We didn't see the Stephen Thompson that beat the likes of Johny Hendricks and Rory MacDonald at UFC 205. Thompson, who cruised to a decision over MacDonald and became the first man in the Octagon to stop 'Bigg Rigg' via strikes, couldn't quite find his rhythm against Tyron Woodley in their championship epic at New York's Madison Square Garden Arena last year.
“I was not at my best. I was too hesitant to let my hands go. It won’t happen this time,” Thompson told Damon Martin in a recent interview on the Fight Society podcast. “I actually wanted to get out there and just be more aggressive. I just wasn’t there. I don’t know if it was because it was at Madison Square Garden or first show in New York, I don’t know, I don’t make excuses. But that definitely wasn’t my best."
“If you see my fights with Jake Ellenberger, Johny Hendricks and Rory MacDonald, I went out there and just had fun,” Thompson said. “In my last fight with Tyron, for some reason I didn’t feel that vibe, I didn’t feel that positive feeling. This fight, I’m all smiles and just ready to go out there and have some fun.”
Despite not being at his best, Wonderboy fought 'The Chosen One' to a draw and will rematch the welterweight champion in UFC 209's main event on Saturday.
The 34-year-old says he took Woodley's best shots — Woodley almost finished Thompson with some heavy strikes in the fourth round — and believes he has the champ's number heading into UFC 209.
“I’m just better,” Thompson said. “I know he’s an explosive athlete and very strong, but I know I’ve got his number. I felt his power, I know how he strikes, I know how he wrestles. I’ve got his number. I really felt that — especially in that last round in that fight. I felt fresh like I could have gone three more rounds.
“I had it figured out. I know I can do it this time.”
Thompson is one of the most dangerous and technical strikers in the 170-pound division, finishing many of his opponents via KO or TKO, and will look to make a statement and cement himself as the undisputed champion at the weekend.