Stephen Thompson, a perennial face in the welterweight division of the UFC, has been in the headlines since UFC 290. Wonderboy refused to fight an overweight Michel Periera at UFC 291, which caused a rift with the UFC brass.
Thompson refused to fight subsequent short-notice fights, which further strained his relationship with the promotion. The 40-year-old welterweight was then challenged by former champion Kamaru Usman, but a recent announcement by Dana White points in another direction.
Wonderboy aims another title by defeating Shavkat Rakhmonov
Stephen Thompson is set to face an undefeated fighter with a 100% finish rate in the final pay-per-view event of 2023. UFC 296, headlined by the welterweight title fight between Colby Covington and Leon Edwards, will feature Thompson squaring off against the 6th-ranked welterweight, Shavkat Rakhmonov.
Rakhmonov boasts an impressive 17-0 record in professional MMA, with 8 knockouts and 9 submissions to his name. Stephen Thompson, on the other hand, has vied for the welterweight championship twice in his career, both times against Tyron Woodley. In a recent podcast with Chris Weidman, Wonderboy discussed his intentions of contending for the title a third time if he secures a victory over the Kazakh fighter.
Initially, Rakhmonov was slated to face Kelvin Gastelum at Noche UFC, but Gastelum withdrew from the bout due to injury. Thompson himself had declined to fight Rakhmonov, expressing his lack of interest in the grappling aspect of the matchup. However, with Rakhmonov rising above him in the rankings following his victory over Geoff Neal at UFC 285, Thompson now sees an opportunity to contend for the title. Thompson’s most recent fight was a “fight-of-the-night” performance against Kevin Holland at UFC on ESPN 42.
Wonderboy believes UFC will pay him his dues after canceled fight
Stephen Thompson believes that he will receive two paychecks at UFC 296. One of these payments comes from his upcoming fight against Shavkat Rakhmonov at UFC 296, while the other stems from his previously canceled bout against Michel Pereira, who failed to make weight. Thompson emphasized that this additional payment isn’t a bribe but rather the UFC fulfilling its obligation by adding the owed amount from the past fight.
Notably, Shavkat Rakhmonov is considered one of the most avoided fighters in the welterweight division, boasting a perfect 5-0 record in the UFC, with all of his victories ending in finishes—four via chokes and one by TKO. Initially, Stephen Thompson had expressed a desire to fight former welterweight champion Kamaru Usman, but the UFC had different plans. Ian Garry had also shown interest in facing Thompson, leading to an offer for a bout at UFC 295. However, Thompson declined this offer, preferring to face an opponent ranked higher than him.
Wonderboy is currently ranked 7th in the welterweight division and Rakhmonov is ranked 6th. The winner would most likely get a title shot if not for the presence of Belal Muhammad who is on a 10-fight unbeaten streak.
Who will win between Stephen Thompson and Shavkat Rakhmonov at UFC 296? Comment below!