Stephen Thompson aiming for title fight after Johny Hendricks bout at UFC 196

By Jamie Penick, MMATorch Editor-in-Chief

Stephen Thompson (photo credit Stephen R. Sylvanie © USA Today Sports)

Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson got a huge fight booking for 2016 with the UFC announcing earlier this month that he’ll take on former UFC Welterweight Champion Johny Hendricks at UFC 196.

The 32-year-old is 11-1 overall in his career, and has won five straight in the UFC since suffering his only career combat sports loss to Matt Brown in 2012. In a welterweight field without a clear queue of contenders at the moment, Thompson believes this fight could be key to getting him into that title mix.

“He’s been in five-round fights with Robbie Lawler just taking shots, so I know he’s a tough guy,” Thompson said of Hendricks in an interview with “Hopefully after this fight with Johny Hendricks I’ll be up for the title.”

Thompson’s five fight winning streak culminated in a stoppage win over Jake Ellenberger in the main event of The Ultimate Fighter 21 Finale in July, a fight in which he showed off more impressive ground defense than was perhaps expected. He thinks his flashy striking style helps mask that ability, and he’s ready to work a similar game against Hendricks on February 6 in Las Vegas.

“Everyone wants to see an exciting fight and a spectacular knockout,” Thompson said. “I like that because fighters don’t think too much about my wrestling or jiu-jitsu. That’s what Ellenberger did; he tried to take me down and I ended up reversing it on him and using both against him.

“… I figure here’s a guy [in Hendricks], who’s in the way of my goal and I’m going to treat him as I do everyone else. I don’t let the hype of people get to me. I know I have a longer reach than he does, but he’s very fast. I have to make him swing and miss and counter off of that.”

Penick’s Analysis: It becomes an extremely interesting matchup if Thompson can keep himself standing and not let Hendricks bully him around. If his takedown defense is sound, he’s got the type of varied and unpredictable striking attack that could really give Hendricks problems. If Thompson can pull off what would be an upset, it would be a huge statement win, and could very well leap frog him in front of some others in the division. Given his age and longevity in combat sports, his time’s got to come soon if it’s going to come at all.

[Photo (c) Stephen R. Sylvanie via USA Today Sports]

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