TORONTO – Stephen Thompson picked up what is likely the biggest win of his career on Saturday at UFC 165, but rather than looking ahead, the welterweight prospect can’t help but dwell on the past.
Thompson (8-1 MMA, 3-1 UFC), a lifelong karate practitioner and decorated amateur kickboxer, stopped Chris Clements (11-5 MMA, 1-1 UFC) with a second-round knockout in a FOX Sports 1-televised preliminary-card bout at Toronto’s Air Canada Centre. But for Thompson, whose status as a can’t-miss prospect took a hit with an April 2012 loss to Matt Brown, the defeat still stings.
However, the 30-year-old striker, who showed improved wrestling and grappling in Saturday’s bout, sees the silver lining. While once on the verge of a UFC release, Brown built off the Thompson victory and has now won six consecutive bouts. It’s moved him into the No. 9 slot in the USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie.com MMA welterweight rankings and earned him a high-profile UFC on FOX 9 fight with ex-interim champ Carlos Condit later this year.
It, in turn, has helped Thompson.
“My second fight in the UFC, I fought Matt Brown, who’s doing awesome right now,” he told MMAjunkie.com. “I’m cheering him on. He’s doing a great job.
“But he’s the only thing on my mind right now. He’s my only loss since I’ve been in the fight game, so I’ve got to work my way up and see if we can do it again. I think we put on a good show that night, and I think we can do it again.”
Aside from Clements, Thompson’s other UFC wins have come over Dan Stittgen and Nah-Shon Burrell. It’s not the quality of competition that’s likely to earn “Wonderboy” a rematch with Brown anytime soon, but UFC President Dana White is among the supporters who are willing to wait for Thompson to continue his development.
“He lost to a guy that’s been on an absolute tear and is going to get a shot at Carlos Condit,” White said. “If you’re going to lose to somebody, that was the guy to lose to right now.”
Brown’s recent success has obviously helped Thompson’s stock in the 170-pound division. However, Thompson’s (perhaps surprising) UFC 165 performance is likely to do just as much good. While some dismissed the dynamic striker as a one-trick pony, he showcased some new skills after Clements swept his legs out from under him. Thomspon forced the fight to the mat and unloaded some ground and pound, where he looked far more comfortable.
But in the second round, he unloaded some characteristic punches and floored Clements to force a TKO stoppage just 87 seconds into the frame.
“It played out the way we played it at the gym,” he said. “I knew he was going to come out. He had some pretty cool tricks in the first round. That cool dragon-tail sweep was pretty. I always thought about doing that to somebody, and it happens to me. I knew he was going to swing. He left himself open. I was just looking for that window, and there it was.”
For complete coverage of UFC 165, stay tuned to the UFC Events section of the site.