It may not have been the most exciting fight in history, but Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson made it look easy on Saturday night.
And by ‘it’, I’m referring to defeating Rory Macdonald inside the octagon, something that only champ Robbie Lawler, and elite striker Carlos Condit, have managed to do. Only to beat Rory, those two men went through hell. Wonderboy? He had no trouble.
Wonderboy’s understanding of the stand-up game inside the octagon might be the best we’ve ever seen. I really don’t know who you would say is better. His understanding of range is sublime – he’s rarely in hitting range when you throw, but when he throws – he lands. He’s unpredictable, coming at you with a massive array of attacks from all angles. But he’s not flashy for flashy’s sake – if he throws a question mark kick or a step-in elbow, it’s to hurt you. He moves with finesse about the cage, that Rory Macdonald, known for using his long arms to establish a commanding jab, wasn’t able to jab at all last night. When he did, he only hit air.
Rory’s corner could be heard directing him – “controlled pressure Rory, controlled pressure!”, but it was no use. Rory’s young and talented, and will go on to improve plenty in his career, but his fight style was made to look rather simplistic by Thompson. Wonderboy countered effectively during Rory’s ‘controlled pressure’ and threw wincingly-powerful body kicks any time Rory backed up.
The audience in Ottawa’s TD Place Arena found the fight fairly boring, and let their voices be heard about the matter. Ex-middleweight champ Chris Weidman was in Thompson’s corner, and he rightly instructed Thompson to “tune out the crowd” and to continue his domination, advice that Wonderboy followed like a professional.
I can understand where the crowd was coming from- to their credit they’d just seen Donald Cerrone light up the night with a devastating and typically exciting KO of Patrick Cote. Not to mention before that ex-hockey enforcer Steve Bosse played ‘rock-em-sock-em’ robots’ with Sean O’Connell for 15 straight minutes in the fight of the night. There was a high standard of excitement set in place.
But not every fight can be a barn-burner, some are just about witnessing a fighter’s rise to glory. I can’t see who has a hope at stopping Thompson now. He’ll fight either Lawler or Woodley. Tyron Woodley will try to wrestle Thompson, but before he can shoot for a double-leg, his simplistic stand-up style will have him KO’d. I’d bet the house on Thompson. As for Lawler, he’ll engage exactly as Thompson would want.
— Chris Weidman (@ChrisWeidmanUFC) June 19, 2016
They’ll have a stand-up war. But the problem for Lawler is that Thompson is just so damn good at not getting hit, that I can’t see it being the brawl that Lawler would like. Lawler wins not just through his abilities, but by having more heart and will than his opponent. He ‘takes souls’, fans like to say. But Thompson is just too much of a professional and an athlete to let the fight become a mental battle.
I wrote before about how the judges got the Lawler / Condit fight wrong. Condit won that fight, for sure. The difference is that Thompson will make it more emphatic. He will hit Lawler more than Condit did, harder than he did, and with more variety. There’ll be times when Lawler will get him, but more often than not Thompson will move away from dangerous exchanges. He will be our new champion, whoever he faces.
— FOX Sports: UFC (@UFCONFOX) June 19, 2016
Of course, Thompson has been beaten. The tough, gritty, and talented all-rounder Matt Brown took his best shots, got a hold of the body, and took Thompson down 5 times on route to a unanimous decision. But that was four years ago, and Wonderboy’s takedown defence is vastly improved. I’d love to see that rematch, because I don’t think there’s ever been a boring Matt Brown fight but I’m sure Wonderboy would take it next time around.
There’s only one welterweight that I can think of that has the skill-set to beat Stephen Thompson, and he’s retired. But if George St.Pierre ever wants to step back inside the octagon, that would be a hell of a fight.
By Laurie Williams