Stephen Thompson is well aware of the challenges that welterweight champion Tyron Woodley presents heading into their UFC 205 matchup.
“Wonderboy” saw how Woodley used his power to put away the notoriously durable Robbie Lawler via first round knockout at UFC 201 earlier this summer, the fifth KO/TKO win of Woodley’s promotional tenure. He’s also knows about Woodley’s wrestling credentials, as the former Strikeforce talent was a two-time All American at the University of Missouri.
“He’s definitely got some one-hitter quitter power, as you saw against Robbie Lawler. It took one shot. Obviously I want to stay away from that right hand,” Thompson said during a conference call on Wednesday. “He’s not only a good striker; he’s obviously a good wrestler. When I go out there I have to be on my P’s and Q’s. Not only can he hit you with a right hand, but he can take you down as well. [I just need to focus on] keeping my good footwork, always moving, making it difficult for him to beat on my legs.
“Just trying to hit and move. Try to Muhammad Ali him. He’s the champion for a reason.”
Thompson has proven to be a difficult matchup himself, and his karate stylings have propelled him to a seven-fight winning streak. During that time, the South Carolina native has confounded the likes of ex-welterweight king Johny Hendricks and onetime title challenger Rory MacDonald to establish himself as the top contender in the division.
To help prepare for Thompson’s style, Woodley has trained with 20-year-old prospect Sage Northcutt, who can at least emulate some of what “Wonderboy” will bring to the Octagon on Nov. 12.
“If you go back and you watch Sage, we do have a similar style. He does come from a karate background. He does some of the flashy stuff I like to do as well,” Thompson said. “I’m just prepared knowing Tyron has seen some of the stuff that I throw, that I want to be throwing. I know Sage is a karate guy, and he’s going to try to simulate the best Stephen Thompson he can. That’s OK. I’m ready for it.”
Thompson also believes that his defensive wrestling won’t be the Achilles heel it was earlier in his UFC tenure, such as when he was taken down five times by Matt Brown in his second Octagon appearance.
“I think that everybody that I fight is going to want to take me down eventually. I’ve been working on my wrestling tremendously….I felt like I came in the game fairly late, 2010, but I’ve made leaps and bounds with my takedown defense,” he said. “Every time I step out there I expect to get taken down, but I’m ready for it. Just pop right back up and keep it where I want it and that’s standing.”
UFC 205 is shaping up as one of the biggest cards in the history of the Las Vegas-based promotion. For Thompson, it’s part of fulfilling a dream that began to take form more than 20 years ago.
“I went to my first UFC show when I was 12 years old. It was in Charlotte, North Carolina. My dad took me to that,” he said. “I told myself I was going to fight in the UFC one day. Now I’m fighting for the title, it’s a dream come true.”