Thursday, January 27, 2022

Thompson: “Honorable” Muhammad Won’t Want To Win Like Burns

UFC welterweight contender Stephen Thompson doesn’t expect upcoming opponent Belal Muhammad to approach their fight in the same way Gilbert Burns did at UFC 264 earlier this year.

Thompson saw his immediate title hopes heavily dented when he met “Durinho” in the co-main event of 2021’s second Conor McGregor-headlined pay-per-view. Heading into the contest, “Wonderboy” rode a two-fight win streak that featured unanimous decision triumphs over Vicente Luque and Geoff Neal.

Given that he remains one of the few names Kamaru Usman is yet to face at the top of the division, a victory over Burns would seemingly have led to another shot at UFC gold for Thompson. Unfortunately for him, that’s not how things played out inside Las Vegas’ T-Mobile Arena.

Instead, Thompson’s success for the limited time the fight stayed on the feet was stifled by Burns’ desire to keep the contest on the mat. After controlling “Wonderboy” for much of the fight, the Brazilian was awarded a unanimous decision victory.

Thompson Hopes To Showcase His Takedown Defense This Time Around

Thompson’s wish to secure a chance to bounce back fast with another fight before the close of the year was granted when Muhammad accepted the clash for the last event of 2021. The pair will collide in the co-main event of UFC Vegas 45 this Saturday night.

Despite facing an opponent with a similar style to Burns’, albeit perhaps less imposing, Thompson is raring to showcase the wrestling and takedown defense he knows he possesses.

During a recent interview with RT Sport MMA, “Wonderboy” suggested “Remember The Name” won’t employ the same gameplan as Burns did in July. According to the 38-year-old, Muhammad is too “honorable” to want to win like that.

“Number one, what really excites me is Belal Muhammad is very similar to my last opponent, Gilbert Burns, with the wrestling, with the jiu-jitsu. Now, I failed to do what I know I can do out in the Octagon against Gilbert Burns. It’s kinda hard to fight somebody, number one, who doesn’t really wanna fight, they just wanna hold you down, but knowing that Belal Muhammad is more of a fighter; I feel like he’s an honorable man, he really doesn’t want to win a fight that way. He’s fairly good everywhere, Belal Muhammad.

“Not only that, it will allow me to showcase the talent that I have, especially when it comes to the takedown defense, the wrestling. I wasn’t able to do that in my last fight. So going out there against somebody who’s similar to Gilbert Burns, go out there and beat this guy, will make it all worth it, for sure.”

Despite his setback earlier this year, Thompson isn’t giving up hope of mounting another title run. Given that he’s yet to face Usman, and because of the unique threat he poses to any welterweight, including “The Nigerian Nightmare,” a win this weekend and a victory over a top contender in 2022 could set the veteran up for his third championship fight in the UFC.

Having revealed his desire to become the oldest fighter in UFC history, it’s clear Thompson won’t be hanging up his gloves and leaving the promotion beltless without a fight.

Who do you think will have their hand raised in the UFC Vegas 45 co-main event, Stephen Thompson or Belal Muhammad?

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Harvey Leonard
Harvey Leonard is an MMA journalist with experience writing and creating content for publications like Sportskeeda, GiveMeSport, and WhatCulture. He has a degree in Sports Journalism, having graduated from Southampton Solent University in England in 2020.