UFC welterweight contender Stephen Thompson is targeting a return to the Octagon in the coming months and has two promotional veterans in mind.
At the start of 2021, Thompson was riding a two-fight win streak and was fresh off a dominant main event victory over Geoff Neal. His target over the next 12 months was to secure his third title shot in the UFC.
But instead of booking a date with reigning 170-pound king Kamaru Usman, “Wonderboy” slipped down the rankings with back-to-back setbacks.
In his first appearance of the year, Thompson faced recent title challenger and top-three welterweight Gilbert Burns. At the time, many believed a victory over “Durinho” would have secured the 38-year-old another opportunity to reach the mountaintop. However, in the UFC 264 co-main event, he was controlled and beaten on the scorecards by the Brazilian.
Fast forward five months to December’s UFC Vegas 45, and Thompson had a quick chance to rebound and keep his place in the title conversation. But in a similar fashion to his previous outing, he was taken down and convincingly out-grappled, this time by rising name Belal Muhammad.
Thompson Targets Two Fellow UFC Mainstays
Despite yet another setback and his close proximity to the 40-year-old milestone, Thompson isn’t letting his championship aspirations disintegrate just yet. Spurred on by his desire to become the promotion’s oldest fighter, “Wonderboy” is ready to set things right in 2022.
During a recent interview with MiddleEasy, Thompson provided an update on his return. While an April fight is his current target, “Wonderboy” did reveal he is awaiting an MRI scan on his collarbone, which he’s experienced pain on since his defeat to Muhammad on December 18.
“Well, I wanna get back in April. I’ve got an MRI I’ve gotta do on my collarbone; It’s been killing me after the last fight,” said Thompson. “When Belal Muhammad picked me up and threw me down, I ended up putting my arm out and we both landed on my shoulder. I kinda jacked my collarbone up. So, I’m still training but usually, after every training session, it’s giving me some problems… But I wanna fight again in April. I’m not sure who yet.”
Nevertheless, Thompson doesn’t believe it’s too serious and hopes to have the chance to end his losing skid in the second quarter of the year.
Despite suggesting he’s looking to avoid an overwhelming wrestler in his next matchup, “Wonderboy” did admit he’s open to a “jiu-jitsu vs. karate” clash with grappling specialist Michael Chiesa.
“At this point, I would say, let’s hold off on the wrestlers real quick [LAUGHS]. The last few guys I just got obliterated… I think (Chiesa) would be a good opponent, for sure… I mean, he does have a name and he’s a good buddy of mine too, so I think that’d be a fun one,” added Thompson. “Obviously I’m gonna try and keep that fight standing because his jiu-jitsu is good. You saw his last fight with Vicente Luque, getting submitted, that’s kind of always been a thing. I’ve seen him start wrestling guys and him wrestling himself into a submission; getting sucked into a guillotine or triangle.
Michael Chiesa, Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images
“He’s doing work at 170. I think I can outstrike him, I can out-move him, for sure. If we fought, I’d definitely look to keep the fight standing. But he fights fairly stiff. Maybe that’s why he’s so strong. He’s got that muscle. I think it would be a fun fight, it would definitely be one of those jiu-jitsu vs. karate guys again.”
But if he’s focusing solely on another striker he can trade blows with, who better than welterweight legend and former champion “Ruthless” Robbie Lawler?
Describing how it would be an “honor” to face Lawler, who recently ended a lengthy losing skid with a win against Nick Diaz, Thompson claimed it would be especially an entertaining bout for the fans.
“I think (Lawler) would be a really fun fight, especially for the fans. I’ve been trying to fight this guy since he was champion. I think that would be a great fight, even though he’s not ranked at this point, I would love (it). It would be an honor to fight a legend, and exciting, it would be an exciting fight. Two guys going out there striking it up. That would be awesome,” concluded Thompson.
Despite consecutive defeats in the Octagon, Thompson remains a fan favorite and a name most will always be excited to watch. “Wonderboy” will hope to put his entertaining and slick striking style on full display again in 2022 after an underwhelming last 12 months.
Who would you prefer to see Stephen Thompson face next, Michael Chiesa or Robbie Lawler?
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