UFC 209 had all the makings of an exciting and thrilling event. The co-main event, a matchup between undefeated Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson, winner of nine straight fights, for the interim lightweight title was billed as potentially the best lightweight matchup in history.
Nurmagomedov, however, had last minute weight cutting issues and was hospitalized hours before stepping on the scale, leading to cancellation of the bout.
The main event, a rematch of UFC 205 for welterweight champion Tyron Woodley and Stephen Thompson, couldn't salvage the card either. When the dust settled the octagon for the second time in four months following a a controversial and disputed back and forth bout that earned “Fight of the Year” nods and demanded a rematch, it concluded the event in anti-climatic fashion.
Both men fought tentatively in the first two rounds, earning the ire and consternation of the fans in attendance.
“You’re the one out there. Of course the crowd is watching you, but they’re not the ones in the octagon getting punched in the face,” Thompson said. “You got to learn to block that out and do what you got to do.”
The difference might have been two solid rounds for Woodley. In the third, he landed a takedown and was able to control Thompson for most of the round. In the fifth and final round, Woodley dropped Thompson and was threatening to finish the fight. Referee John McCarthy elected to let things continue and Thompson was able to get back to his feet, putting it in the hands of the judges who, who ultimately gave it to Woodley via majority decision.
“Disappointed, man,” Thompson said. “Worked my whole life to get here. I thought I won the fight, but can’t leave it in the judges’ eyes, so that was on me.”
UFC president Dana White agreed with Thompson, saying he scored the fight in favor of the challenger. One judge agreed, scoring the fight three rounds for Thompson, but a 10-8 in the fifth made that scorecard a draw.
After two consecutive shots at the title, Thompson is on the outside looking in and starts fresh trying to string together wins to stake his claim to a title shot again.
Stars of the Night
1. Darren Elkins - Came from behind for a huge knockout victory. Bloodied, Elkins was being outstruck by Mirsad Bektic, who was also dominating control position.
2. Cynthia Calvillo - Made her UFC debut in a stunning fashion with a first-round submission win over Amanda Cooper.
3. Alistair Overeem - He absorbed some big blows from Mark Hunt but was able to fight through to get a finish in the third round.
1. Immediate rematches aren’t always a great idea
The first time Woodley and Thompson squared off it was a thrilling back-and-forth fight, both men digging deep to pull out heroics in an effort to get the win. It was ruled a majority draw, and the promotion decided to run it back to resolve the dispute at the top of the welterweight division.
The fight didn’t live up to its predecessor as both were tentative and not willing to give the other a window of opportunity. Perhaps Woodley summed up it best in a post-fight interview with Fox Sports:
“It’s just tough when you fight somebody for the second time around,” he said. “He was equipped and ready for me to come in close, so he was keeping me at bay. It was tough to get in, he was countering as I was coming in.
“It was just really awkward, it was my first rematch. I think we were both hesitant.”
2. Rashad Evans’s career might have new life at middleweight
Evans made his middleweight debut and lost via split decision, but the former light heavyweight champ looked good at middleweight. He fought tentatively and Daniel Kelly presented a puzzle to be dissected that proved to be too tough.
Despite it being a loss, Evans looks like he could have success in his new weight class.
3. Strawweights continue to impress
When the strawweight scrap between Calvillo and Cooper was promoted to the pay-per-view portion of the card, eyebrows were raised. Calvillo, a Team Alpha Male product, took full advantage of the opportunity, winning with an impressive first-round submission.
Once again, the women’s strawweight division has proven to be one of the most entertaining divisions in the sport.
Tyson Pedro drops Paul Craig with a right-hand.
Elkins comes from behind to get a stunning finish.
Overeem finishes Hunt with knees
Lando Vannata doing crazy kicks.
Tyron Woodley def. Stephen Thompson via majority decision (48-47, 47-47, 48-47)
David Teymur def. Lando Vannata via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Daniel Kelly def. Rashad Evans via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
Cynthia Calvillo def. Amanda Cooper via submission (rear-naked choke) - Round 1, 3:19
Alistair Overeem def. Mark Hunt via knockout (strikes) - Round 3, 1:44
FOX Sports Prelims:
Marcin Tybura def. Luis Henrique via TKO (punches) - Round 3, 3:46
Darren Elkins def. Mirsad Bektic via TKO (punch, high kick) - Round 3, 3:19
Iuri Alcantara def. Luke Sanders via submission (knee bar) - Round 2, 3:13
Mark Godbeer def. Daniel Spitz via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Fight Pass Prelims:
Tyson Pedro def. Paul Craig via TKO (elbows) - Round 1, 4:10
Albert Morales def. Andre Soukhathath via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
Tyron Woodley - Woodley finally has a successful defense after defeating Thompson, and is now looking for the next challenge. Georges St-Pierre's return made him a potential opponent, but he is moving to middleweight to fight champion Michael Bisping.
That leaves Demian Maia, a grappling expert, sitting in the wings on a six-fight win streak. Maia is the next logical opponent for Woodley, but he is first booked for a fight against Jorge Masvidal in May. If he wins, he should get the title shot.
The next event is a card in Brazil, when Vitor Belfort and Kelvin Gastelum square off on March 11th. The following card is a Fight Night affair in London that will see Jimi Manuwa and Corey Anderson clash in the main event.
Next up for a pay-per-view event is UFC 210, April 8th in Buffalo. In the headlining event, light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier will fight Anthony Johnson for the second time. Cormier defeated Johnson for the vacant light heavyweight title at UFC 187.
In the co-main event, former middleweight champion Chris Weidman fights Gegard Mousasi in a fight that will weed out the pack clamoring for a title shot.