UFC welterweight champion Tyron Woodley defends his title against Stephen Thompson for the second time in the main event of UFC 209. The two fought to a majority draw in November at UFC 205, in a fight that showed how different they are stylistically. Thompson prefers to move on the outside and out-land his opponent, whereas Woodley waits for huge power shots. The following statistical categories examine those differences and any changes the fighters could make in the rematch.
Early in his career, Woodley was much more reliant upon his wrestling. During his Strikeforce run, he averaged 2.55 takedowns per 15 minutes. Since then, his career average has fallen to 1.71 takedowns per 15 minutes. Before landing his one and only takedown against Thompson, Woodley had only one takedown in the UFC. Nevertheless, in his first fight against Thompson, 41 percent of Woodley’s landed significant strikes came on the ground. Thompson is also a solid defensive wrestler. Before facing Woodley, he had not been taken down since his 2012 fight against Matt Brown, who took him down five times. Even with Thompson’s respectable 79 percent takedown defense, Woodley might benefit if he chooses to return to his wrestling roots and hunts for top position.
Significant Strikes per Minute
During his UFC career, Thompson has been a much more active striker than Woodley. Before their first fight, Thompson was landing 4.69 significant strikes per minute, whereas Woodley was landing only 2.50. However, in their fight at UFC 205, Woodley seemed to derail Thompson’s usual game plan. While Woodley landed 2.44 significant strikes per minute, which is near his career mark, Thompson landed only 1.72, a 63 percent drop. Woodley’s power forced Thompson to be much more defensive than normal, preventing Thompson from implementing his volume offense. If Thompson’s cautiousness continues in this bout, he will probably struggle to land his strikes yet again.
Woodley absorbs slightly fewer significant strikes per minute than Thompson — 2.56 compared with 2.75. However, since Woodley lands so few, his striking differential (significant strikes landed per minute minus significant strikes absorbed per minute) is actually negative. Woodley is one of five ranked welterweights with a negative differential and ranks 12th among ranked welterweights in the category. Thompson’s +1.31 differential is fifth-best in the same group. Of course, in their first fight, Woodley outlanded Thompson 61 to 43 in significant strikes. This rematch should determine if that was a one-fight aberration, or if there is a stylistic difference that gives Woodley the edge.
By any measure, Woodley is the more powerful striker. Over the course of his UFC career, he has landed 1.23 knockdowns per 15 minutes of fight time. Thompson is not far behind, though, at 1.02 knockdowns landed per 15 minutes. It is interesting to note that Woodley did not really become a headhunter until he moved to the UFC in 2013. During his Strikeforce run, he landed only 0.32 knockdowns per 15 minutes. This means that his UFC knockdown rate is 74 percent higher. Thompson narrowly escaped being finished in their first fight, but if Woodley’s striking power continues its upward trajectory, Thompson could end up in trouble.