At UFC 264, #4 ranked welterweight Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson takes on the returning Gilbert “El Durinho” Burns in a fight that could very well line up the next challenger for the 170-lb. title.
Does Stephen Thompson Earn a UFC Title Shot with Win at UFC 264?
The Answer for “Yes” – Logically, It Makes Sense
Stephen Thompson is the only welterweight ranked within the top five, along with Vicente Luque that has yet to square off with current champ, Kamaru Usman. Thompson last challenged for the UFC Welterweight Championship in 2017, when he lost a majority decision Fight of the Night against then-champ, Tyron Woodley. In his next bout, he knocked off the most recent title challenger, Jorge Masvidal, via unanimous decision. Currently, Thompson is on a two-fight win streak, knocking off formerly mentioned Vicente Luque at UFC 244 and Geoff Neal at UFC Fight Night: Thompson vs. Neal.
Stylistically, It Makes Sense
Stephen Thompson’s karate style has consistently created problems for top-level contenders since his UFC debut in 2012. Kamaru Usman, known for his grappling, could have issues dealing with Thompson’s speed, ability to control range, fight off of his back foot, as well as moving forward. Considering this, Usman’s ability to strike has significantly improved since his UFC debut and may not feel obligated to make the fight a grappling match. In addition, it is worth noting that Stephen Thompson is a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
The Answer for “No” – Other Contenders Can Argue the Same
There are several top contenders within the welterweight division that can offer the same “logical” and “stylistic” arguments to face Kamaru Usman. Michael Chiesa, the winner of TUF Season 15, is on a four-fight win streak, knocking off Carlos Condit, Diego Sanchez, Rafael Dos Anjos, and Neil Magny. In his most recent outing against Magny, Chiesa used his strong wrestling to outwork Magny for a five round unanimous decision victory.
Leon Edwards has not suffered a loss since his 2015 bout with Kamaru Usman. Since then, he has notched nine victories, defeating the likes of Donald Cerrone, Gunnar Nelson, and Rafael Dos Anjos. At UFC 263, Leon Edwards picked up his first win of 2021 by outclassing Nate Diaz for four of their five round contest.
This conversation, of course, is hypothetical. Stephen Thompson has quite the mountain to topple in that of Gilbert Burns at UFC 264. Prior to Burns’ fight with Usman, the Brazilian was on a six-fight win streak, running through the likes of Tyron Woodley and Demian Maia. With a win over Thompson, Burns could cast his own bid for the UFC Welterweight Championship.
One Last Thought
Stephen Thompson is getting old. “Wonderboy” perhaps more accurately “Wonderman” (okay, jokes aside) is 38-years old. Time is running out for the Pitch Black MMA welterweight, even if he still appears young. Time is not on Thompson’s side to finally attain the UFC’s illustrious, gold strap.
Check out a full card preview below, covering the Stephen Thompson vs. Gilbert Burns fight along with all the other talking points!
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