Josh Thomson gave a pretty succinct summary of his big win over Nate Diaz at Saturday’s UFC on FOX 7 event: “I didn’t fight stupid.”
That’s certainly one way of putting it.
Thomson (20-5 MMA, 3-1 UFC), a recent Strikeforce fighter who returned to the UFC for the first time in nearly nine years, delivered recent title challenger Diaz (16-9 MMA, 11-7 UFC) his first knockout loss. The bout, which netted Thomson a $50,000 “KO of the Night” award, was part of the FOX-televised main card at Saturday’s UFC on FOX 7 event at HP Pavilion in San Jose, Calif.
Thomson shrugged off his opponent’s taunts, landed quick combos, scored takedowns and battered Diaz with sharp elbows. Head kicks, including one that set up the second-round finish, also scored with remarkable accuracy.
“For me, this was a perfect fight,” Thomson, a former Strikeforce champion, said after the event. “I fought smart. I didn’t fight stupid. I did the things I needed to do, and I didn’t get caught up in the banter. That was the biggest thing.
“In the second fight with Gil (Melendez) when him and I fought, I was getting frustrated. I got caught up in the brawl, and it cost me my title. So I told myself I would never do that again. Just go out there, and implement my gameplan, and I think that showed tonight.”
Thomson, who closed out his Strikeforce career a year ago with a title loss to Melendez (and an overall 10-3 record), was a small underdog heading into the fight. Yet Thomson largely agreed with the oddsmakers, which made his dominant win all the more surprising.
“I didn’t see it going this way at all,” he said. “I played it in my head like 100 times. And honestly in probably about 50 of those times, I lost. It’s probably a hard pill to swallow for some of you guys to believe that, but you’ve got to be prepared for every scenario. I had to make sure I fought a good fight, and I just picked him apart. That, in my mind, was making sure I implemented my gameplan and didn’t get caught up in the banter and all the other crap. I went out there and did my job. When I do that, I feel like I’m one of the best guys in the world.”
It’s justifiable argument. Heading into UFC on FOX 7, Thomson was ranked No. 14 in the USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie.com MMA lightweight rankings, though his ranking has steadily declined over the past few years due to inactivity, injuries, key losses and the resurgence of the UFC’s 155-pound division. Diaz, in fact, was ranked No. 6, largely due to the quality of competition he faced in the octagon, which was unavailable to Thomson until Strikeforce closed its doors earlier this year and sent its top talent to the UFC.
But Thomson, 34, believes he’ll make the most of his current opportunity. He’s ready for big fights with the UFC.
“I started my career here, and I’m 100 percent sure I’m going to finish it here,” he said. “I get this question every time: ‘Oh, you’re getting older,’ and blah, blah, blah. I’m tired of hearing all that. But guess what? I will finish my career here. I’m happy to be here.
“Honestly, I would have never left. I’d be here still, to this day. I think I’ve proven it over and over again. it was uncontrollable circumstances that put me in a position where I had to leave the UFC. I had to make money and get a job and get the experience to still be a fighter and live my dream. I’m back here, and it was meant to be. That’s all I can say. It was meant to be.”
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