In what will be the second title fight of the night, Tyron ‘The Chosen One’ Woodley will defend his welterweight belt for the first time against Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson.
Thompson (13-1) has won seven consecutive fights, including a spectacular spinning hook kick knockout win over Jake Ellenberger and a unanimous decision victory over former top contender, Rory MacDonald. He now finally has a chance at UFC gold after saying numerous occasions he wants the title and during interviews, Thompson has stated that he wanted to fight for the title in New York and the South Carolina fighter has got both wishes.
The task at hand is a big one; standing in his way is Tyron Woodley, who spectacularly ripped the title from the hands of his friend and teammate, ‘Ruthless’ Robbie Lawler.
Before Woodley (16-3) got his title shot, he bounced back from his defeat to Rory MacDonald at UFC 174 by viciously knocking Dong Hyun Kim out in one minute and he then beat Kelvin Gastelum via split decision at UFC 183.
That meant he got his title shot at UFC 201 and he took it, brutally knocking out Lawler in just over two minutes. Going into that fight he was billed as the underdog and even though he is the champion, bookmakers fancy Thompson as the favourite going into UFC 205.
‘The Chosen One’ might have to act fast
Thompson has the tendency to start slow in fights, which gives Woodley the chance to end the contest very quickly and there is no doubt he can do just that.
His speed and explosive power is like nothing ever seen before in the welterweight division and UFC fans will have seen this when he knocked out Robbie Lawler at UFC 201 to claim the welterweight belt.
His opponent has a karate background, and because of this, Thompson keeps his hands low. That could give Woodley the opportunity to close the distance and land that huge right hand which would almost certainly put Thompson to sleep.
According to FightMetric, Woodley lands 2.57 strikes per minute, with a 50% accuracy rate and although he throws less shots, he has that one-hitter quitter power.
However, if the challenger settles quickly, Woodley doesn’t have the best footwork which would almost certainly mean Thompson will be able to control the distance with body and leg kicks to frustrate the champion.
This could resort to one of two things; Woodley either tries to take the fight to the ground, or he over-shoots and ends up getting knocked out. To prepare for the style of fighting Thompson offers, Woodley has enlisted the help of ‘Super’ Sage Northcutt.
Northcutt is known for his wonderful striking ability, and Woodley will be using the similar fighting styles of Northcutt and Thompson to better his ability at dealing with the long range attacks he may face.
Despite being billed as the underdog, Woodley isn’t fazed by the decision made by the bookmakers, “They like to fuel my fire,” Woodley said. “I’ve been the underdog my last five fights and I’ve won them.
"I think (my fight is) just pure domination, pure violence. I plan on annihilating everyone in this division and I’m going to prove everyone wrong.”
'Wonderboy' will have to adjust quickly
Due to the style of fighter ‘Wonderboy’ is, he uses his kickboxing background to keep his opponent at a distance. This means he takes his time learning the range to his opponent before he settles and starts to control the fight.
This gives Woodley the opportunity to end the fight very quickly, unless Thompson adjusts quicker than usual and begins to dominate.
We saw this when Thompson took on Jake Ellenberger. Despite winning the contest in the first round, Wonderboy was dropped in the early stages, after after that little hiccup he managed to recover, completely dominating before knocking Ellenberger out with a head kick.
If Thompson can settle quickly and lay down the rule, he will become the new welterweight champion. If he settles and can control the tempo of the contest, fight fans that might not have watched 'Wonderboy' fight before will see the unique fighting style he brings to the UFC.
According to FightMetric, he lands an astonishing 4.69 strikes per minute at an accuracy rate of 48 percent. Combine those stats with his unbelievable striking ability; he will surely put on a show.
Thompson is a black belt in Kickboxing, for which he has a combined amateur and professional record which stands at 57-0. That record includes an astonishing 40 wins via knockout.
'Wonderboy' is also a fifth degree black belt in Kempo Karate, which not only means he possesses tremendous kicking power, but punching power to match.
Thompson has only won one fight on the ground, compared to Woodley’s five, which in part is down to the champion’s wrestling background. As a two-time All-American wrestler, Woodley is very capable not only on the ground, but in the clinch, and because of that, Thompson moved from Simpsonville, South Carolina to Long Island, New York.
Long Island is the home of Chris Weidman, who is also a two-time Division I All-American. Thompson is improving his ground game under the guidance of former welterweight champion Matt Serra as well as Ray Longo and Weidman.
Despite improving his ground game, Thompson will of course want the fight to go down the route of striking and with his Karate/kickboxing style, he feels Woodley won’t be able to handle him, “I don’t think he’s ready, to be honest with you,” Thompson said.
“Sage Northcutt is a good karate guy but we still have a lot of differences between each other’s style. It’s very difficult to figure out and adapt to once you’re out in the octagon.”
If Thompson can settle fast, assert his dominance and keep the fight standing, he becomes the clear favourite. That being said; there will be a new UFC Welterweight champion as Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson will win via third round knockout.