Stephen Thompson still has aspirations of a UFC title, but he wants to enjoy the road to the top, too.
Thompson (17-6-1 MMA, 12-6-1 UFC) snapped a two-fight losing skid on Saturday when he defeated Kevin Holland (23-9 MMA, 10-6 UFC) by fourth-round TKO due to doctor’s stoppage in the UFC on ESPN 42 headliner, which took place at Amway Center in Orlando, Fla.
“Wonderboy” was unable to get his striking rhythm going in his past two fights against Belal Muhammad and Gilbert Burns, and he was grinding out to decision results. He waited nearly a year between fights until the right matchup came up, and when it did with Holland, they delivered a Fight of the Night.
Neither Thompson nor Holland had any intention of grappling during their welterweight main event, and for the karate specialist, that’s a welcomed approach.
“It was kind of one of those unwritten rules that we had going into this fight,” Thompson said at the UFC on ESPN 42 post-fight press conference. “I know later on in rounds he was shooting, I know he had a busted hand, but I think I fell down in the first round and he let me back up. He told me in the first round, he’s like, ‘Hey, I’m not taking you down.’ I’m like, ‘All right, man. Sounds good to me.'”
Holland sustained a hand injury in the fight, which his management reported on social media occurred in the first round. Thompson thinks he can pinpoint the moment it happened, too, as he recalls Holland landing a stiff shot to his forehead.
“I did feel that,” Thompson said. “I had to weather the storm. He threw a lot of elbows at well that staggered me a little bit, but I had to keep moving as well. I’ve got a hard head and I weathered the storm and got the W.”
At 39, Thompson is adamant that he “feels 25” and has no intention of bringing his competitive career to a close. He realistically can only have so many good years left in him, though, and Thompson sent a message to the UFC brass that if it wants to get the best out of him, more matchups like Holland are the way to matchmake him going forward.
“If you guys want more fights like that, give me a striker, baby,” Thompson said. “Give me a striker. Of course, I’m always looking for the title and that’s always at the top of the list, but why not have some fun fights on the way?”
For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC on ESPN 42.