This time last year, Thompson was gearing up to face fellow top-10 welterweight Geoff Neal in the main event of UFC Vegas 17. In a vintage performance on the feet, “Wonderboy” pieced up “Handz of Steel” on his way to a comfortable unanimous decision win, a triumph that firmly placed Thompson into title contention.
Fast forward a year and it’s a different story. Thompson will be heading into the final card of this year hoping to resurrect his championship aspirations and re-enter the win column following a disappointing setback at the hands of fellow former title challenger Gilbert Burns at UFC 264 in July.
In his way will be #10-ranked welterweight Belal Muhammad, who’s coming off a controlling victory over Demian Maia at UFC 263. “Remember The Name” will likely look to stifle Thompson’s incredible kickboxing skills in a similar way to Durinho’s approach.
Thompson Was Over The Moon To Accept Muhammad Fight
In a sport where animosity and trash talk is prevalent, many find it refreshing to have a matchup fueled by respect and comradeship every now and then. Passionate back-and-forths can be entertaining, but some would argue it often goes too far, take the build-up to Conor McGregor vs. Dustin Poirier 3, for example.
One man who couldn’t be more opposite to McGregor in terms of conduct and pre-fight respect is Stephen Thompson. The reason behind his title of the UFC’s “NMF” was on full display while he discussed his upcoming fight during an appearance on Submission Radio. After admitting his relief at finding an opponent before the end of the year, “Wonderboy” didn’t have anything but nice words to say about Muhammad.
“The UFC came to us and was like, ‘Hey, how does Belal Muhammad sound?’ This was about several weeks back (from the start of November), and I was in shape. I’m like, ‘Dude, thank you Belal, thank you.’ That’s what was going through my head, ‘Let’s make this happen.’ I love Belal Muhammad. He’s been trying to have me on his dang podcast forever, and I feel bad… every time it happens, something always messes up on my end.
“I love the guy, man. I’m so happy that he wanted to take this fight because I wanted another fight in this year. I’ve been out the past few years with injuries, so it’s been fairly difficult for me to get in there… I’m just excited to face off against a guy like Belal Muhammad, and he’s funny, man. I think he’s great; good fighter, good person, good personality, and we’re gonna put on a show for the fans, for sure.”
While this clash represents a crucial step in Thompson’s desire to mount a final run for the title and can perhaps be described as a must-win bout in that sense, it also represents a huge opportunity for Muhammad.
After winning four straight, the 33-year-old had a similar chance to jump towards the top five in a March main event against Leon Edwards. After eye pokes led to a disappointing and painful no contest on that occasion, “Remember The Name” will aim to join the welterweight elite with a victory inside the Apex this Saturday.
Who do you think will have their hand raised in the UFC Vegas 45 co-main event, Stephen Thompson or Belal Muhammad?