It’s been a long, windy road back to the top of the mountain for Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson but he’s arguably now just one fight away from earning himself another welterweight title shot in the UFC.
‘Wonderboy’ steps into the octagon and goes head-to-head with former title challenger Gilbert Burns in the co-main event at UFC 264 this weekend, knowing that a win puts him on a three-fight win streak and right back in the conversation to face Kamaru Usman for the belt.
But it hasn’t been easy since his double headers against Tyron Woodley back in 2016 and 2017.
That decision loss to Woodley in their second fight was the first of three defeats in four fights for Thompson, including the first and only knockout loss of his career against Anthony Pettis.
Since then however he has re-grouped, re-focused and scored dominant, bonus-earning decision victories against Vicente Luque and Geoff Neal to put himself back inside the top five. A win over Burns, who is currently ranked at number two, would elevate him straight into title contention for the first time in four years.
Dana White has already stated and confirmed that Colby Covington will receive the next title shot against Usman later this year, while Leon Edwards’ win over Nate Diaz at UFC 263 should have earned him the winner of that fight in theory.
But Thompson has the chance to grab the headlines on one of the biggest cards of the year when he takes on Burns, where a spectacular performance could arguably see him leapfrog Edwards into that spot to further rub salt into the wounds of the Brit.
The most likely option is probably for Edwards to fight the winner to set up the number one contender, but he won’t be keen on that after rattling off ten fights unbeaten since his last defeat back in 2015 to the current champion.
Burns is no pushover, so talk of Wonderboy just waltzing into that position is false anyway. But this is the opportunity that the karate expert has been waiting for and talking about for years. This is arguably his last chance to get there, considering he’s now 38-years-old.
A defeat relegates him from the conversation once more and with his injury issues and how stacked the division is, he’ll find it hard to get back into the conversation any time soon.
But this is a fight that is favourable to him stylistically and has huge implications on the rest of the division’s future. ‘Wonderboy’ has a chance to get back to the top of the mountain on Saturday night and take all the welterweight headlines at UFC 264.