LAS VEGAS – Still a work in progress as a well-rounded MMA fighter, Stephen Thompson found out just how exhausting grappling can be.
But despite running low on gas late in the fight, Thompson tested his grappling chops and out-struck Nah-Shon Burrell to secure a unanimous-decision win.
The welterweight bout was part of Saturday’s UFC 160 event at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. It streamed on Facebook ahead of additional prelims on FX and prior to the pay-per-view main card.
Burrell initially gave Thompson no space to use flashy kicks as he backed the former kickboxer against the cage. But rather than working to escape, Thompson showed surprising willingness to clinch, even landing a takedown midway through the frame. Although his grappling left much to be desired – he easily gave up mount and back-mount after Burrell flubbed a takedown attempt – he displayed a more well-rounded attack than previously seen.
Burrell worked to close the distance in the second frame as Thompson began to find his range on his feet. He landed several punishing body shots and kicks. But the action continued to stall as the two clumsily grappled against the fence.
Thompson stayed on his bicycle in the third as Burrell continued to look for an opening. Several times, he landed in close but couldn’t land a finishing blow despite Thompson’s fatigue late in the frame.
The final scores were 29-28, 30-27 and 29-28 for Thompson.
“It’s been a year since I fought last, and every time you’re here fighting in the big show, the nerves are there,” Thompson said. “It sort of got worse as the fight drew nearer knowing that I lost my last fight and the UFC is always making cuts to the roster when you don’t perform well. I just had to go out there, do my thing, and stay positive.”
After being finished by Matt Brown in his previous outing, Thompson (7-1 MMA, 2-1 UFC) gets back on the winning track. Strikeforce vet Burrell (9-3 MMA, 1-1 UFC) goes back to the drawing board after a win against Yuri Villefort in his octagon debut.
Up-to-the-minute UFC 160 results include:
For complete coverage of UFC 160, stay tuned to the UFC Events section of the site.
John Morgan and Matt Erickson contributed to this report on-site in Las Vegas.