‘Wonderboy’ Training To Be More Aggressive Against Anthony Pettis

Stephen Thompson

Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson is respected as one of the most lethal strikers in the UFC.

But without a knockout win since his TKO of Johny Hendricks in early 2016, much of the shine has worn off the once-touted former title contender. He’s gone a pedestrian 1-2-1 in his last four bouts and has been out of action since last May. Many felt he won his last bout against Darren Till, but it ultimately went down as a loss on his record.

While most scored that fight for him, Thompson knows there are some things he can change about his gameplan. He has a big fight set for March 23’s UFC on ESPN+ 6 from the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn. There, Thompson will take on former lightweight champion Anthony Pettis in an unlikely-but-promising match of flashy strikers. Thompson has been criticized for looking for the perfect shot rather than pressing the action.

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Speaking on a recent episode of the ‘UFC Unfiltered’ podcast (via MMAjunkie), Thompson knows he needs to change that:

“One of the things I’ve worked on is being a little more aggressive. Not overly aggressive when you see guys run out there and get knocked out, but stepping out there, letting them feel my presence the same way I did Johny Hendricks.

“That was a mindset I had when I stepped out there. I had a lot of respect for Johny Hendricks, but I didn’t care. I just went out there and did my own thing. Didn’t really care what he was going to do, which I think the last fights I really was (caring).”

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A Clash Of Styles

His fight with Pettis seemingly came out of nowhere when ‘Showtime’ called him out for an unexpected fight. Thompson was surprised but excited at the prospect of facing a similar striker to himself. Thompson is the larger fighter and should be the favorite. But he insists Pettis is a fighter who knows his style perhaps better than anyone.

With that said, he doesn’t believe it will be an easy fight whatsoever. He knows Pettis and his coach Duke Roufus believe they have the plan to beat him due to teammate Tyron Woodley‘s win over “Wonderboy”:

“I think out of everyone I’ve faced so far in the welterweight division, he is going to be the one most familiar with my style than any of them, because he’s a taekwondo specialist and you’ve seen him fight,” he said. “His distance management is off the chart. He’s very good. He familiar with that style growing up in taekwondo.

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“Do I think it’s going to be an easy fight? No, not at all. I’m going to be prepared for the best, for a five-round war with this guy. Even though he’s fought (at) 145, 155 (pounds) – like he said, a straight shot to the chin can take anyone out no matter how big you are. It feels different. Him and his coach, I think they took the fight because they think they have my number.”