Former UFC light heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida was once considered the best outside fighter in the UFC, but then, Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson came along.
Thompson, who is undefeated in 37 amateur and 58 professional kickboxing matches, is considered by many to be the most elusive fighter in the UFC.
Wonderboy is the only fighter to hold a knockout win over current UFC middleweight champion Robert Whittaker and, speaking to Grange TV in a recent interview, ‘The Reaper’ hailed Thompson as a true master of his craft and the best outside fighter in the sport.
“You know who’s the best, I think the best person who fights on the outside is Wonderboy Thompson,” Whittaker said, per Abhinav Kini of The Body Lock MMA. “He fights on the outside, he gives you different looks from the outside. He’s got good long range attacks. And when he comes in, it’s hard to see because he disguises it behind other stuff.
“And a big thing with an outside fighter going on the inside to do those attacks, those sort of blitz fighters, you can’t blitz in a straight line. You can’t blitz with very one-dimensional attacks because a guy like Trinaldo who is controlling the center and playing a pretty good counter-game is going to sit there and wait for your timing. As you come in, if you don’t hurt him or you don’t get off first, he’s just going to pop you, pop you, pop you, and then you have to get back out and do that again.”
Speaking of his loss to Thompson, which many feel was an early stoppage, Whittaker said he was initially bitter about the result but later came to accept the referee’s decision.
“Again, I always support the ref’s decision,” Whittaker said of his fight with Thompson. “I believe they’re doing what they think is best at the time. They have a heavy, heavy responsibility with a lot of pressure. This is coming from someone who feels a little salty from an early stoppage in my own career. When I got dropped by Thompson, I felt I could have kept fighting. But the ref stopped it and I was a little salty afterwards thinking I could have kept fighting.
“But then, I shouldn’t have let it get that far anyway. It was a great win for him and the ref’s doing the best job he can so I’m supporting the ref’s decision because it’s a hard job to do. And if any of the people are complaining, you think you can do better? Do better. Try.”
Whittaker, 28, is scheduled to lock horns with interim middleweight champ Israel Adesanya in a title unification bout at UFC 243. The pay-per-view will take place later this year, on October 6 at Marvel Stadium in Melbourne, Australia.