Stephen Thompson Out To Prove He’s Not A Gatekeeper At UFC Vegas 17
Stephen Thompson may not have scored back-to-back wins inside the Octagon since 2016, but he believes he is still a strong contender in the UFC’s welterweight division.
Thompson last fought in November 2019 at UFC 244 against rising prospect in Vicente Luque, defeating him via unanimous decision, earning him a Fight of the Night bonus. He is set to face another prospect in Geoff Neal in the UFC Vegas 17 main event this weekend.
Not A Gatekeeper
Speaking to BJPenn.com, Thompson said he believes that the UFC is constantly putting him up against up-and-coming fighters because they see him as a ‘gatekeeper’ in the 170lbs division.
“They are trying to make me the gatekeeper and it is not going to happen. I went ten rounds with Tyron Woodley, beat Jorge Masvidal, a controversial loss to Till, and then getting knocked out to Anthony Pettis doesn’t help,” Thompson said. “My last two opponents have been ranked below me and I haven’t fought anyone ranked above me. Hopefully, they aren’t trying to make me a gatekeeper, I’m not a gatekeeper. I have a lot of fight left in me and I want that title shot.”
What To Expect From Neal
Thompson believes that since both Luque and Neal have similar fighting styles, he knows exactly what to expect come fight night.
“This is very similar. Vicente Luque was on a seven-fight winning streak and Geoff Neal is undefeated in the UFC and knocking dudes out. He is heavy-handed and looks like a really strong welterweight,” Thompson said. “My opponent is a little taller and has a longer reach, but they are stylistically very similar as well. I know Geoff Neal likes to throw that left high kick and if he touches you with it, you are going out. That is something I have to prepare for and that is what I’ve been preparing for. I had Weidman in and we did five, five-minute rounds. The reason I brought him in was after some time, most people want to take me down. Wherever the fight goes I am going to be prepared for it, for sure.”
Making A Statement
‘Wonderboy’ last bagged a stoppage win in 2016, when he finished former welterweight champion Johny Hendricks via first round TKO. Thompson explains that the reason he’s been unable to earn stoppage win since then is because he has constantly been fighting the best fighters in the welterweight division.
“I never go out there looking for the knockout, if it happens, it happens. The more you fight the top-ranked guys, the more skilled they are and the harder the knockouts can be,” Thompson explained. “Everyone says I haven’t knocked anyone out in a while, but look who I am facing. It would be good to finish a guy like Geoff Neal. I’m not looking for it, but if it is there I will take it.”
Neal Fight An Opportunity
A win over Neal, who sits at number eleven in the UFC welterweight rankings, is not likely to move him higher than his current spot at number five, but he sees it as an opportunity for him to get back in the spotlight.
“Do I think it will move up the rankings? I don’t think so, but it will put me in everyone’s eyes and the UFC will give me a top opponent next.”
Stephen Thompson or Geoff Neal, who are you siding with in the UFC Vegas 17 main event?