Alistair Overeem (3) vs Mark Hunt (7)
With the co-main event cancelled fans were glad to know they still had a huge fight between Overeem and Hunt to look forward to. Both fighters are ranked high in the Heavy weight division, but coming into it there were large discrepancies between the two fighters. Overeem had a staggering six inch height advantage as well as an eight inch reach advantage. The two last met over 10 years ago, with Overeem coming out of it the victor with a first round submission.
Hunt began the first round with big leg kicks to the body and legs. Overeem checked one of Hunts kicks early resulting in Hunt sustaining a deep gash to his shin, however this didn’t stop him continuing to push forward and throw kicks. Both Overeem and Hunt were throwing and landing strikes to the head. Overeem was cautious about how close Hunt was getting to him and therefore whenever Hunt got to close Overeem entered the clinch and managed to push him away to keep the fight at a distance.
At the beginning of the second round Overeem began throwing clever strikes landing kicks, knees, punches and elbows. We could see him using his devastating knees that he has so often in the past punished opponents with them landing to both the body and the head. As Overeem continued to be the aggressor Hunt did retaliate with some effective elbows leading Overeem to cover up and try and enter the clinch. Both Hunt and Overeem traded huge elbows and knees respectively in this position to each other’s heads. To get out of any tight positions, as he has in previous fights, Overeem seemed to run away from his opponent to reset himself. This ended up being an impressive tactic as when the two entered the clinch following this, Overeem managed to execute an excellent elbow and immediately after force Hunt’s head towards the ground as he exploded up with a knee to the chin. Hunt had a delayed reaction but eventually landed flat and limp on the floor in a brutal K.O.
Hunt is regarding as having one of the hardest chins in the UFC but Overeems famous knees were obviously too much for the Super Samoan. What makes this win even more impressive is that Overeem had terrible food poisoning and was still recovering from it coming into the fight. As Dana said in the post-fight press conference he was in hospital for 24 hours just before the fight.
Tyrone Woodley (c) vs Stephen Thompson (1)
It had only been 5 months since these two fighters went to war at UFC 205 in what was given fight of the night. Despite Woodley being so close to finishing Thompson at many stage of the first fight, he entered the octagon for UFC 209 for the second time as the champion and as the underdog. However Woodley looked to back up his claims of being the best welterweight of all time and to prove the bookies wrong.
There was very little progression in the first round from both fighters. It took a minute for the first strike to be attempted with Thompson looking to throw his well-known front leg sidekicks. Woodley stayed on the cage for the majority of the first round, seldom attacking in his usual flurries. It seemed like he was taking this fight a lot more cautious, respecting the skill Thompson has at countering moving backwards. But this tentative fighting from the two fighters was met by the disgust of the crowd, with frequent booing because of the lack of activity. In the first round the two fighters together had only accumulated 11 significant strikes, which highlights their cautious approach.
In the second round Woodley decided, for the most part, to ignore what his corner advised and continue to be cautious and allow Thompson to walk him to the fence. Again this was met with the distaste of the crowd as the booing continued. In the few strikes that were thrown and landed both Woodley and Thompson left their marks. Thompson was left with a cut on his face while Woodley’s eye began swelling from a high kick. Woodley seemed to be throwing regular punches to the chest because of both the difference in height between the two, but also because of Thompsons positioning and evasiveness.
The third round started with an intelligent takedown from Woodley. He used his explosiveness to grab Thompsons front leg and drive him to the cage were he could attempt to get the other leg. Once Woodley had the other leg wrapped he executed a well-timed trip which led to him being on top of Thompson. Woodley demonstrated his strength by restraining Thompson’s right arm under his body which meant that Thompson had no defence briefly, in this time Woodley landed clean and powerful strikes to the body and face. As Thompson began to escape and use the cage to stand up Woodley kept the pressure on with heavy knees to the body. Towards the end of the round Thompson seemed to throw a lot more kicks and punches to the body and head of Woodley whilst constantly switching stances, showing great resilience after a tough time spent on the ground.
The pace of the fourth round seemed to drop once again as both fighters continued to not over commit and continually throw single punches or kicks with many feints. Thompson had the only notable strikes landing excellent high kicks, avoiding the high right hand of Woodley. As Woodley returned to his corner he was met by a sense of urgency as his corner encouraged him to take the risk and finish the fight.
Woodley complied with his corner and immediately showed his aggression pushing Thompson to the cage. Both fighters begin to land strikes at a much higher pace now. Eventually Woodley launches a flurry of punches landing Thompson with under a minute to go, Thompson struggles to get to his feet but Woodley continues the pressure and manages to drop Thompson for the second time. The fight at this stage was seconds from being stopped but Thompson managed to close up and get to his feet. Thompson then for the remainder of the fight kept his distance by circling the octagon and using his reach to keep Woodley at a distance.
After the 5 rounds the fight went to the judges scorecard whereby they declared Woodley the winner by unanimous decision. The fight could have easily been stopped in the last round with how Woodley performed. The end of the fight was met with a very negative and displeased audience as they erupted into booing. The media and the crowd both seemed to disagree with the decision while at the same time slating the fight itself, as many claimed it to be one of the all-time worst title fights based on Woodley spending minutes at a time against the cage and Thompson throwing more feints then he did strikes. Personally I scored the fight as a draw but it will be interesting to see how the top of the welterweight division pans out. If it was up to me I would definitely give Robbie Lawler an opportunity to challenge for the belt.