Fight fans and bettors alike are about to get treated to a wealth of highly anticipated bouts in both boxing and mixed martial arts over these next few months… and this coming Saturday serves as the perfect example.
On the East Coast, the WBC and WBA Super World Welterweight straps will be on the line inside Barclays Center in Brooklyn as Danny Garcia (33-0, 19 KO’s) and Keith Thurman (27-0, 22 KO’s) meet to determine who’s the new king at 147 pounds, now that Floyd Mayweather Jr. has retired.
Out on the West Coast, T-Mobile Arena here in Las Vegas plays host to UFC 209, which also features the welterweight division in the main event. Current 170-pound UFC champion Tyron Woodley (16-3-1) aims to defend his belt against Stephen Thompson (13-1-1) for the second time in less than four months.
As a huge fan of combat sports I am anxious to see both welterweight title fights on Saturday night. But as a bettor, I believe it’s the UFC bout that warrants a walk to the betting window.
Bookmakers initially installed the challenger Thompson as a -125 favorite for the rematch, but as we go to print the betting line is now as high as -150. He was actually an even bigger favorite (-200) going into their UFC 205 bout, and though Woodley was able to retain his title via majority draw, the fight was very closely contested throughout.
Thompson was able to control the distance by backing the champion up and almost walking him down like a boxer. That’s not surprising considering the challenger was a professional kick boxer prior to suffering an injury that eventually led him to mixed martial arts. “Wonder Boy” had success when he wasn’t stationary and threw combinations. He had to be cautious with his kicks, and not give Woodley a chance to take him down. Thompson had only been taken down one time since 2009, and over five full rounds the champion was only able to put him on his back once.
For Woodley, the question isn’t whether he has the skill set to beat anyone and everyone in this weight class, it’s whether or not he’ll have the gas tank needed to secure the wins. The champion is forced to cut a lot of weight in order to make the 170-pound limit, and that can take a toll on a fighter’s endurance. Though Thompson is three inches taller, it was Woodley who looked like the much bigger man in their first bout. He also proved to have a major edge in strength, especially in the clinch and when he had top control.
Stylistically, Thompson wants to keep the fight standing and pick apart the champion, while Woodley would like to put the challenger on his back and use his wrestling to keep him on the mat. The champion only averages 0.5 submissions per 15 minutes, but he’s got vicious, fight-ending ground and pound. He was only able to put Thompson on his back once, but Woodley was able to keep him there until the bell sounded, inflicting a lot of damage in the process.
Bottom line, I truly did not believe their first fight was as close as the judges scored it. In fact, I scored the bout 48-47 in favor of Woodley, all three times I watched it. The champion landed more strikes, scored multiple knock-downs, and secured the only take down of the fight. He also looked a lot less for wear when all the dust had settled.
Simply put, Woodley will be able to handle everything Thompson brings to the table. The champion has the one-punch finishing power needed to negate the striking advantage for the challenger. Then against the cage, inside the clinch, or on the mat, it’ll be Woodley who’s got the edge once more. That is just way too much for Thompson to overcome.
Finally, Woodley will enter the Octagon as the betting underdog again on Saturday and I believe the wrong fighter is favored again.
PICK: TYRON WOODLEY