At last November’s UFC 205, reigning welterweight champion Tyron Woodley and top-ranked contender Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson treated fight fans to an entertaining affair that resulted in a draw and led to the controversial rematch in which Woodley retained his title with a majority decision victory that did neither fighter–nor the fans, any favors at UFC 209.
Fortunately, now that UFC 209’s main event misfire is just an overpriced memory we can finally get back to the business of speculation, and while Woodley’s immediate future is undoubtedly brighter than it should be, Thompson is the one who’s now facing a pivotal point in his UFC career.
Although rattled by a loss that’s left him searching for answers, Thompson kept things classy less than 24 hours after falling to Woodley by congratulating the champion and welcoming his next challenge in a statement issued to Fox Sports.
“Last night was not the outcome I wanted,” read Thompson’s statement. “I wanted that title more than anything, but it didn’t go my way. Tyron is a great fighter, a deserving champion and a worthy opponent.”
“I welcome the next challenge with open arms and a full heart.”
For what it’s worth, UFC president Dana White was just one of many who felt that Thompson actually won the welterweight rematch with Woodley, and that will mean something when the UFC chooses his next opponent—especially after fighting such a closely-contested bout against Woodley last November.
With the top of the welterweight division anything but stable and a variety of qualified contenders all looking to land a title shot, Thompson’s time in the Octagon will remain valuable. But under the circumstances, Thompson might want to consider an opponent other than his most obvious options.
Surprisingly, Woodley is the only current top-five opponent on Thompson’s resume, and that leaves the likes of former welterweight champ Robbie Lawler, veteran contender Demian Maia, former interim 170-pound champion Carlos Condit and fifth-ranked Neil Magny as possibilities for “Wonderboy’s” next bout. However, with Maia slated to face sixth-ranked Jorge Masvidal in May, and Condit mulling retirement, don’t be surprised if the UFC wants Thompson to tangle with either Lawler or Magny at some point very soon.
Thompson doesn’t necessarily need to defeat one of the division’s top contenders in order to stop the first win-less streak he’s experienced since joining the UFC. But he does need to fight an aggressive striker capable of constantly pushing the action if he’s going to refocus following a pair of tough outings and reclaim his status as one of the sport’s most crowd-pleasing contenders, and welterweight newcomer Donald Cerrone is the perfect opponent.
Currently listed as the UFC’s eighth-ranked welterweight contender, Cerrone suffered a surprising, knockout-loss to Masvidal in January after earning victories in each of his first four fights at 170-pounds. While Cerrone might not be fully committed to his new surroundings after tearing through the lightweight division with eight straight wins in between consecutive losses to former 155-pound champ Rafael dos Anjos, a date with Thompson would be a huge opportunity for “The Cowboy” to bounce back while giving the fans exactly the type of fight he’s always been known for.
In the interest of the division’s forever shifting power structure, the UFC will probably try to steer Thompson towards a more established welterweight contender before considering Cerrone.
But Thompson-Cerrone would not only give both men a shot at instant redemption and the UFC a match-up worthy of main event status, it would give us Octagon addicts the chance to see a dream meeting between two of the sport’s most dynamic strikers and a pair of welterweight contenders who’ve always put fight fans first.