One of the kindest people you’d find in the world of mixed martial arts competition also possess one of the most violent and menacing offensive skill sets any competitor could hope for. Stephen Thompson or “Wonderboy,” is currently sitting pretty following his flawless performance opposite Rory MacDonald. Thompson like many hopes that the win was enough to secure the next welterweight title shot. Thompson has told his story numerous amount of times on how he tore every ligament in his left leg during kickboxing competition. Despite being told by his doctor that his kickboxing career was over, Wonderboy was determined to continue making disciplines in martial arts like karate and kickboxing a priority.
Flash forward to UFC 143 in 2012 when Thompson was set to debut against Dan Stittgen. During the lead up to the fight names like Georges St Pierre were firmly stating that it was just a matter of time before Wonderboy wins a UFC championship. His perfectly timed head kick a minute within the first round only added to the prophecy. Thompson had arrived and already possessed another highlight under his belt.
Just as soon as the hype arrived, it was taken away merely two months later as Thompson ran into a wall named Matt Brown. The superior level of wrestling, ground-and-pound, and durable chin allowed Brown to push Thompson into a corner despite taking some lumps in the process. The consensus coming into the fight appeared to be that Wonderboy would make quick work of the inconsistent Matt Brown, however following the defeat, many felt Thompson was just another dismantled hype train. Fortunately for Thompson, things began to look up after a year away from the octagon.
A decision victory over Nah-Shon Burrell followed by an impressive knock out win over Chris Clements four months later led to a step up in competition. The striking specialist Robert Whittaker was quickly outclassed and knocked out in the first round in early 2014 followed by Patrick Cote who was outclassed over the course of three rounds later on that year. 2015 was the start of Wonderboy’s ascension into the title picture as he drew knock out artist Jake Ellenberger as an opponent in his first time headlining a UFC event.
The standup battle nearly ended badly for Thompson after being knocked down early in an exchange, but following a quick recovery Ellenberger found himself at the end of Wonderboy’s punches. Ellenberger eventually ate a couple of spinning back kicks for his troubles, which resulted in being dropped and finished via punches. Another highlight added to Thompson’s name and another step up in competition followed in the name of former welterweight champ, Johny Hendricks.
On paper, the match up immediately favored Hendricks due to his exceptional wrestling and powerful strikes, however Thompson had other plans. Early on the odd karate stance gave the former champion fits and the speed between the two favored the underdog. Hendricks’ tendency of plodding forward left him an open target for Wonderboy’s dynamic display of striking. The offensive onslaught was something out of a movie and as Hendricks’ wrestling was deemed ineffective, it was only a matter of time until the accumulation of strikes would put him down. A spinning back kick to the body followed by head strikes up against the cage was all she wrote for Hendricks.
Thompson passed his toughest test with flying colors and although he wasn’t granted a title shot following his performance, fans were treated to an excellent match up between Wonderboy and Rory MacDonald and he didn’t disappoint. The Karate expert frustrated MacDonald over five rounds, which only strengthened his argument for a title shot. The domination over a fan favorite was sad to watch, but even more entertaining and that is exactly what the UFC is in search of. With the battle tested Robbie Lawler holding the title at the moment, we could be in store for an incredible clash of styles. Only time will tell how far the North Carolina MMA youth instructor can go.