Welcome to Sports Illustrated’s weekly in-depth look at MMA. Each week, the column provides insights and information on the most notable stories in the fighting world.
Michael Chandler had one of the greatest knockouts of all time against Tony Ferguson at UFC 274, and his frontal kick was equally intoxicating, a mix of brutality and excitement.
The loss was especially humbling for Ferguson, an icon of the sport who is on a three-game losing streak. His spirits got an instant boost after a competitive first-round match when he clipped Chandler in his right eye, which Chandler later admitted had affected his vision. The bruise around his eye started to swell as Chandler finished 17 seconds into the second round, the moment he took that career-defining kick in Ferguson’s face, the moment was completely gone Ferguson’s short-lived momentum.
Among those watching was Stephen “Wonder Boy” Thompson. For the 10-year legendary UFC veteran, the moment brought back memories of his KO loss to Anthony Pettis three years ago.
“I’m really in Tony Ferguson’s situation,” Thompson said. “I’ve been there and I feel sorry for Tony.”
Thompson started his MMA career in impressive fashion, winning all but one of his first 14 fights. This enabled him to fight for the welterweight title, which he faced defending champion Tyron Woodley at UFC 205 at Madison Square Garden in November 2016. That fight ended in a tie, and Woodley went on to win a rematch at UFC 209. Thompson parted ways for the next two games before entering a matchup with Pettis in pursuit of regaining his title goal.
After a strong first round, Thompson and Pettis went back and forth in the second inning. Just before the round was over, Pettis knocked Thompson down with a Superman punch with his right hand, with five seconds remaining.
“I really believe I beat Pettis in the first round like Tony Ferguson did against Chandler,” Thompson said. “He hurt Chandler in the first round, and so did I. I’m ready to go back there for the second round and put it on him. And then there’s the knockout. In this sport, it’s going to be This happens.
“But Tony didn’t pout. His reaction to it was a real martial artist. All you can do is grow from these losses and get better.”
Thompson (16-6-1) has a lot more to offer in the cage, but he’s also one of the sport’s most perceptive. When he was in the latest season of ” karate fightpremieres this Saturday.
“This is an opportunity for people to see me out of the cage,” Thompson said. “Martial arts, for me it’s not a job, it’s a way of life. We have a school in Simpsonville, South Carolina with nearly 830 students. Karate is my life and seeing it become a Full contact sports are so cool.
“And I love breaking fights and breaking competitors and letting people know what’s going on in fights. I love the sport so much. It’s an incredible feeling to play in front of fans and give it your all. It’s you To your opponent, I love seeing this – this is what gets caught karate fight. “
Thompson will take on the role of teacher in partnership with the great Georges St-Pierre karate fight, an incredibly innovative professional fighting league that showcases groundbreaking production techniques and showcases karate combat in a CGI environment. The latest season consists of four events, culminating in a live broadcast in Orlando, Florida, on June 25 that will include two world title fights.
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“People want to see the beauty of the sport, they want to see the knockouts, that’s what you’re going to see karate fight,” Thompson said. “If it came before the UFC, I would have done it. It’s really special. Knocks are allowed, you have 45 seconds of ground and slam, and then you get back on your feet. And the production is crazy. It’s a virtual arena that looks so amazing that it makes you wonder if it’s real. “
Thompson will sit at the circus next to St Pierre karate fight June finale. Their bond and mutual respect goes back more than a decade, when Thompson was competing in kickboxing in Montreal, Canada.
“My opponent had GSP in his corner that night,” Thompson said. “Can you imagine? I ended up knocking that guy out in the fifth round, and GSP came over and invited me to his training camp. I was like, ‘Are you kidding me? Of course.’ He became my go-to guy from karate and kickboxing to MMA. Inspiration. He even showed up in my corner when I first fought in the UFC in 2012.”
The 39-year-old Thompson — who would be known as a “prodigy” even if he was older — lost back-to-backs to Gilbert Burns and Bella Mohammed. Currently ranked seventh in the division, his next fight will be a major step in re-establishing himself as one of the UFC’s top welterweights.
“After my last fight, I had a problem with my collarbone, and I ended up tearing my collarbone cartilage close to my sternum, and I had a hard time healing,” Thompson said. “The older you get, the longer it will take to heal, but I feel good and I’m ready to go back there.
“For my next opponent, I don’t care who the UFC gives me. I’m ready for anything. The last two fights didn’t go the way I hoped they would. I think people see these fights as a blueprint to beat me, But I’ve been working hard on wrestling and jiu-jitsu. My weight class is full of wrestlers, so I work hard every day.”
Thompson’s success lies in his persistent training regimen. He’s confident going into the next race and he’s eager to prove he’s still a top contender.
“Let people doubt me,” Thompson said. “I feel better. My last two games, I didn’t get any punishment. I just got pinned down. In my style, I don’t get punished too much, so I have a lot left. The challenge I have It’s about adapting to the appearance of new people. But I want them to doubt me. That would be their downfall.”
Kayla Harrison’s PFL underwhelming
If Kayla Harrison is trying to be the best player in the world, last Friday wasn’t a big part of getting there.
Harrison (13-0) beat Marina Mokhnatkina in Friday’s PFL season opener. Mokhnatkina is hardly a household name, nor is she considered one of the sport’s elite — but she fought alongside Harrison in three rounds at lightweight. Harrison was underwhelming, which she immediately admitted in her postgame interview.
That’s not to say Harrison is bad. But there will always be legitimate questions surrounding her success before she battles some top opponents. A woman in the UFC doesn’t weigh 155 pounds, so her weight is 145 pounds. Will Harrison even be in the top five in the UFC women’s pound-for-pound rankings? What about Mohnatkina? Will she even be a top 15 UFC fighter? Had Harrison ever been in the UFC, there’s no guarantee she’d be in the top five.
Harrison desperately needs to fight Cris Cyborg. That would be a great opportunity to prove himself against elite opponents. That game was not a certainty for Harrison, who looked slow against Mokhnatkina. Although Cyborg is no longer in her prime, she is still an elite fighter. It’s a fight Harrison desperately needs to take another step on the long climb and become the best player in the world.
Pick ‘Em part:
UFC Fight Night Light Heavyweight Main Event: Jan Blachowicz vs. Aleksandar Rakić
Pick: Jan Blajovic
UFC Fight Night Light Heavyweight: Ryan Spann vs Ion Cuțelaba
Pick: Ryan Spahn
UFC Women’s Flyweight Fight: Katlyn Chookagian vs. Amanda Ribas
Pick: Katrin Jorkajian
Bellator 281 Interim Welterweight Title Fight: Michael Page vs Logan Storey
Pick: Logan Storey
Bellator 281 Light Heavyweight Showdown: Luke Trainor vs. Simon Biyon
Pick: Coach Luke
last week: 4-1
2022 record: 58-26
more mixed martial arts Coverage:
Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @Justin Barrasso.