No. 5 ranked UFC welterweight Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson has made it clear that he doesn’t believe surging Russian Khamzat Chimaev deserves a crack at a top contender. And as far as Wonderboy can tell, if “Borz” does fight Leon Edwards, Edwards is “gonna smack him up.”
Chimaev, who is ranked No. 15 in the division, was originally scheduled to headline UFC Vegas 17 on December 19 against No. 3 ranked Edwards. However, Edwards tested positive for COVID-19 and the UFC is currently working to reschedule the bout for January.
Thompson filled the headlining spot and is set to fight No. 11 ranked Geoff Neal on Saturday night via ESPN+.
Chimaev has only fought three times in the UFC, making his debut in July and defeating all of his opponents via dominant finish. Thompson has been in the promotion since 2012, and he’s not pleased that Borz received a fight with Edwards. A victory over the No. 3 ranked contender will place the winner closer to a title fight and Wonderboy believes he should have had that opportunity.
“I had to fight through murderer’s row to get to where I’m at and so did Leon Edwards,” Thompson said via MMA Junkie. “He was on a winning streak to get to where he’s at. I had to fight a slew of guys, I mean tough opponents…to get to where I’m at, and then this guy just jumps past everybody. I think it’s a slap in the face to everybody who’s worked their butts off.”
In a recent interview with Heavy, “Wonderboy” shared his thoughts on Edwards vs. Chimaev. Thompson gave props to “Borz” but said he hasn’t seen enough of his overall game.
“The guys had three fights and smoked all three of them at 170 and 185,” Wonderboy said. “So I know he’s fairly good [but] I haven’t seen enough of his striking. I know he’s got a good wrestling game, kind of like Khabib [Nurmagomedov] wrestling, very good control.”
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According to What He’s Seen, Thompson Said Edwards Will ‘Smack’ Chimaev ‘Up’ in Their Fight
UFC president Dana White recently told the media that he is working to reschedule Chimaev and Edwards for January 20, 2021. And if they meet in the Octagon, Wonderboy believes “Rocky” will defeat the rising star.
“Definitely on paper, Leon Edwards all day,” Wonderboy said. “I mean, Edwards has faced some of the best opponents in the division, and he’s on a seven-fight winning streak. I’ve watched him since he’s been coming up in the division and he’s proven himself. Khamzat, really haven’t seen a whole lot of him. [He] finishes guys in the first round.”
“I just haven’t seen a whole lot from him to be able to really gauge,” Thompson continued, “But at this point, Leon Edwards’ gonna smack him up. I think Leon Edwards’ got him.”
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Wonderboy Is Happy to Give Neal an Opportunity to Fight a High-Ranked Opponent
When Heavy asked Thompson for his thoughts on fighting the No. 11 ranked Neal instead of a fighter ranked close to his No. 5 spot, Wonderboy said he’s happy to give “Handz of Steel” the opportunity he once got.
“I was in Geoff Neal’s shoes not too long ago, especially when I got the opportunity to fight Jake Ellenberger,” Wonderboy said. “I think it was ranked farther back than Neil was. So, these guys gave me that opportunity and I want to give Geoff that opportunity as well.”
“Obviously I wanted somebody ranked higher than me,” Thompson continued. “But that wasn’t happening. You know, I kind of poked at Leon Edwards a bit on Twitter [but] he wasn’t having it. But, it doesn’t upset me at all because whoever I face, whether they’re ranked behind me or ahead of me, they’re very, very good and that’s why I’m in the game, to fight the best fighters in the world.”
Thompson told Heavy he doesn’t believe an impressive victory over Neal will do much for him in terms of the welterweight rankings, but it will “show the fans in the UFC that I’m ready. You’ll see that I’m ready for a top-five opponent.”
Thompson Praised Neal’s Skill Set But Is Ready to Test His Abilities
Wonderboy had nothing but good things to say about Neal’s skill set, however Thompson is ready for wherever the fight takes them.
“Neal is known for his striking but he’s got good wrestling,” Wonderboy said. “He’s very strong. Good clinch work. Keeps mostly his right foot in front, and has a good left head kick [and a] very powerful left hand, puts people to sleep with it. He keeps a very good position during the whole fight.”
He’s considered to be one of the best strikers in the division so I think that’s pretty cool. Keeping him at bay and using my strength at keeping distance is going to play a big part. But that said, wherever the fight goes, if it’s the clinch, if it’s wrestling, I’m going to be prepared for it. So even though you see my Karate-level striking in the Octagon, I do have the wrestling, I do have the boxing, even close work as well. So I’m prepared for wherever the fight goes. He’s very, very tough. And he’s got some heavy hands. But I’m the one standing in front of him and going to test those abilities this Saturday. I know he’s very good, but he’s got to get past me, for sure.