Longtime fan favorite Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson is back inside the Octagon this weekend as he takes on No. 11 ranked welterweight Geoff Neal in the main event of UFC Vegas 17 on December 19 via ESPN+.
Wonderboy is ranked No. 5 in the division and hopes a victory over the surging Neal will place him one step closer to another title shot. Thompson is 2-2 in his last four bouts, holding victories over Jorge Masvidal and Vicente Luque and suffering defeats to Anthony Pettis and Darren Till.
Should he defeat Neal on Saturday night, Thompson told Heavy that it wouldn’t be enough to earn him a crack at Kamaru Usman’s belt, however he hopes a victory will line him up for a scrap with another fighter ranked in the top five. And he has a certain fight in mind, a rematch with the UFC’s “Baddest Motherf*****,” Masvidal.
The two fought in November 2017 at UFC 217 and Wonderboy defeated “Gamebred” by unanimous decision.
“Hopefully, after a good win here, we’ll get somebody in the top five,” Thompson said. “I don’t think with a good win over Geoff Neal that I’ll be getting a title fight. I know Jorge Masvidal has called my name out and wanted to run it back.”
A running joke in the MMA community is that although Masvidal is the “Baddest Motherf*****,” a title he won in November 2019 at UFC 244, Wonderboy has been crowned by fans and analysts as the “Nicest Motherf*****”.
“Why not the “NMF” vs. the “BMF,” Wonderbody continued. “So that would be cool, that would be a good, fun match.”
ESPN’s Ariel Helwani awarded Wonderboy the NMF belt after his win against Luque last year.
Masvidal, who is ranked No. 4, last competed in July when he took on Usman for the welterweight strap, losing by unanimous decision. Masvidal has been linked to No. 1 ranked Colby Covington for a match, however nothing is official.
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Wonderboy Hasn’t Fought in Over a Year, Suffered Multiple Injuries Including While Training With a Former Champ
UFC Vegas 17 will mark Wonderboy’s first fight since defeating Luque at UFC 244 in November 2019. Thompson put on a striking clinic, hurting and dropping Luque multiple times en route to a dominant unanimous decision victory.
However, Thompson was sidelined for most of 2020 with injuries, suffering two broken hands and a tear in the cartilage of his collarbone.
“In the early part of the year, it was my hands,” Thompson said. “I ended up breaking both my hands in the Vicente Luque fight and it took a while for them to heal. To be able to make a fist, the tendons and everything were super tight, I had to do physical therapy, things like that. I guess in the hands, you don’t get good circulation anyway, so it just took longer for them to heal.”
Wonderboy healed both his hands, however he sustained another injury in the summertime while helping his training partner, former UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman, prepare for his bout against Omari Akhmedov.
“Then I was 100%,” Wonderboy continued, “During mid-summer, [I was] helping Chris Weidman get ready for his fight. He ended up picking me up and dumping me on my head and I ended up tearing the cartilage in my collarbone. So I was out for a while there.”
However, Thompson confirmed he’s back to fighting form. “Right now I’m feeling 100% and ready to rock and roll.”
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UFC Vegas 17 Is Thompson’s First Fight During the COVID-19 Era, Not Concerned About Fighting Without a Crowd
An adjustment fighters have had to deal with during the COVID-19 pandemic is competing without a crowd. Some fighters have come out and said that it has affected their performance negatively as they feed off the crowd, and others have enjoyed the experience.
For Wonderboy, fighting without an audience is a non-issue.
“I’m not really thinking anything of it because usually when I’m in the Octagon, I don’t hear the crowd anyway, you got that tunnel vision,” Wonderboy said. “I’m kind of excited about it, you know? To be able to see how things go, listen to my coaches, listening to my opponent’s coaches.”
Thompson then called back to his promotional debut, a knockout victory over Dan Stittgen in the first match of UFC 143 in February 2012.
“My very first fight in the UFC was basically like that,” he continued. “It was the first fight on the card and there was nobody in the stands. So I’ve kind of had a taste of that a little bit, many years ago, but ready for it this time.”
Crowd or not, Thompson is ready to get back to action and defeat another top-15 fighter in Neal.
“It’s going to be fun,” Wonderboy continued. “Five, five-minute round war with one of the best guys in the division. Some people are calling Geoff Neal the dark horse of the division. He’s very, very good and has fought some really tough guys. He’s undefeated in the UFC, five-fight winning streak. So you know, I’m prepared for the best Geoff Neal this coming Saturday.”
Since defeating Brian Camozzi on Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series in July 2017, Neal has gone 5-0 in the promotion, defeating the likes of Mike Perry, Niko Price and Belal Muhammad.