ByDan Henderson, writer at
Official Creators profile of Dan Henderson. Former Pride Fighting Championship and Strikeforce champion. Instagram @danhendo
Dan Henderson

is poised to make history and break records on Saturday night. I think the community at large has been waiting anxiously to see if any more bouts will end up getting scrapped now that Rashad Evans and Tim Kennedy’s canceled fight put the first crack in the foundation of the card. Hopefully, it will be the first, the last, the only.

As I promised in my previous blog, I’m back with my breakdown and prediction for vs. .

You know, I think this is probably one of the more interesting match-ups on the card, if not THE most interesting one. It’s been flying under the radar a good bit, and that’s a shame. We’re still a couple days out, so there’s still time to shine some light on this well-matched pairing.

Woodley has a lot of things going for him, and as you’ve all probably guessed from my previous breakdowns, I’m partial to the wrestlers, so naturally, I’m pulling for Tyron to win. I’m not saying Thompson can’t win, because he absolutely can, but he seems custom cut to eat one of Tyron’s power shots or get squashed on the ground.

Let’s take a look at some style notes on each guy.

Butch Dill/USA TODAY Sports
Butch Dill/USA TODAY Sports

Tyron Woodley: Key Attributes

  • Power—He’s shown that he can crack apart the sturdiest chins in the business. Robbie Lawler, a guy with a Teflon jaw, can tell you all about that.
  • Speed is almost, if not just as valuable as power, and Tyron is fast, especially in the first round.
  • Explosion is something he’s very good at, both on the ground and on the feet, where he exhibits huge bursts of power, even when he’s visibly tired. He doesn’t have a particularly active jab, so when he plants and throws that right haymaker, it’s sudden and almost always catches his opponent off guard.
  • Wrestling is going to be a big factor here, but not necessarily on the ground. He’s really good against the cage and in the clinch, and uses his excellent singles and blast doubles with precision. His takedown defense is great, and it’s nearly impossible to take him off his feet.
  • He knows how to find unorthodox angles to fire from, and is successful more often than not at finding a home for that right because of it.

Problematic Issues

  • Tyron has exhibited that he’s prone to tiring from the mid-point of the second round onward. It’s not in all his fights, but it’s a concern, especially in 5-round fight.
  • Cage control is something that he could add to his repertoire that would improve his game immensely. He gets into exchanges where longer fighters like Rory MacDonald are able to dictate the pace and the range. He’s got to do better at getting the fight where HE wants it to be.
Marc DesRosiers/USA TODAY Sports
Marc DesRosiers/USA TODAY Sports

Stephen Thompson: Key Attributes

  • Height and reach are always an advantage, but Stephen gets bonus points for actually using his to maximum benefit.
  • Karate that’s been well adjusted for an MMA skillset is abundant in this kid. He uses the leg kicks as both a weapon and a pace setter—exactly what’s needed to prey on one of Woodley’s most troublesome concerns.
  • Distance management is the key here. If Woodley can’t get in the pocket to plant for one of his bombs, the fight is already half way in Thompson’s pocket.
  • Stephen’s footwork is very good, and he’s able to stick and move well. He also makes good use of angles, probably better than Tyron.
  • Countering is one of his best weapons, and he and Conor McGregor have similar counter styles.

Problematic Issues

  • Ground game is something you need against a powerful wrestler like Tyron, and in this fight, where the champ is likely game planning for that, Stephen could be in serious trouble.
  • In the clinch, where Woodley is very strong, Thompson loses all semblance of defense, dropping his his left frequently and holding his chin too high.

The path to victory for Woodley is to get this fight on the ground (if he doesn’t spark him out early). If he uses his wrestling base more, he’ll limit Stephen’s offensive kicking game. He will be way more apprehensive about throwing those kicks if Tyron’s getting takedowns every time he throws a kick. If Woodley can implement his wrestling, and if he can do it early on, he should be able to cinch up the win pretty easily.

If Thompson can stay away from Tyron’s heavy hands early on, and stays on the outside where he can dictate the distance and pace, he could win a decision. He’ll need to avoid Tyron’s wrestling and use feints and good countering to tire him out. I don’t know if I see him finishing Woodley, but I can definitely see a decision going his way under the right circumstances.

It’s a tough fight to call, but I’m pretty confident that Tyron Woodley will get the W.


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