Thompson, a professional since 2010 and member of the UFC roster since 2012, had been on the charge towards a late career title shot entering 2021, with consecutive victories over Vicente Luque and Geoff Neal netting him a place in the divisional top five.
But after a poor year that saw his grappling deficiencies exposed by Gilbert Burns and Belal Muhammad, “Wonderboy” has been left out of contention and in need of a rebound if he is to resurrect his championship ambitions.
Thompson’s search for an opponent has seen him call for a rematch with welterweight superstar Jorge Masvidal. But with the Miami native’s ongoing legal issues, it’s likely that matchup would require some patience on the side of “Wonderboy.” And at the age of 39, waiting isn’t something he’s keen to do.
During an interview with MMA Junkie’s Mike Bohn, Thompson, who recently shut down callouts from Sean Brady, assessed his options. Seemingly looking at those rising the ranks, the veteran striker named 170-pound newcomer Kevin Holland as a potential next opponent.
“Anybody ranked above, below me, I really don’t care,” said Thompson. “It doesn’t matter, to be honest with you. You’ve got a lotta guys who are coming up… Kevin Holland, who just won his fight. I know he’s calling out Sean Brady, but he’s definitely a guy that I’m keeping a close eye on as well because he’s moving up the rankings quick. He was great at 185, made the cut to 170 fairly easy.”
Holland Targets Diaz & Thompson By September
Holland rose to prominence in the Octagon in 2020 owing to a record-breaking year, which saw him collect five consecutive victories, including over Ronaldo “Jacaré” Souza. But after back-to-back main event losses against Derek Brunson and Marvin Vettori, as well as a no contest versus Kyle Daukaus, “Trailblazer” made a change.
Having successfully found form at welterweight with second-round finishes of Alex Oliveira and Tim Means this year, Holland is looking to take the next step towards contention. And during an interview with MMA Fighting’s Damon Martin, the names of Thompson and Nate Diaz came up.
While Holland doesn’t believe either man would help him prove his championship mettle in the division, “Big Mouth” is open to what he understandably described as “fun” matchups.
“I like both matchups. Neither matchup proves that I can be the champ, but both matchups are very fun and both matchups do put me in a very good position in my life,” said Holland. “Both guys, for me, I believe I can beat them several different ways. I’d completely outclass Diaz on the feet, and people rave about his jiu-jitsu over the years, but I believe that my jiu-jitsu is good enough to keep up with Diaz, if not beat him.
“And ‘Wonderboy,’ it’s like, I think I can beat ‘Wonderboy’ striking. He’s a karate guy, right? It’s his karate versus my kung-fu,” Holland continued. “And then, I shouldn’t grapple with him, but if I was to grapple with him, I’m pretty sure I’d rag-doll him.”
Diaz is on the final fight of his active UFC deal and has called for his release should the promotion not provide him with an opponent for July or August.
Those cries have been heard by Holland, who suggested that he can deal with the Stockton native next month before turning his attention to “Wonderboy” a few months later.
“Give me that guy, give me those guys. Give me Nate, and then give me ‘Wonderboy.’ Take Nate in July, take ‘Wonderboy’ September,” Holland concluded.
How do you think Kevin Holland would fare against Stephen Thompson?