Stephen 'Wonderboy' Thompson: What Is the Secret of His Power?

Jack SlackLead MMA AnalystFebruary 25, 2014

Stephen Thompson celebrates his TKO win over Robert Whittaker following a UFC 170 mixed martial arts welterweight fight on Saturday, Feb. 22, 2014, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken)
Isaac Brekken/Associated Press

Perhaps the Wonderboy hype was premature when he knocked out Dan Stittgen and signed to fight Matt Brown. Since losing to Brown, however, Thompson has put together three solid wins against opponents who have their own Wikipedia pages (always a solid measure of competition), and looked good doing it.

Today I wanted to take a very brief look at some of the neater tricks which Thompson has shown throughout both his kickboxing and MMA careers.


The Wonderboy Kick

I am dubbing this kick the Wonderboy Kick both for lack of a better name and because Thompson uses it so frequently. Really it's just a rear-leg round kick, but there's something which makes it a little unique in Thompson's application.

Thompson will throw a 1-2 to get his opponent moving. Quite often the opponent will circle past his right straight, thinking they are safe. Here is where the Wonderboy Kick comes in.


Rather than throwing a 1-2 and a right high kick, Thompson throws a 1-2, then throws his right-leg high kick at almost 90 degrees to his initial angle of attack.

Ordinarily when throwing a high kick, you will pivot on your standing leg as you throw the kick. High kickers will normally pivot their standing leg as far as possible so that it points almost behind them. Thompson's kick, 90 degrees to his right, cuts down on the distance of the kick and means that he only needs to make half the pivot on his standing leg to get into optimum kicking position.


Many of you will remember Thompson using this kick to starch Dan Stittgen in his UFC debut.


He also used it in the WCL to knock out James DeCore, and it has appeared plenty of times in his fights if he can get his opponent circling towards it.

Here is Thompson desperately trying to get his opponent to circle into the kick by exaggeratedly cutting off the ring and leaving openings to circle out in that direction.

Thompson's opponent seemed smart enough to not circle into Thompson's well-known right leg, so Thompson simply brought the Brazilian kick to him anyway.

Thompson vs Joles


The Wheel Kick and the Hook Kick

Of course, a lot of the time his opponents aren't daft enough to circle into his trademark right leg. Then he can bring it round and try to wheel kick them.

The wheel kick has proven quite important to Thompson's game, however. He doesn't kick with his left leg nearly so often or so well as he does with his right leg. Consequently he will use his right leg to provide a threat from both sides.

In that match with James DeCore, Thompson misses a wheel kick but follows with a hard straight. The standard procedure for dealing with spinning kicks is to let them fall short and move in through the wake, hopefully catching the opponent while they are recovering. Thompson obviously expected this as he missed his wheel kick and landed in perfect position to counter punch.


Here's an effective one from Thompson's bout with Jeremy Joles.

Thompson vs Joles

And here's a hook kick. A tricky kick in terms of angle, but one which generally lacks the power of other kicks because of the limited hip movement involved in the kick.

Thompson vs Jole

While we are seeing more hook kicks and wheel kicks coming into MMA —as we should, even the threat of them opens up targets for more orthodox techniques—the danger of the opponent stepping in during one is still ever present.

For an example of that look at Decare missing a kick in the bout with Thompson, putting him in terrible position. All Thompson would need to do was catch the leg and that is an assured takedown, and probably straight into side control.


There's a ton more stuff we could talk about with Thompson. His switching of stances to land his right-side kick, his low hands to 1-2, his fake side kick to left straight, and so on. But remembering the Matt Brown fight, let's not get carried away just yet. Thompson is back on track, and that is exciting enough as it is.

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