UFC Fight Night 148 in Nashville will be headlined by a much-anticipated battle between Stephen Thompson and former lightweight champ Anthony Pettis, who moves up to welterweight for the first time in his career.
Pettis fights out of Milwaukee’s Roufusport gym run by head coach Duke Roufus. Thompson tested his wits against the prestigious gym when he took on welterweight champion Tyron Woodley at UFC 205 in November 2016 and then again at UFC 209 in March 2017 in back-to-back title fights. The pair fought a majority draw at UFC 205 although Woodley was awarded the majority decision in their rematch at UFC 209.
“Wonderboy” was a guest on The MMA Hour and said despite losing the second fight against Woodley their team still couldn’t solve his unorthodox style (via MMA Fighting):
“Tyron’s a different fighter, and still he didn’t have an answer for me,” Thompson said. “He hit me in the fourth round with a right hand -- he actually hit me with it twice -- but I think it was more on my fault, rushing in with my hands down, than anything. He still was kind of confused. He still really didn’t have an answer, and it was still a very close fight, both of them. We got the draw the first fight, the second fight was controversial. So, I don’t think he’s got my number. My style is very hard to bring in fighters for and to prepare for, so I think it’s going to an exciting fight. Anthony Pettis, he’s got some really good striking, coming from his background, his taekwondo background, so I think it’s going to be fun.
“Anthony Pettis has a name,” added Thompson. “At this point in time, I’ve been out for almost seven months, I had a knee injury after the (Darren) Till fight. You see this with fighters all the time, if you’re not staying active, you’re kinda put on the shelf a little bit. And I’m still going for that title, I’m not giving up on it, and I think with some wins, no matter who it is, it’s going to keep me where I’m at, or hopefully will put me -- with a good win over Pettis -- in the UFC’s mind, ‘Hey, let’s push this guy up a little bit. Let’s give him a fight with another top-five guy.’”
The fight between Thompson and Pettis is a dream matchup for MMA fans given their style and elite striking ability. Thompson, however, is confident his striking is superior to that of “Showtime.”
“I’m more of a mover, I think,” Thompson said. “More of an angler. Whenever I fight, whenever you see me fight, I work a lot off of angles, using my kicks a lot. I think I throw more of a variety of kicks than Pettis does.
“It’s very difficult to break down, because we have some similarities and we have some differences. I think he’s more well-rounded. Like, he’s submitted some really good, high-level grapplers in the past. I mean, his last fight at 155 he submitted (Michael) Chiesa, which I thought was going to go the other way around. He submitted him and [since then] Chiesa’s moved up to 170, defeated Carlos Condit, so I think that’s another reason why he thinks he’s going to do well in the 170 division, because you’ve got a lot of 155ers moving up. Of course, ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone has done well in my division. He’s moved back down.
“But yeah man, I always think I’m the better striker. I’m definitely the better striker than Pettis. I’ve got the reach on him, I’m faster than him, and I’m coming with more power.
“This is not a fight that I’m going to take lightly,” added Thompson. “He does have great striking, he’s got a knockout reel, so I welcome him with open arms to 170.”