UFC 205 Breakdown: Stephen Thompson vs Tyron Woodley

093_Stephen_ThompsonPrior to each UFC fight card, Jay Primetown takes a look at some of the key contests at each event. In the latest installment, we look at the co-main event of UFC 205 as Tyron Woodley defends his welterweight title for the first time against challenger Stephen Thompson.   Stephen Thompson (Record: 13-1, -200 Favorite, Fighter Grade: A) Stephen Thompson has fast moved his way up the rankings of the welterweight division having won seven straight fights inside the octagon. He’s on a run of victories which includes top ten middleweight Robert Whittaker, longtime top five welterweight Rory Macdonald, and former welterweight champion Johny Hendricks. Thompson now finds himself in his first title fight at UFC 205. A 5th degree black belt in kempo karate and a black belt in American kickboxing, Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson is one of the most gifted strikers in MMA. Thompson has a 57-0 record in kickboxing and was at one time considered the best kickboxer in the United States and arguably in the world. He has been training in martial arts since he was a child and continues to show that skill set in MMA. It took him some time to develop a more well-rounded approach for MMA, but he has found his stride. He’s put on some muscle and has developed some stout takedown defense (81%). NCAA wrestling champion Johny Hendricks was unable to take Thompson down showing just how good his defensive wrestling is. On the feet, Thompson has very good footwork and a lot of variety in his strikes. As one would expect with his background, he keeps distance exceptionally well and opponents struggle to get inside and force him into a different kind of fight. Thompson is able to pepper his opponents with kicks and he combines his hands well as well. He lands at a very good clip with 4.69 significant strikes per minute. His changing of stances and his offensive approach are difficult to predict, he absorbs just 2.84 strikes per minute.   Tyron Woodley (Record: 16-3, +170 Underdog, Fighter Grade: A) A two time NCAA Division I All American in wrestling and a NCAA Championship runner up, Woodley is one of the best wrestlers in the welterweight division. Entering Saturday’s title fight, Woodley has won five of his last six fights including finishes of Carlos Condit and Robbie Lawler. Woodley’s game begins with his wrestling. Over his career in Strikeforce and the UFC, he has a fantastic 91% takedown defense. In his eight UFC fights, only Rory Macdonald has managed to take Woodley to the mat and he was only able to do so once. By defending takedowns, Woodley is able to capitalize on his power striking. The former University of Missouri wrestler has perhaps the most powerful striker in the division. He holds devastating knockouts over and Josh Koscheck and Robbie Lawler as well as stoppage over Carlos Condit inflicting injury to his knee in that bout. He’ earned stoppages in five of his last six wins. Woodley is very strong in the first couple rounds of his fights, but tends to fade as his fights progress. The one time he went beyond three rounds, he was finished in devastating fashion by Nate Marquardt. Conditioning is certainly a big question mark for him if the fight advances to championship rounds. Matchup An exciting welterweight clash serves as the co-main event at the gigantic UFC 205 card at Madison Square Garden on Saturday. This fight is a true clash of styles as the champion’s power striking and wrestling against the challenger’s technical range striking. This fight ultimately comes down to Woodley’s ability to close distance and find a knockout punch. Woodley has shown that he’s particularly good in the first round of his bouts. The last time Woodley finished an opponent outside of round one was back in 2009. I think that’s a real good angle to look at as Woodley Round 1 (+400) is the most likely result if he wins. If he doesn’t land early in the fight, I think he will struggle mightily in this bout. Thompson’s style has confused a lot of opponents. Fighters of the caliber of Johny Hendricks and Rory Macdonald had a real hard time figuring out Thompson’s movement and struggled to land strikes (under 45% strikes landed). I’d expect Thompson to pull away in the later rounds as Woodley slows down and Thompson continues to land with a consistent game plan. Thompson -5.5 points handicap (-145) is a solid bet as I don’t see Woodley winning a round after the first round in this bout. This fight isn’t much different than the Robbie Lawler title fight earlier in the year. Woodley is certainly capable of landing early and finishing, but if he doesn’t he will lose by wide decision or a late stoppage.

Written by Jay Primetown

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