Stephen Thompson entered the UFC with a lot of hype. People spoke in whispers and hushed tones about how Thompson was undefeated as a kickboxer. Georges St-Pierre called Thompson the best striker he’s ever seen. Thompson made his debut against Dan Stittgen and promptly won by first-round knockout with a beautiful head kick. The hype went through the roof.
Two fights later, it’s clear that hype was complete and total nonsense. Thompson is a good striker but nothing like the kickboxing grandmaster he was portrayed to be. He also has suspect takedown defense and overall grappling, to the point that when Matt Brown forced Thompson to grapple, it caused Thompson to become exhausted very quickly.
Now that I’ve seen Thompson compete three times, here’s him in a nutshell. He’s a very good/excellent point striker, but his offense is much better than his defense. He has average at best knockout power, as only three of his seven wins are by knockout despite the high quantity of strikes he lands. His grappling is a liability although he’s capable of surprising his opponent with a takedown once in a while. His conditioning is a question mark.
When I look for statistical matches for Thompson, the best I can find is Anthony Njokuani. Basically, Thompson is Njokuani with worse striking defense. That’s a fighter worthy of being in the UFC and making a main card appearance once in a while, but not a fighter who is any threat to become a title contender at some point.
The good news for Thompson is that his upcoming opponent, Chris Clements, represents a very good stylistic match for him. Clements is much like Thompson – he’s a very effective offensive striker who has issues with takedowns and grappling.
At first glance it appears that Clements has superior striking metrics to Thompson. He’s landed almost as many strikes without being hit nearly as much. Clements also has shown better knockout power, as he’s landed two knockdowns in two UFC fights and has ten wins by KO/TKO in a 15-fight MMA career.
This is where placing statistics in context is important. Clements earned his striking statistics facing poor strikers in Keith Wisniewski and Matt Riddle. Thompson earned his statistics against a pair of much better strikers in Nah-Shon Burrell and Matt Brown. In that context, Thompson’s statistics look a lot better while Clements’ statistics look a lot worse.
I expect this to be a striking match, one that is mostly controlled by Thompson, although Clements will certainly have his moments. Clements is particularly dangerous in that he has good potential to win by knockout, against a fighter in Thompson who has not shown the best ability to evade strikes. In the end, however, Thompson is the better kickboxer and should win this fight.
Pick: Stephen Thompson by TKO