Stephen Thompson might stand at just 30 years of age, but he still holds the potential to emerge as one of the welterweight division's brightest prospects. With a base in karate and a slick, diverse array of strikes, "Wonderboy" promises to, at the very least, cement his status as a consummate fan favorite due entirely to his flashy style.
That said, the kid still needs work. While he may own better grappling and ground skills than what he showed in his UFC 145 loss to Matt Brown, he must demonstrate those improvements down the line. In the meantime, he will contend with Strikeforce veteran Nah-Shon Burrell. The bout marks Thompson's first in a little over a year.
Burrell recently defeated Yuri Villefort at UFC 157. Like Thompson, Burrell also does his most effective work on the feet. After all, he undoubtedly packs more power in his strikes than most of his foes, and against Thompson, he should showcase the better defense in the striking department.
So, how does Thompson reclaim the "Wonderboy" persona?
Think back to his fights with Brown and Dan Stittgen. Recall that in both performances, Thompson mixed up his striking and threw a higher total of strikes than either Stittgen or Brown.
Despite a disadvantage of almost two inches of reach, Thompson can, and candidly speaking, must use that against Burrell. Both men employ solid movement and can use angles when attacking, but Thompson aims for just about every part of the human anatomy when he strikes.
Offensively, he benefits from throwing his strikes with that trademark precision against the power-hitter Burrell.
Defensively, his karate-based style allows him to effectively evade the brunt of his opponents' strikes, and so long as he does not stand boldly in front of Burrell, he can move well enough to make Burrell's output look insignificant.
Remember, while the fight appears to sway mostly in Burrell's favor, "Wonderboy" can reclaim his persona at Burrell's expense. If he wants to do that, however, he must do what he does best while ensuring that Burrell plays toward his opponent's strengths.
While Thompson will do his best, he will not get an easy opportunity to do so if Burrell manages to say or do anything about it.