48-47. The third judge, Derek Cleary, gave three rounds to Thompson but scored Woodley earning a 10-8 in the fourth round, which resulted in the draw.
As much as the scoring in the first fight bothered Woodley, it also served as motivation to never allow that question to enter the officials’ minds after he’s done with “Wonderboy” the second time around.
Woodley has worked tirelessly with coaches like Din Thomas and Duke Roufus to tweak what went wrong in the first fight while still capitalizing on the lopsided rounds he won to put on an even better performance at UFC 209.
The opening round of the first fight saw Woodley take Thompson down and batter him with punches and with his extensive wrestling background there’s little doubt that he has the superior grappling in this matchup.
When it comes to striking, Thompson has been touted as one of the most talented stand up fighters in the UFC today. Still, Woodley nearly knocked him out in the fourth round and he would love nothing more than to add Thompson’s name to the long list of strikers he wasn’t supposed to beat during his career.
“My goal is to go out there and dominate. We all know if I’m in a position and I see my opponent hurt by landing good striking, I’m going to try to get him out of there. If I’m in the top position or in the position to finish by submission, I’m going to look for that,” Woodley said. “I don’t feel the need to prove the haters wrong.
“I’ve beaten Carlos Condit. I’ve beaten Paul Daley. I’ve beaten Jordan Mein. I’ve beaten Tarec Saffiedine. Some people might have said I beat Stephen Thompson. I beat Robbie Lawler. These are the greatest strikers in our sport, but I’m the only one out of all those guys that out struck the best strikers and I still don’t get the credit for being the best striker in our division. Who’s left after “Wonderboy”? Tell me the striker that’s the best striker in the division outside of him? It’s hard to say.”
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Of course, Woodley knows no matter how badly he beats Thompson on Saturday night that there are still going to be plenty of naysayers who will dispute his title reign or make claims that he still doesn’t matchup as well with Brazilian jiu-jitsu ace Demian Maia or he’ll never be as good as former champion Georges St-Pierre.
The good news is Woodley says he didn’t start fighting to gain the adoration of the audience or get a pat on the back for a great performance. Woodley wants to be the best in the world and hopefully one day the best ever and all the other noise just gets pushed into the background.
“I don’t think I’ll get the credit I deserve but I didn’t get into this game for credit. I got into this game to be the greatest welterweight ever. If I keep knocking them out one by one, I think that will happen,” Woodley said.
“I don’t think if I beat “Wonderboy” I’ll get all the credit that was due to me in the past and all of a sudden it’s just going to pour in and everybody’s going to be Team Woodley. That’s not going to happen. There’s still going to be haters. There’s still going to be people that want to see me lose. There’s still going to be those people and that doesn’t bother me. It doesn’t motivate me. It annoys me occasionally but that’s about it.”